Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Just got this letter from Erin in Haiti, and she asked me to share it here on the blog...

Bon jour Ladies!!!

Things here are going good so far. Carla and a friend/ band mate took us to the tent city in PAP(Port au Prince) that Mona is living in… they are “off the grid” for assistance. We took maxi pads, diapers, 4 tents and tarps, Advil, toothbrushes etc., and contributed money to dig/build a toilet. There is NO water… people are carrying water from wherever… I never saw where the water came from. I did see a woman bathing. I held back tears as best as possible, and when I did cry, Haitian women had hugs to give. I haven’t smelled any bodies or seen any dead people. We are cooking for our neighborhood kids and everyone is so happy to have us here. We are planning to serve a meal up at our friend Elysee’s house in the mountain above Jacmel.

Everyone is so happy to receive the tents and the clothes and hats!!! Everyone lights up like a light bulb at the things we were able to bring from AK!!! Especially because we are not an NGO or part of a larger organization. It feels really good. It is too hard to put into words how I am feeling right now… happy but sad, frustrated but proud.

I have to admit that the warm weather is treating me right…mentally and physically, just being barefoot suits me. We have had rain, anpil lapli!!! I happened to be on a motorbike ride back to Timouillage from Jacmel with Ely and a taxi driver, (Ely’s bike got a flat earlier when we tried to leave) then the taxi broke down, in the one part of the road with no homes or businesses, I ducked under a banana leaf and held the flashlight while Ely and the taxi driver changed a sparkplug. We arrived at the house soaked-- head to toe… no need for the shower I had planned on after a hot dusty day in town. This is just one example of how things go in Haiti, everything is an adventure, when you make plans the Gods laugh… I get it. The Alaska Ayiti connections are everywhere. I can’t wait to talk about it with you all. Christian is shooting video of the projects we are working on and is going to make a short film, it will be very powerful!!!

Love you all!!!
Erin and Christian
Men anpil chay pa lou.
Many hands lighten the load.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Haitian Steel Drum Art

Tink tink clank tink. The sound of the hammers and chisels that coax the spirit and beauty out of old 55 gallon drums fills the air in Croix-des Bouquet, the center of Haiti’s metal art movement. This art form was born in the town in the early 1950’s by a blacksmith named George Liautaud, who created primitive crosses and free standing statues for the local cemetery. As his art evolved, reflecting his deep seated spirituality in both the Christian and Vodou traditions (see images top left), he inspired an entire generation of artists. Through apprenticeships and exploration, Haiti’s metal drum art continues to grow and capture the imagination of the world while preserving the unique spirit and culture of the Haitian people.

As I learn more about the process of turning steel drums into unique, intricate works of art, I am humbled by what simple tools and bare hands can summon. Barrels are stripped of their tops and bottoms, filled with dried banana or sugar cane leaves, and then burned to remove the residue of the barrel's former life. The next step is to split and flatten the cylinder, by hand and hammer. The design image is then cut out with a chisel and a mallet, and the metal is worked and brushed into stunning creations.

The hammers were quiet for awhile after the devastating January 12, 2010 earthquake that toppled buildings and took so many lives. I have read that in Haiti, art is life, and it is through art that healing will happen. A few days after the quake, as the earth began to settle, tables were set up as makeshift workshops, and the hammers and chisels once again began to fall., and once again, the air is filled with that magic, healing sound.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Voices from Haiti

Erin Behr shared these emails she had received from friends in Haiti, and I couldn't help but feel that these voices had to be published here on the blog. They are voices of strength, tenacity and survival. There is power in the hope that they carry, both heartbreaking and heart lifting…Brooke

Email from Carla (haititravels.org,)

I am overwhelmed at everyone's care and love poured out. I don't even know what to say other than we are ok physically, our bodies, our home guesthouse where we now have together with us our most beloved and whirling in a sea of millions of ideas about what this all means and how to cope with little cash and many mouths. We have been incredibly blessed with not only our own saftey but for the sake of all those that are dearest, we haven't had a casualty yet of the inner ranks of our loved ones, news is still coming in, communications is more than frustrating. My mission over the past week has been to get my people out of the city where it is turning into a living cemetery! (Ron just came back to this lovely yard where we are emailing just scrounging a coke and noticed the death smell is strong even though we can't tell where it's coming from, it's a sickly miture of the food being made right here too!) There are amazing stories, these are amazing people! How can I tell you how much each of your words with the love expressed for us means to us, it gives us courage to continue giving out to those who need us more than ever. Please keep connected to us, even as the days go by, we need your spiritual support as life will never be the same ever for all of us on this land that becomes ever more dearer to us each day. I am overwhelmed, Each day so much to do, organize and help. People are organizing in our community and that is very exciting. There is an undercurrent of expectations on us. We are working out how to help our neighbors with their collaboration. There are young organizations that are anxious to be of help too. We are working out a way so that everyone gets something for the moment. As things get set up, we will let you know how you can help those who are connected to our greater circle of loved ones, neighors and friends, but the prayer of love and strength is most needed right now. We love you all and are humbled by it all. May this bring us all closer to who we are, who we all are and who the Creator is!


