Friday, December 14, 2012

Don't let the paint wash away.

I found a speck of yellow paint in my hair this made me so happy! Then I realized it may be the last one, which immediately made my heart feel a little heavy. I've been doing everything I can to try to hold on to Haiti. Eating the Mamba spicy peanut butter that I brought home with me, washing with my new coconut soap (by Ayiti Natives & Co.), wearing my new handmade jewelery, looking at pictures over and over again and talking about my trip every chance I get. It's a trip I'll never forget, but now I'm afraid the last of the paint will wash away.  
The children welcomed us at the gate, all smiles in their ACFFC (Art Creation Foundation for Children) tee shirts. We planned to spend the day with them at their new location in Jacmel. Some of us would be putting a fresh coat of yellow paint on the walls while others would be regrouting one of their beautiful mosaics. While we waited for the one huge bucket of paint to be mixed, the children started playing hand games and invited us to join in. These children, some of who are street children, some of who come from severely impoverished families, were so full of life and light. They were kids being kids - doing exactly what they should be doing. The center offers them the opportunity for a better life, an education, consistent supply of food and medical care. Things they may have never been able to receive without this save haven.
I spent most of my time painting with a 12 year old girl. She had a bright smile and gently practiced her English with me as we painted. Asking questions like, "How old are you? Do you have a back pack? Do you know a song?" I asked her questions, too, but there came a point when the language barrier was too much. "I don't understand!" she said. "I don't understand either!" I said. So we just smiled and laughed at each other. As we moved further from the bucket, she would run and refill my paint brush every time I finished a spot on the wall. One thing I noticed here is everyone worked together and they all helped each other. Often times we get used to rushing and insisting on doing things for ourselves if we want it done "right"...this was a nice change. It was messy at times, but it worked...and it was fun and filled with love.
By the end of our time together painting, this young girl turned to me and said "I love for you to be my mom." I gave her a hug. While I would love to be her mom, I knew she had a mom and a dad and 2 sisters. I knew she had a place to go home to...but now I wondered what home was like. Whatever home is like for her, I'm comforted knowing that she has the art center as well to call home. A safe haven. A place to find her creative freedom. A place to express herself through her art. A language we can both understand. She showed me some of her pieces before I left...beautifully hand painted paper mache bowls. Products that the children make to help raise funds for the center to keep them self-sustainable. I learned that art in Haiti is often a means of survival. Artists are to Haiti what accountants and engineers are to the United States. And by an artist being supported and earning money, they are helping the socio-economic structure of the country...allowing them to then buy food or goods from local vendors - a trickle down effect that will help communities grow and thrive. I felt like I was doing a great service to the country by being there and supporting the children that day. I went home with a bag of paper-mache bowls, necklaces, birds and a lone cow I found in the pile of animal statues, masks and canvas paintings. These children are so talented and have beautiful souls that need to be shared. Through their art they thrive. It is truly a beautiful thing to witness.
I encourage you to visit their website and support if you can:
As I was leaving, she asked me, "You come tomorrow?" "Not tomorrow," I said, "but soon." I taught her the "I love you" sign in Sign Language and waved good by. And I will be back (in April 2013!!!!) paint, to share, to support, to love. That's all you need to do. Who's coming with me???

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