For the first two weeks of my trip I worked with the music and theater programs at the Foyer Maurice Sixto (FMS) School for Restavek children in Carrefour, Haiti. You might be familiar with it from Kenbe La~Hold On or from previous blogs. They fight for the rights of indentured servant children through education, music, dance, theatre, and soccer. It was great to be back with them again, and to see the progress they’re making. All 35+ string instruments that I and members of Pataje Mizik transported to FMS last February are safe and sound in a new instrument depot. The head of the music program, Skander Desrosiers works here from an office within the depot. Thanks to some generous donations I was able to add a snare drum, xylophone, trombone, and a few guitar strings to their stock of instruments. Here is a picture of their clarinet and flute teacher Stanley Desrosiers learning on one of the 9 cellos donated by Stringworks in Appleton, WI.
I gave a few cello lessons in that first couple weeks, but my main reason for being at FMS at this time was to assist a wonderful acting teacher and humanitarian named J.D. Lewis in his work with FMS’ theater program. J.D and his two sons Jackson,14 and Buck,9 just finished taking a year long trip around the world called “Twelve in Twelve” spending 12 months in a different country doing humanitarian and volunteer work. I met them at at one of the last stops on their trip before returning home for the first time in a year. They shared amazing stories about the people they’d met along their journey through places like India, Thailand, Russia, Buenos Aires, Rwanda, even Antarctica. J.D. is a prominent T.V. actor, teacher, and founder of “The Actor’s Lab.” He came to share his talents and experience with the theatre students at FMS. I helped by translating and organizing activities. Each morning J.D. spent time with the theatre teachers showing them exercises to do with their students, and each afternoon, he worked with between 20-30 aspiring actors and actresses. Many of them were also dancers in the dance program. They played improvisation games, learned warm up exercises, and practiced filming and being filmed. J.D. and his sons also became good friends with the students and teachers at FMS. This is picture of Buck and his new friend Dodo. Dodo sculpted the figurines seen in the picture and gave them as a gift to Buck.
The second half of my trip was more music focused. This past spring, thanks to screenings of Kenbe La~Hold On at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, First Congregational United Church of Christ, and help from our friends Pataje Mizik, Bel Son raised $675. These funds went to provide scholarships for eight deserving students and teachers from FMS to attend a 2 week music camp in Cap Haitian. This camp was put on by the CEMUCHCA Institute of Music, a fairly new school that is providing amazing opportunities for youth in the Northern part of Haiti. On June 30, I, Skander Desrosiers, and the eight youth got on a 7 hour bus ride from Port-au-Prince to Cap Haitian. None of the FMS group had ever been to Cap Haitian before, and most of them had barely set foot out of Port-au-Prince. The CEMCHCA camp had over 100 campers, and was staffed with Haitian, American, and Canadian teachers. Each day at camp was jam-packed with teaching and learning. All students participated in music theory, conducting class, music history, lessons, rehearsals, and sectionals. We had two recitals and one big concert at the end of camp.
All in all, this was a fantastic summer. I will post some short videos in a couple months. I just got promoted to full-time salary at Harmony Café, the non-profit I’ve worked at for five years. So I won’t have quite as much time to work on video projects, but this trip has left me more motivated than ever to continue working and volunteering to help the cause of music education in Haiti. Thanks for reading, and until next time, I challenge you to think on how you can use your talents to help others. I promise you will get more out of it than you’d think. Thanks!