Robbie Lawrence via Crowdrise
February 26, 2013
Please visit my website h2h2.robbiedraws.com for more photos and drawings from last year! A letter about my experience is below:
Beyond Earthquake Relief
Hope to Haiti
Last year I got to hop on a couple of planes (that were delayed by nearly half a day) from Los Angeles to Port au Prince with about twenty-nine ladies and one man who braved traveling with 29 women. We were representing "Random Acts" a charity organization started by a guy who is on TV occasionally and his token slogan is Death to Normalcy. Random Acts' pledge is to conquer the world one random act of kindness at a time. It can be done anywhere by anyone in any capacity. Last June five staffers and twenty-five volunteers, who each raised 5,000 dollars for the project, were headed down to Haiti for the second year in a row. We traveled south by bus from Port au Prince up and around mountains to Jacmel. We even drove over the epicenter of the earthquake that hit the country just a few years before. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't creepy and I will tell you that seeing the collapsed palace was too bizarre for words.
There's too much to say about this country and this trip, but I will keep this to a page. Don't hate me. It's worth it!
To be fair, Haiti had lost its way before the earthquake hit in 2010. One of the reasons there was so much death was because of the countries lack of infrastructure. Hut after hut, one stacked on top of the other, toppled down mountain sides in the quake and landslides. Concrete buildings everywhere fell and crushed those who stayed to work late, but the squatters looking for work had already started to gather around Port au Prince long before. Handouts were already being given by richer countries and Haiti had already forgotten how to be a community. How to be neighbors. People will defecate in a bag and throw it onto someone else's tent or roof just so it will be someone else's problem. Trash litters almost every foot of street and beach. Children, infants, are abandoned at the edge of camps because their parents can't feed them.
Its a nation that is stuck somewhere between hating the help they get and begging for it because they don't know how else to keep people alive. It's a problem that any Haitian will tell you is theirs to fix, theirs to grow beyond, and they don't want any non-Haitian to tell them how to fix. It's their home. Their problem. Wouldn't you feel the same way? They keep pride in their music and painting, pride in their crops, pride in their wood carving and weaving, and their appearance. How clean and fresh everyone keeps their clothes is startling in contrast to the tent cities and collapsed, unfinished concrete buildings.
Now there are bigger organizations who can address mass needs that an organization like Random Acts can't, but we can address something that will last longer than food or shoes or even medicine. We can address community.
Random Acts focuses on giving local orphanages and schools that teach their children a trade so they can get off the street. Most of the money donated will go directly towards building a children's center in Jacmel that is a orphanage on floor one and a school on floor two. Random Acts has no one on a salary, volunteers pay their own travel expenses, so ten dollars will go towards tools and supplies, nothing else. We've fundraised for years to build the Jacmel Children's Center to get children who lost their parents in the quake off the streets and into school and proper beds. Other local schools like the ACFFC (Art Creation Foundation for Children) teach kids about the power of public art. They have children who have suffered unimaginable abuse, starvation, and abandonment that have learned to love and trust again, even strangers like us, and they cover Jacmel in beautiful mosaic benches and murals so that their neighbors have something to look at besides trash, razor wire topped walls, and crumbled buildings.
When I was there I was taught how to make mosaics by Alexis. She was a pretty, shy girl who didn't like to talk much, and unlike most of the other kids, didn't like to have her picture taken (but she did love to take them). I really liked Alexis because I'm also not that outgoing when it comes to new people and we both seemed to be reserved (or in my case awkward) for our respective social circles. We made cement and got it everywhere and broke tiles and laughed and it was 117 degrees outside and I was dying and she was barely breaking a sweat. Our whole group was in an intersection somewhere near the beach and it was one of the first times we really mingled with people that had absolutely nothing to do with our organization.
Now, I can't describe to you how much trash just lays around in Haiti, I could try but it wouldn't convey. It's incredible, never ending, and there is everything from plastic bags to broken toilets laying around every inch of city, scavenged by starving dogs. The closest thing to a trash can Jacmel has is holes in the street you dump trash in and then maybe someone burns it later. I bring this up because as the ACFFC kids and the other kids were mingling, bags of water got passed around, and a girl threw her empty bag on the street. Alexis stopped her, chastised the girl for littering, and insisted she throw it away in the proper place. The girl stopped, thought about what she said for a moment, and then walked to the trash pit and threw it in.
