News / Americas

Artists Team Up to Help Haiti's Children

Miniature version of tents international artists are painting for Haitian children
Miniature version of tents international artists are painting for Haitian children

Multimedia

Audio

Paulina Montes, a businesswoman and "soccer mom" living in Miami is set on making the world a better place, one child at a time. Ten years ago, she created Fundacion Manos Del Sur, along with her sister and cousin. The charity organization focuses on children and education to help solve social issues.

Montes says as she watched her son growing up, she realized many other children did not have the same opportunities he did. The quest for water, food and an education was all-consuming.

"What we wanted to do is offer the same opportunities to our friends or people that we knew from different countries who had originally helped people from their original countries, but didn't know how to do it from here," she explains. "We provided all the administrative support, the legal support, the IRS authorization to receive donations so that the people who donated through us were going to be able to deduct it from taxes."

Paulina Montes at her office in Coral Gables, Florida
Paulina Montes at her office in Coral Gables, Florida

Manos Del Sur launched its first projects in Chile and Argentina, concentrating on the importance of education in children's lives. After the success of the initial projects, they launched similar initiatives in Venezuela, Colombia, El Salvador and Nicaragua. The foundation is currently active in 12 countries.

"We have a manager for each country who is in charge of getting the funds and getting all the paperwork in place, so
what each country receives is proportional to the work that the manager does," explains Montes. 

Helping Haiti

Their latest project focuses on Haiti.

After the devastating January 12  7.0 magnitude earthquake, Paulina Montes and her co-founders decided they wanted to do something to help.

"After the earthquake in Haiti we were really shocked when we saw the images of the children in the streets and we got involved with another organization called Step by Step that was collecting water and tents and things to send to Haiti and we said 'OK let's do something!'," Montes recalls. "So we started thinking what we could do - they already have experience, they already work in Haiti - they built a school in Ti Pa Ti Pa - so we said 'OK we have somebody
who has local knowledge and who we can trust and we can work with them on a project in Haiti'."

Initially, Manos del Sur wanted to send tents to painted by children but that idea was re-worked into something much more elaborate.

"We wanted to send happy tents, we thought that everything would be so destroyed and dusty and dry and we thought that the children needed a little bit of happiness in their lives and color and joy," Montes says. "So a project that started with a couple of artists going to work with children developed into 10 tents painted by famous artists that we are going to do like a community center or a school that we are going to install in Haiti."

Art + education

Robert Duval runs l'Athletique d'Haiti
Robert Duval runs l'Athletique d'Haiti

The 10 painted tents will be placed on the property of L'Athletique d'Haiti, a charity organization founded and directed by Robert "Bobby" Duval. It is a free sports program for underprivileged children living near the Cite Soleil slum in Port-au-Prince.

"It is a sports camp and educational center for young people," Duval explains, "so they can have a shot at a better life. Imagine what it has meant to kids... we've been doing this for 15 years now. So we invite everyone to come visit the center, it's near the airport. We're very open and as soon as you get here, you'll see what I mean."

After the earthquake, thousands of survivors flocked to Duval's property and have been living there ever since. He says initially there were 1,200 people living on his property. After the earthquake the number rose to 3,000.

Paulina Montes contacted Duval when her sons, who adore soccer, came up with the idea of sending soccer balls to the children of Haiti. She asked her friend, journalist Kathy Claridge advice on what charity organization inside Haiti would like to receive the balls.  Claridge suggested Bobby Duval. After a few phone calls Montes was able to speak to Duval and the tent idea was born.

Each of the 10 tents Manos Del Sur plans to place at l'Athletique d'Haiti will represent a theme that is related to the country's past, present or future. The main objective is to teach the person looking at the tent something new about the country.

"When we started Manos Del Sur our objective was to do education. We found the harsh reality that sometimes education was not obtainable because the kids were not fed," Montes explains. "They didn't have vaccines or medicines. So we started to do a little of everything - we started first feeding the kids. Here, we can go directly to education, that we think is the only thing that will solve Haiti's problems."

Artist in charge

Tasked with finding and directing the international artists who will paint the tents is Cuban Antuan Rodriguez Perez, a very accomplished and self-proclaimed "rebel" artist.  Antuan began studying art at the age of seven, presented his first solo exhibit at 16 and at 17 was enrolled at the request of Cuba's Ministry of Education as both college student and faculty member at the Instituto Superior Pedagogico Felix Varela. In 1998, he was was commissioned by the diocese of Santaclara to design and sculpt Cuba's gift for Pope John Paul II. The result was "Virgen de la Caridad" which currently resides at the Vatican.

Antuan believes in an artist's role as social worker and isn't shy about expressing his opinion on various world issues ranging from scientific research on endangered species to the environment to governments and leaders. His controversial works of art include mixed media peices entitled "Bailout", "Universal Health Care" and "Derecha Izquierda" (Right Left). The artist, who has devoted his time and expertise to the project he calls Base Paint, says he was thrilled to accept the position of curator because he wanted to do something for Haiti.

