Sep 6, 2010

All the colors of the wind

I have to preface this post by saying that my twelve days in Haiti with the Westerly Road Church Mission team was much more than I can contain in a single entry.  The time I spent with them and our Haitian brothers and sisters was invaluable spiritually, emotionally, and artistically.  It was a blessing and a privilege to participate with the team members of Foundation for Peace by serving Haiti in the small way we could.  There is much more work to be done; but God willing, Haiti will see restoration.  For this blog and for brevity's sake, however, I will concentrate solely on the experience of painting the school built by FFP for the residents of Font Parisien and for those living in the tent city nearby.

Below you see the beautiful but blank-walled school.  The building exists as a huge source of pride, status, and symbol of hope for the people in the area.  The concrete structure protects those inside from rain, wind, and sun in a way the tents simply cannot.  To decorate the school, one of the builders created in stucco the images of a globe and of a Bible.  Pastor Valentin, who heads the FFP effort in Haiti, told me the community had been praying for an artist to add the special, finishing touches to their initial efforts.  I was lucky enough to answer that call.

Here's a quick view of the "after" with all four parts of the painting finished: 1) the globe and Bible, 2) the children holding hands, 3) the collaboration with Sony, a Haitian artist, and 4) the name of the school

Close-up of the globe:

Knowing how much the school meant to the people, I was touched by their willingness to lend me their walls.  I was also extremely nervous since a small crowd had gathered to watch me paint. In a nod to Haitian pride, I decided to paint the flag on the bottom of the globe.  Dessaline and Wesley -- two of our beloved Haitian team members -- held up a flag for me the entire time!

The finished globe:

Below Vickie, a WRC team member and coveted translator as well, gives a quick geography lesson:

Task number two was to jazz up the Bible image.

For the design, I took inspiration from the numerous, beautiful butterflies fluttering about and from the brightly painted public transportation vehicles.

(CM^2C are initials of the school).  I focused on pattern, color, rhythm, and vibrancy.

Here's the side of the school.  The director, Jerry, asked me to paint children holding hands.

To get the kids watching involved, I decided to trace their outlines on the wall.  They loved this and held up their arms for quite some time while I dabbed paint on the stucco wall.  What troopers!  

I decided to take a break from painting to get some shade.  When I came back, I found these Haitians had taken up my paint brushes and started to help me fill in the blocks of colors!  They were looking for something to do and a way to leave their mark on the community.  I was happy for the help, and we made a great team.  Among some of the people who came back day after day was a deaf girl and a man with one arm (victim of the earthquake) who could no longer do the construction work he used to do; I grew close with both of them and ended up counting on them to explain to the others what I wanted done as the mural progressed.  Here they are:

Another regular (the man in the vest below) told me he had only one complaint with the mural.  He said, "People will think we are racist here in Haiti because of this mural."  Me: "Why is that?" The man said, "Because you didn't paint any white people."  

This gave me quite the laugh, but to address his complaint and to satisfy Pastor Valentin who wanted Stephanie (an amazing volunteer for FFP) painted on the wall, I added a Colombian to the mix!  Here's Stephanie and mini Stephanie.

Me and Pastor:

Kids posing by their outlines:

The finished mural:

Later in the trip, we met Sony.  He used to paint for the President before he lost his entire family in the earthquake.  He continues to paint on canvas and on pottery, but he now lives in the tent city.  I asked him to paint the second half of the school with me, and he agreed!

Here, me, Sony, and Emily (an artist at SPU who came to volunteer with other college students later in the week) begin work on the second half of the mural.  Sony outlined the figures and we filled in the colors and added detail.

Pretending to be good at soccer:

Here you can see the school alive with color and joy.  The mural processes in Haiti was much more than a final product.  It was a process centered around building community.  We made friends, laughed, and overcame difficulties together (language barriers, unrequested additions to the mural, shortage of brushes, etc).  It will remain as a reminder to the Haitian people that others care about what they care about and that others share their ambitions to build a better Haiti.

Lastly, I added the name of the school by standing on one of the benches crafted by the rest of our team for the school:

I want to thank all of those who supported me in this missions trip and all of the members of WRC (Carine, Vickie, Naomi, Josiah, Keith and Chris -- I love you guys!) and the amazing volunteers and members of FFP.  I can't wait to go back!

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