Friday, October 9, 2009

LITTLE ONES OF HAITI


For the past two years, I’ve been involved with a project to provide clean water for Haiti through the Sisters of St. Mary who take medical supplies and other aid, including a water purification system, to an orphanage in Port au Prince. The orphanage is called the Faith, Hope, and Love Infant Rescue Home, and its mission is focused on sick and dying children whose parents are unable to take care of them because of extreme poverty. My work with the project has been as a fundraiser for the water purification project, and I’m happy to report that my Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Bruce MacPherson, has made a sizable donation for the years in which I’ve been involved. In the Spring of 2010, the Sisters and missioners from other denominations will again visit Port au Prince to take a water purification system and medical supplies to the orphanage, and to lend aid with the children as needed.

Last year, Barbara Hughes, a fellow member of the congregation that worships at St. Mary’s Convent, accompanied the Sisters to Port au Prince. Barbara, a consummate artist and teacher at the Sewanee Theological Seminary, went along to help tend the children and to engage in their play time. She and the children did a lot of splashing paints on large sheets of paper together, and she fell in love with “the little ones of Haiti,” as she called them. When Barbara returned to Sewanee, she decided to “celebrate their personhood” by painting portraits of some of the children from photographs she had taken. The paintings, in bright acrylics on wood, reflect Barbara’s love of the orphans she encountered, and I’m including photos of several of the portraits. The borders of the paintings were inspired by the colorful designs on “tap-taps” (taxis) and buses, and by the vibrant art in Haiti… as well as by the hopeful spirits of the children.

Sunday, Barbara exhibited the Haiti paintings at Shenanigan’s here in Sewanee, and I selected those portraits that particularly “spoke to the condition” of these orphans. My favorite painting was that of “Gertie,” a cheerful-looking child wearing a pair of used tap shoes. It seems that one day a package arrived at the orphanage, and the children grabbed them and hurried to the rooftop to dance. Gertie was on the spot to get her pair of white tap shoes, and Barbara painted a portrait of her grinning, looking as though she could hardly stand still in the used shoes. Gertie, five years old, speaks Creole and English, and her health has so improved that she’s able to return to her parents in her native village.


Kimberly was sent to the orphanage shortly after her first birthday as her family was too poor to give her proper nutrition, but she was restored to health by August, 2009 and also returned to her family.

Lovensky Jacques is HIV positive and is almost blind in one eye. He has skin problems, swollen lymph glands all over his body, but as Barbara explained, “is energy personified, and strangers are greeted with wide open arms and a big grin.”


The exhibit included more portraits of these Haitian children, along with some of Barbara’s sculptures, but I selected only a few paintings to feature in this blog. While the lovely art exemplifies the personalities of the children, it reveals the personality of this gentle, gifted artist who, each summer, travels the world on missions with her husband, Bob, a priest who teaches at the seminary. Barbara also teaches a course on healing through art.
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