"I feel that the Haitian people have been marginalized by the world so the world owes them," he says. "They have been rejected simply because of who they are. The Haitian people and Antuan are united because I'm a rebel just like them. I have an admiration for their spirit of rebellion and for their way of living. I was born in Cuba in a region called Guanche de l'Escanaria where we too, are rebels. The guanches used to go out to the reefs and stay there until they were pulled out alive. So there is a unity between the Haitian way of life and how I live." 

There were many artists interested in participating in the project but Antuan says unfortunately, the amount of tents is limited.

"Many artists from other countries wanted to participate but we only have 10 tents," he says. "But  I think we have a really interesting group and each of these artists - in one way or another - have through their works of art provided some form of help during a crisis or during difficult times, and they have all donated their works of art for humanitarian causes as well."

Wide range of participants

Among the artists who will be painting tents for Haiti are: Haitian Edouard Duval Carrie, Cubans Jose Bedia, Leonel Matheu, Gean Moreno, Ruben Millares and Antonia Wright, Spaniard Pedro Barbeito, Argentines Nicolas Leiva and Damian Sarno, Chileans Teresa Aninat and Catalina Swinburn, Puerto Rican Elba Luis Lugo and Antuan

Antuan's tent design for Haiti
Antuan's tent design for Haiti

Each tent is 20 x 10 feet and is 13 feet high. There are two windows and openings in the front and back to allow for adequate air circulation. Antuan says he personally designed the tent style and carefully chose the material taking in consideration durability, paintability, water and wind resistance and security. He says he wanted the children to feel comfortable and safe inside.

In addition, Antuan searched extensively for water-resistant paint that wouldn't fade in the sun or peel off after the tents are folded for transport to Haiti. He finally found a special paint made by SEM and used mainly on cars. It's a flexible paint that will be used by the artists on their tents. SEM offers a total of 30 color choices and each gallon of costs $200. The exception is red paint which costs a bit more: $220.

Antuan says he expects the project to be completed in 10-15 days and is planning to unite the artists in Miami in September or October. The painting will be done in a warehouse in Miami, donated by an Israeli businessman.

Fundraising and transparency

All the expenses will be paid by Manos Del Sur, thanks to a large fundraising effort.  Paulina Montes says her foundation takes pride in the fact that they have complete transparency. All of the employees are volunteers and all of the money raised goes toward  financing the project.  Montes hopes to find a sponsor for each of the 10 tents during an auction to be held  in the fall in Miami, during a gala event. The sponsors will receive miniature tents painted by the artists, representing the tents being sent to Haiti. They will also finance the contents of their tent including books, furniture, pens and pencils. Manos Del Sur also plans to auction off works of art by various artists that Antuan has already begun collecting at his home.

"Art can open doors," Antuan notes."It can also awaken those who are sleeping. I think there are a lot of people whose consciousness has not been awaken and who could do something. There are also people who want to do something but they don't know how. This project provides an opportunity for people with power to do something to help the people of Haiti. And it provides them with an opportunity to give a kind of assistance that is truly objective because we are transporting everything from the United States to Haiti. And God willing we are going to establish a school on Bobby Duval's property. The school will have everything: the furniture, the books, the pencils - so when it arrives it will be completely functional. And we want to make sure that there aren't any obstacles from the port or customs so that this humanitarian aid can arrive and function without any bureaucratic obstacles... because this is a project that aims to help with the reconstruction from an educational standpoint."       

In addition to painting tents and fundraising efforts, Manos Del Sur is working with Puerto Rican filmmaker and artist Elba Luis Lugo on a documentary that will tell the history of Haiti through art. The documentary will also feature the artistic process of painting the tents for Haiti,  and the delivery and installation at L'Athletique d'Haiti.

For more information on the upcoming gala,  check out the Manos Del Sur web site, or the foundation's Facebook page.

You May Like

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Video Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Nazi War Crimes Suspect Dies in Canada

Vladimir Katriuk, 93, had denied allegations that he took part in killings of civilians in Soviet village of Khatyn, now part of Belarus
More

Allies, Ex-players, Fans Abroad Cheer US Move Against FIFA

Soccer devotees flood Twitter with praise, ask why countries with richer traditions in the sport had ignored suspicions of corruption for so long
More

Soccer Great Pele to Join New York Cosmos on Cuban Trip

Goodwill mission will include exhibition match between Cosmos, Cuban national team
More

Researchers: No Foul Play in Death of Chilean Poet Neruda

Chilean government reopened investigation into Neruda's death in January, with new tests designed to look for protein damage caused by poisoning
More

US Senator: Momentum Growing to Lift Sanctions on Cuba

Sen. Tom Udall led a delegation of four Democratic lawmakers to Havana
More

Latin American Soccer Fans Cheer FIFA Corruption Sweep

Latin American fans have long booed officials assumed to be on the take, amid deep public disgust at graft in the game
More