Email from Jacqui (Port ah Prince)

Hi there friends. So many of you have written that I'm replying to all of you with the same news!! Amazingly I actually have Internet and email access!! Didn't think we would as digicel, one of the biggest telephone providers was off air until this morning and even now all the circuits are busy busy. I was sitting in Epi d'OR, a big bakery/cum cafe having a meeting when the earthquake hit. At first we all thought it was a big truck going by shaking the ground, but then soon realised it was an earthquake!! Everyone took to their heels and fled the cafe, but I stayed inside, thinking that I would either fall to the ground, or be trampled on by the crowds. And for what seemed like about 3 minutes I clung to a table and survived it. I lost my Business phone with everything going on.
My driver Felix, was outside so we left quickly to go home - around the Delmas 75 area. A new building being constructed across the way was in ruins and on the way home there were many other walls fallen down. We couldn't go into Delmas 75 as it seemed there was some wall or something else which had fallen and they were saying that 6 people had died. On our way home people were in a state of hysteria, probably due to the fact that they had possibly never seen an earthquake of this magnitude in their lifetimes. I heard on the radio that it measured 7.3 on the Richter scale. A popular church had completely collapsed - having folded in on itself and other houses and walls were down. People were wailing and crying and didn't know what to do. They said that although there had not been a service there were some people inside the church praying or having a meeting and they were sure that if they hadn't already died they were seriously injured. This morning the local hospital, Hopital Espoir had people laying around in the front of it, people who were injured. My household all slept outside on a spare piece of ground as throughout the nite there were more and more tremors - only slight, but some enough to send me running out of my house in case of any danger. The tremors continued right up until around 3.am but thank God they stopped after that. I think that was almost the most frightening bit, cos although we had survived the big one, no-one knew if there was another big one coming along. Most people seemed to have stayed out in the open so that they wouldn't get caught inside. there are reports in my local area of people's houses having collapsed with them inside and nothing could be done to help them. My house inside was in a shambles. Lost practically all of my lovely crystal glasses and other things, but thank God the house itself was fine. The wall on the neighbour's side is not too good and has a big crack in it but the wall on their other side had completely collapsed. My outer wall has a crack in it, but the house itself is fine. So I got off better than others. I was worried about Felix, my driver and of course couldn't get thru at all last nite, but managed to get thru this morning to his son, who tells me their house has collapsed ! I don't know how badly. Also his mother, Felix';s wife was hurt and he said she has a fractured foot.
I have no idea what Minustah are doing in the situation - although one of their main offices is in an old hotel 7 floors tall, so I can imagine there must have been panic there for them to get out. I can't get thru to any of my mates in Minustah to find out and have been trying to ring other friends to see if they're ok but no lines available. The radio was reporting that the Palace, several Ministries like the Ministry of Finance, Justice and Culture had all suffered damage to their offices. Plus schools had collapsed with children inside, but thank God it happened around 5pm - first of all in the daylight, but also when most children had already finished school. There is no electricity of course as all the wooden electricity poles were down. This is going to take a long time to get sorted. WE saw gas pumps which had been wrecked. This is as much as I know at the moment from my perspective in my area. But I'm fine and still positive. I read on MSN that 3 million were affected - so the Red Cross says, but don't know how they can come up with a figure like that. I heard that Aux Cayes in the S. West and Jacmel in the S. East and Cap Haitian werel badly affected. Haven't heard anything about poor Gonaives and I pray that God missed them out!! I'm waiting for the radio to give more information but of course they are reliant on people in local areas phoning in and that's going to be difficult. I don't know where the epicentre, I haven't looked at the international news reporting as I wanted to get this out and reassure you all Thanks for all your wishes and thoughts.

Luv Jacqui

Pheonix Jr. Jacmel,Haiti

“So i am ther the director of my school is dead .a bulding dowon up heim.Life is hard for me now i sleep in the street and everbady in jacmel.”

Sunday, January 24, 2010

My New Journey By: Brooke

Last Thursday, after a week of quietly weeping, simply absorbing any and all sadness like a soggy sponge with no idea what to do with it all, I was hit hard by Hurricane Erin, and thankfully so. Her drive to help the people of Haiti, her people, is nothing if not infectious, and her seemingly limitless goals defy what we know as logic. Her time in Haiti has opened a door to a higher wave of consciousness that skirts the linear and manifests the impossible. To see her turn her sadness into pure creation is humbling to say the least. How could I resist the call to join this beautiful cause?

