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

Unpaid Kurdish Fighters Sign of Economic Woes

Sharp cuts in Kurdistan's budget by Baghdad, falling oil revenue, coping with refugees, inflated public sector have hit regional economy hard More

Koreas Exchange List of Envoys for Family Reunion Talks

Officials will discuss date, venue and number of participants for reunion; Seoul hopes to hold event late this month More

China Targets 197 in Online Speech Crackdown

Nearly 200 punished for 'spreading rumors' online in ongoing crackdown on free speech 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.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Russia, Venezuela Seek to Combat Oil Price Woes

The price of oil has roughly halved since last year due to oversupply and a decision by the OPEC cartel not to cut production
More

Brazil Denies Rumors Finance Minister Will Quit

Government dismisses market rumors Joaquim Levy quitting because of disagreements over his austerity plan
More

Guatemalan President Resigns Over Corruption Scandal

Judge orders Otto Perez Molina to remain in detention while decision on whether he'll stand trial is pending
More

Video US Men's Soccer Team Eyeing Matches Against Peru, Brazil

Team hoping to bounce back from a disappointing result in Gold Cup, when Jamaica upset US 2-1 in semifinals
More

Guatemala Congress Opens Door for Prosecution of President

With 132 of 158 lawmakers approving a measure to strip immunity, prosecutors now can file criminal charges against Perez Molina just like any other citizen
More

Rio Olympics Official: Water Will Be Clean for Games

Recent report says waters so contaminated with bacteria and viruses from human sewage that athletes could become ill
More