I know that may sound trivial to us, but its a start. It's a generation that won't want to take a shit in a bag and throw it on someone else's roof, because they see that roof as belonging to their neighbor and not someone they don't care about. They have pride in their city enough to know that they have to make it and keep it beautiful. It's the first step to making a difference and Random Acts knows this. They don't go to a foreign country and say "We have money. We have supplies. We know how to fix your problems." They go to Haiti and ask, "What do you need to be better? How do you want to change? We can help you get there." Random Acts embraces education and creativity to help heal communities and supports organizations that teach these ideals.
I spent a week in Haiti last year. It was blistering hot and monsoon-ed on and off for a week. I ate new food and drank the weirdest scotch I've ever had. I learned new hand games and songs when the kids got tired of the ones I was failing to teach them. I fell out of the JCC we were building and got scraped up, it was graceful. I got to skip down a beach with Alexis who gave me the paper flower she had made and kept in her hair. I sweated more than I thought was humanly possible. And I got chased by a biblical amount of FLYING cockroaches that swarmed a kitchen we were cleaning. The kids laughed at all of the retreating white girls while they tried to stomp the roaches with their bare feet. Then we taught them what Raid was. Then we had to drag them out of the Raid infested kitchen after they sprayed far too much. But one of the coolest moments was when my roommate, who had gone the first year, walked into the ACFFC and about a half a dozen kids yelled for her and practically swarmed her. It was so cool and she could not believe that they remembered her. (I'm fairly certain she was nervous that they wouldn't)
That girl all by herself is a walking random act of kindness, who I think affects these kids more than she'll ever know. There will probably be a time when one of them will think of how sweet and loving she is and decide to model their behavior after her, or will design a flower to put on a bench with her in mind, just like I'll remember Alexis and hopefully be brave enough to tell someone to do the right thing like she did. It's a little thing, but a powerful one. There will be hundreds of kids whose lives will be different because of the Jacmel Children's Center alone and who knows how many people will see a mural by the ACFFC and smile on their way home.
It was an amazing trip and I'd do it all over again, preferably this summer as we put the final touches on the Jacmel Children's Center, that I fell out of. Random Acts is only able to do this through donations of any amount, big and small, and with enough I can have the opportunity to reserve a spot to go back again.
Thank you for your time and donation, if you choose to do so.
RANDOM ACTS wrote:
Three years ago, after a devastating earthquake ravaged Haiti, Random Acts made a commitment to help rebuild homes, communities, and lives. Since then, we've raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Haiti and funneled that money directly into local, sustainable projects serving children in Jacmel. Our projects have provided hundreds of children with a safe place to sleep, clean water and regular meals, health care, a school to go to, families who care for them and, most importantly, hope for the future.
We've also taken two trips to Haiti ourselves, joined by our top fundraisers, who each accomplished the incredible feat of raising at least $5,000.
During our first trip in 2011, Random Acts staff and volunteers worked in the fierce heat of the Haitian sun to help break ground on the Jacmel Children's Center, an orphanage and school for children in need. We also met and connected with the students and staff of the Art Creation Foundation for Children, the Faith & Love Orphanage, and the Espoir des Enfants Orphanage.
In 2012, we went back to Jacmel to do it all over again. The walls of the Jacmel Children's Center towered above us, a tangible result of our hard work and dedication that brought many of the returning volunteers to tears. We also participated in creative and recreational activities with the children from the other organizations in between painting and doing construction work.
Now, we're nearing the end of our work in Haiti. The Jacmel Children's Center is already two storeys high and has a roof over it. It still needs windows and doors, tiling, plumbing, solar panels, paint, and furnishings, but all that will be completed this summer. Random Acts will journey there one last time to help do it.
Please join us!
In order to participate, you must raise your funds through Crowdrise at this project page. Click the "Join the Team" button to get started!
For more details about the Hope to Haiti project, including requirements for joining the trip, please visit our Hope to Haiti website.
Important information regarding the funds you raise or donate: All donations raised through this campaign will go to Random Acts, a division of The Art Department, Inc. The primary commitment for these funds is to complete the Jacmel Children's Center and continue to offer operating support to the JCC and our other projects in Haiti (this includes administrative and operational expenses associated with our H2H project). Should funds from this campaign be available after our commitment is satisfied, we reserve the right to re-allocate them to future development projects or special initiatives.