I have much to catch up on with the Veve Haiti team-- Erin, Mauri, Andrea and Shea-- and I am ready to dive into this spiritual journey. Thank you for getting me here, and bless you all for holding the flame…

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Art and Soul By Shea Lehnen

Some people come into your life and at the time you don't even realize the impact they will have, or even that there will be an impact. Then you fall gracefully in love with this new acquaintance over the course of the next year, although you live thousands of miles apart and seemingly, at times, in a different world. Erin Behr was sent to me as a gift. I met her on a business trip for the company we work for, and something about her energy attracted me to her and pulled my attention in. Her laugh, her humor and her radiance made me want to be around her, to laugh with her and to radiate in her light.
For over a year I had been trying to come to terms with the death of my daughter, something I don't speak to many people about, emotionally anyhow. I told Erin all about my ordeal the THIRD day I met her. I felt okay and lighter after spilling my dark spot. She never gave me any advice, she never tried to make me feel better, she just let me be me. It was exactly what I needed at that point in my life, just to be okay with feeling what I was feeling. I began this search into myself, into a better self because of Erin. Her spirit and her life-giving positive energy had a profound affect on my life.
When I first heard the news of Haiti, from Erin, I was devastated for her. It's one of those moments where you know terrible devastation is on the horizon, yet you can not let your mind crack open to what heartbreak will lay before you. My heart was breaking mostly for Erin, as I know she loves her people and had a very strong connection with them. After initially speaking with Erin about going over there I was scared for her. Scared that being smacked in the face with death and tragic circumstances would be so very hard. I guess I was projecting my own fear of seeing the dark spots and hurt in this world. I have realized that Erin is above letting the dark stop her from her destiny. She has found her self, and is rapidly building her legacy. Through her art Erin has expressed her love and her soul shines through.
In my own search for life I yearn to help, especially children. I am looking for my Lileigh. I know that I will see her again, but in this world I am learning to take all the hurt in my heart and direct it towards children who need me. I complain about my job, when I stop and really think about it all, I don't have to do what I am doing, I am choosing this life because it enables me to help. It enables me to have my days completely full, without much time to hurt, and gives me the monetary means to help out other children who I can not have as my own. After meeting Erin I went back to school and am pursuing my psychology degree, simply because I want to help people. I really wish to enable people who have endured a great deal of pain to move on and move up. To enjoy the beauty of the sunshine on their face, or the wind as is rushes past the window. To be able to feel something other than the dark.
Selfishly I am riding on Erin's high right now. Her art and her soul have opened doors for her that will grow wider with every step she takes. Erin is taking her dark spot and creating light and love for the people who stole her heart. I could not be prouder or happier for this transformation in her life. While thinking last night about what this all means I came to the conclusion that Erin just opened up to her meaning in life. Some people search an entire lifetime to find themselves, and their purpose on this earth....the enlightened ones find it. I love you Erin and will do anything in my power to help you attract the greatness that will find you.

Haiti Malade?

I would like to share a piece of writing that my husband wrote for the Turnagain Times about Haiti.

I was in Jamaica in 1996 when this weird infatuation with Haiti first sparked. I was walking with a local on a beach and I asked him, “Hey, what are the chances of getting a boat ride to Haiti?” He looked at me like I was insane and then went on about “....uh, na mon, that pleece is horrible mon... poor and dangerous mon...” He made Haiti sound like the absolute end of the world, and It was at that moment that I started keeping tabs on Haiti. Now, 14 years later, the only way to describe my feeling about Haiti is that it’s impossible to describe my feelings about Haiti.

It was in February in 2004 when me and Erin first landed in Port Au Prince. Then president Aristide had just been overthrown in a bloody coup d’etat and the entire world was focused on Haiti. And regardless of all the horrible news being reported, and the apparent mess that waited for us, there was no way I was going to cancel the trip. Erin was understandably a bit apprehensive, especially when we were forced to sign a waiver at the Miami airport claiming we were officially warned by the U.S. government not to travel there.

Then, less than 24 hours of arriving, the seed of Haiti had been planted and we both have been enthralled with that magic country ever since. The first reaction I had when I heard of the earthquake was, “Why?... and why in the middle of the congested, seemingly crumbling mess that is Port Au Prince?” If you were to have flown over Port Au Prince 2 minutes before this earthquake, it honestly wouldn’t have looked that different then after it.

But the thing with Haiti for me and Erin has never been the architecture, or the beautifully sculptured streets, or the lush jungles or mega resorts. Because there’s none of that there. It’s the people. It’s their lifestyle, their history and their spirituality.

