News & Events
This is not your average therapy session...
USED QUILTING TO HELP WOMEN IN HAITI RECOVER
We spent the next few days watching the news and trying to get through to our friends in Lilavois. For a while it was almost impossible. Was everyone safe? What could we do to meet their needs? How soon could we get back to Haiti?
We started to put a plan together to get immediate aid to our partners, and later, to travel there to deliver whatever help we could put together. We knew our goals had to be broader than simply getting the cooperatives up and running again.
Three days after the earthquake
photo credit: David Barreda
Like a bomb had gone off....
On March 24, 2010, our bags bursting with essential supplies, we flew to Port-au-Prince. As our plane descended low on the approach, we could see tent cities, rubble and flattened buildings everywhere. Upon landing, we discovered the airport terminal had been destroyed. All the luggage was heaped on a hangar floor where everyone was scrambling to pull the pile apart as they searched for their bags.
Once we arrived at our home base in Lilavois, we learned that parents were not sending their children to school for fear the building would collapse. Everyone was traumatized. An earthquake is not a one-time event. The aftershocks had continued for days, causing more destruction, fear, pain and loss. Unlike a hurricane, earthquakes traumatize and re-traumatize victims over and over again until the Earth’s convulsions subside.
It was encouraging to discover that the women had taken my advice and were working together. However, at that point, they only wanted to work outside. Everyone was anxious about being inside a building. And though all of the members of the cooperatives had survived, there wasn't anyone who didn't have friends, family, or loved ones who had been injured or killed during the earthquake.
photo credit: David Barreda
Working with a translator, I immediately went about assessing all of the women and the Haitian Catholic Sisters who ran the school. Though PeaceQuilts is not a faith-based organization, these Haitian Sisters have been a wonderful strategic partner and huge supporters of our economic development mission.
photo credit: David Barreda
Sister Cadet leads children into the school building.
The Day of Joy
To get the school open and operating, Sister Cadet organized The Day of Joy, a celebratory event for the school's students and parents. The Sisters welcomed everyone to the school grounds and led them in games and songs. Then in a very moving speech, Sr. Cadet assured the parents that the building had been certified safe, and she felt comfortable returning to the classroom. She offered to lead the parents and children through the classroom building so they could see for themselves the structure was safe. It was a testament to the parents' trust in Sr. Cadet that they followed her into the school. The Day of Joy had set the stage, and her words had prepared the parents to cross the threshold behind her. Once inside, the parents' fears seemed to subside, and they were ready to have their children return to school.
The Earthquake Quilts
Over the coming months the women followed another suggestion I made. Tell your own story of the earthquake in a quilt. Here again was an opportunity to use quilting as a therapeutic tool. Art can be a powerful means to process traumatic events in a different way, when words are not enough. When we returned to Haiti in June, we were amazed and deeply moved to see what they had created.
Photo credit: Harvey Beth
Tremblemen de tè en Ayiti - Earthquake in Haiti by Solidarity CooperativeIn this quilt, buildings have collapsed, people are injured and bleeding, some cry out for help or pray to God. The border on top has cars that are untouched, while on the bottom they are turned upside down, showing the randomness of the destruction.Tremblemen de tè en Ayiti - Earthquake in Haiti (Detail)
l'Union Fait La Force - In Unity There Is Strength by Nadège FlorianThis quilt depicts a particularly horrific tragedy of the St. Gerad School which collapsed, killing all the children inside. Overhead, the sun is crying.The Tree of Life Has Lost Its Leaves
by Fabian Marcel, Noémie Estimé and Nadège Florian
A melancholy but hopeful depiction of a bare tree of life, struggling to survive, yet tiny birds are perched on its limbs and the sun shines overhead.La Rivyè de Sann - River of Ashes by Fabiola MarcelLife struggles to carry on as women go to the river to wash their clothes, though it's so filled with ashes, the water has turned white.Out of the ashes
So much has happened during the 10 years following the earthquake. The donations to PeaceQuilts helped the women repair and rebuild their homes, and their lives. The women continue to work. They gather each day in a safe supportive environment, creating their truly amazing original folk art quilts, as well as beautiful handmade bags, home decorating items, and unique fabric bead jewelry.
Through political turbulence, protests, and even Corona virus, they continue working and caring for their families with the same courage, strength and hope they used to recover from the earthquake. Living and working in Haiti is still challenging, but these women know how to meet a challenge.
To see more of their incredible quilts and other beautiful hand-stitched products, click on:
PeaceQuilts: Building better lives through art.
Solar Project Near Completion!
Thanks to generous donations by the Solar Electric Light Fund, the Dunn Family Charitable Foundation, Cronig's Market of Martha's Vineyard, and other private donors, the solar project at PeaceQuilts' home base in Lilavois, Haiti is nearing completion! This brings a more comprehensive system of reliable electric power to the women in the cooperatives as well as the school and residents on the campus.
Thank you to all the donors for this incredible gift!