Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ayiti Vivan (Ms. Penniman)

The culminating and concluding event of our Ayiti delegation was an arts and cultural festival co-hosted by Ayiti Resurrect, the Mayor of Leogane, and Arawak Hotel. We drew a crowd of over 2000 people to enjoy artists from Leogane, Komye, and the USA as we shared folkloric dance, poetry, song, music, theater - and a special performance by Ms. Penniman on a makeshift aerial trapeze. The crowd went absolutely wild at some of the performances, which were unlike anything they had seen before: a female hip hop artist (Naima), operatic soprano singing (Beatrice), and trapeze. Even Emet got up and recited a couple of his original poems, beaming at the immense approval radiating from the crowd. The theme of the concert was "Ayiti Vivan" (Haiti Lives). At the 4th anniversary of the earthquake, the important truth to hold in our consciousness is that Ayiti lives on, growing stronger. To that end, we played a slideshow of the development taking place in Leogane just this year, including the work of Ayiti Resurrect. It was incredible to see the work projected larger than life and to understand that we accomplished all of this in ONE WEEK! Granted, we have been planning since last year, but we did so much - solar mango dryer, tree care, women's empowerment group, health clinic, dental clinic, 20+ classes in Bigonet School, arts and healing classes at the community center, and a commemoration ceremony for those lost in the earthquake. 

Earlier in the day, we had a refection and evaluation meeting with our volunteers in Komye. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with the community's main wish being an expansion of existing projects. We had some dynamics to work through, as residents had different ideas about how the material resources and social status associated with Ayiti Resurrect should be fairly distributed.  After some missteps and learning, we think we accomplished a fair and transparent way to honor each person's contribution. We had an awards and gift giving ceremony where the people who built, weeded, cooked, cleaned, carried water, taught, etc. were each honored. We also gave a series of financial and material donations for the ongoing work in the community. The women's group received a laptop. The Mango Grower's Association received a donation for continued tree planting in the rainy season. (As much as we love planting trees, it makes more sense for the farmers to do this in the correct time of year.) Bigonet Peasants Movement received a donation for their seed bank project. We gave funds to the school to continue to host community artists as visiting teachers. We also gave cameras, art supplies, and health supplies to the community projects that needed them.

Overall, this delegation was a huge success. On our day off to visit Jacmel beach and Basin Bleu waterfall, it was so clear how relationships of closeness and trust had developed between each person. The adult and teen delegates were laughing together, jumping in the waves, singing, sharing stories, and enjoying the beauty of Ayiti. In sharing reflections on the last day, I learned that many people in Komye were greeting delegates, not by name, but by singing. Song so permeated the experience that it became our signature. 

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