THE BLOG
11/12/2014 02:36 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Creating Haiti's Future Leaders Through Art

2014-11-12-haiti1.jpg

Photo credit: Fedno Lubin, ACFFC alumnu

The 2010 earthquake in Haiti took an estimated 316,000 lives and destroyed buildings and entire towns. One such city, Jacmel, began a very special phase of its revival six months after the disaster to memorialize the lives lost: a mural project called Mosaïque Jacmel.

The organization, Art Creation Foundation for Children (ACFFC) partnered with artist Laurel True of True Mosaics Studio who came and taught local children how to use mosaics to change the face of the devastation. True eventually became ACFFC's Mosaic Program Director.

Today, Jacmel is known for its beautiful mosaic walls created by the city's young artists, and is supported by the local Departments of Tourism and Culture, Jacmel, and Sud-Est, which recently commissioned the students to create mosaic stairs leading to the open air market in the center of town. The mosaics stand as glittering symbols of hope and transformation in Haiti.

My family emigrated from Haiti when I was a child. To hear of this creative endeavor, and the leadership skills it is bringing to its children, makes me hopeful for my homeland. I spoke with Laurel True, and Nadïne LaFond, a New Jersey-based musician, visual artist and arts educator born in Brooklyn of Haitian descent and longtime friend to ACFFC about the project.

Turning broken pieces into a new whole

"The Tree of Life public art installation turned broken pieces into a new whole, memorializing lives lost in the earthquake," says True. The kids were involved in all parts of the inspiring mural -- the design, development, and execution. The mural has become a focal point in the community. It has become a place for people to gather, as well as a place for artists to sell their crafts.

The ACFFC was founded in 1999 to provide children in need with a place to go. The foundation, as it's called, provides food and clean water, medical care, education, and art programs for the children. The mosaic art program started after the earthquake--and after the numbers of the kids the foundation cared for nearly doubled. "It's not about handouts," ACFFC Media Coordinator, Rae Stevenson tells me. "It's about investing in futures. These kids have everything they need within them to overcome their circumstances. What we do is give them the tools to develop these skills."

"We focus on how to train kids to start thinking of how to flow this into a small business; how to order supplies, to price things, create a proposal, how to talk to a client, etc.," explains True. "Over the past few years, I've passed the baton on to some of the kids. The older kids are super empowered to say what they think, what they want, state their vision, and just go for it."

The results are phenomenal: Last November, the group was invited to Delray Beach, Florida to create a mural together with the Toussaint L'Ouverture High School, (the first time they've been commissioned to go to another country). The public art installation was created to memorialize the people of Florida, who have come to Haiti's aid after numerous natural disasters. When LaFond -- who'd been collaborating with True, Stevenson and Katherine Bullock, U.S. Director of Operations at ACFFC, to create a new support project -- started telling her friends here in the States, the reaction was huge. So they came up with another plan -- a way for people to sponsor a mosaic wall in Jacmel.

"These kids are so smart, so creative, so activated, and they're changing the face of Haiti," says LaFond "They're the next generation of creative leaders." By giving them the support they need, they will transition to the next step: taking these skills and creating the self-sufficiency that is at the heart of the program, and the heart of Haiti.

LaFond is currently working on a multi-media art project in collaboration with the students. In the coming months, True will be working on mosaic projects near Jacmel and helping students launch their Sponsor a Mosaic Wall project, while Bullock and Stevenson of the ACFFC Leadership Team will soon be packing their bags to join the students in Jacmel for six months to support a number of projects on the ground.

And those are just ACFFC's plans for this winter. With so many creative pursuits at the foundation, there are many opportunities for meaningful giving this season. To get involved and support its mission, please visit acffc.org. In addition to the Sponsor a Mosaic Wall project, there are opportunities to support an individual young artist for a year, purchase artwork made by ACFFC students, and show your support with ACFFC gear.

Follow Sifu Roman on Twitter.