I suppose that if I had to somehow scramble around to find a silver lining in this catastrophe, it would be that Haitians have been used to living in extremely difficult, almost surreal conditions for decades, and despite it are the strongest, resilient and quietly dignified people I have ever met.

Most of the structures in Haiti that have been destroyed in this earthquake will never be rebuilt. The rubble that now covers Port Au Prince (and everywhere else in Haiti) will just be morphed into hastily ‘rebuilt’ homes. Their shoestring economy has now been pretty much shut down. BUT, Haitians will breath life back into their beautiful, unique country. The tap taps will run again, the local markets will thrive again and the drums in the hills will beat again.

And I am counting the days to return there once again.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

One week later. Exactly, one week later

After encouragement from my wonderful friend Mauri Parks I have decided to start a blog! So here it goes...
I woke up this morning totally excited to start the day. No snooze button, not even once, and i even had to leave an hour earlier today to head into Anchorage to drop off the car at the mechanic shop. Honestly, I can't remember the last time that has happened. I didn't even go bed until 1am and at 6:30am I was ready to get up and jump into the day. I am really on to something here, I told Christian. There is so much to do, let's go!!!
Just one week ago I had NO idea what so ever that I would be doing what I am doing right now. From the Fund Raiser I am planning for this Friday for my dear friends in Hait to Blogging to hugging the suntanned cartoonish lady at the mechanic shop over the headline on the front page of this mornings paper, "count rises to 200,000" WTF????
The earthquake in Port-Au-Prince has a lot to do with the action I am taking, right now. But even before the earthquake I have been working on VeVe Haiti; Art inspired by Haiti, Nature and Vodou. It is as if the last 5 years I have been practicing to do exactly what I am doing right now. This is a powerful realization, and I am high on life over it. The way I feel is already making me believe that the universe does have a plan for me and I can relax, finally. It makes me understand a little more the Creole Proverb: When you make plans the Gods laugh. I made a few Goals for 2010 during the first week of January to help make 2010 one of the best yet:

  1. Sell VeVe Candles and Paintings
  2. Write down your ideas immediately... Yes, I have admitted to myself that I have no short term memory
  3. Ask questions, and get advice from all the smart family and friends that I am blessed with
  4. Take an English 101 class and relearn proper grammer and punctuation so that i can compose emails correctly and start a blog. (i have decided to start the blog any way, so bare with me)

I was making progress. I started an official notebook of ideas and things to do on January 7th. I taped a VeVe drawing on the cover of a black spiral notebook, the first page is a list of supplies I had been needing to get before my trip to Haiti on the 28th. I needed new paper and brushes mostly so I could paint while relaxing in the sun on the beach in, Haiti. Of course I would need to bring enough to share with all my little friends there. One of my favorite things about my time in Haiti is drawing, painting, and coloring with the kids in our neighborhood there. We still have a lot of the drawings and the one from Ebay is on our refrigerator. On January 8th I met with a business owner and friend that I admire and respect a ton and showed her the VeVe candle idea and the paintings I have completed over the last six months. She was super impressed! Her and I brainstormed for a good hour and I wrote down all of the ideas we came up with and even typed them into the computer. Monday January 11th i met Mauri for a lunch meeting... one more page in my notebook filled. It seemed like we had not had enough time, as usual. I was feeling good. We discussed my idea of having a Haitian Art Show (i'll keep the name of it a surprise because it will still happen) that combined hand made Haitian Art with my VeVe Candles and paintings. How long after you return do you need before you'll be ready? Mauri pressed me to make a timeline. I remember Andrea had suggested having the show during spring carnival. But the second week in March seemed too soon. I needed time to get the candles ready, the paintings framed, etc., etc., excuses, excuses.

On January 12, 2010 at 4:53pm a 7.0 earthquake rocked Haiti. My friend Djaloki who was in Port au Prince said, "it was as if the earth turned to liquid." I came back from my lunch hour walk to, 911:Earthquake in Haiti emails from Christian. I was in shock. I didn't believe it. That's my Haiti, those are my people. I sat here helpless watching the tragedy unravel. I went to bed that night still thinking that maybe it was a terrible nightmare. Wednesday I was reduced to tears for most of the day. Devastated by the photos and video footage, I had to DO something. By Wednesday night VeVe candles took on a higher purpose. I could use VeVe candles for a fundraiser!! I'll my prior procrastination and excuses are lifted and I am on a wild ride of my own creativity. I have been enrolling strangers in my vision for helping Haiti. I have been getting help and advice from awesome friends and family and am confident that my community is going to help support my efforts to help Haiti now and in the years to come. Please come out to Jack Sprat on, Friday January 22, 2010 5pm- 10pm to see what a VeVe candle is and, if you want, make a donation and take one home to your house and LIGHT IT and every time you LIGHT IT hold Haiti in your heart and send your blessings to Haiti. See you soon.