Kathy Brandon is an Art Instructor at Jack Jackter Intermediate School in Colchester, CT. After the Haiti earthquake, she felt great compassion for the victims, especially the children. Her students also expressed their concern for Haitian children, and wanted to help.
Kathy enabled them by creating “Love Haiti” valentines, to offer in exchange for Red Cross donations, raising $250. The design was so lovely Kathy was asked to allow the Bethesda Evangelical Mission to use it on special T-shirts. These were produced and raised funds for the HELO Orphanage in Haiti, sponsored by the Bethesda Mission, a non-profit organization. To date, over $500 has been raised from sales.
Through another teacher in a sister school, Kathy soon met Ellen Graber Donohue, director of the newly founded Restavec Freedom Alliance branch of the Bethesda Mission. Since the earthquake, there are now many more “restavek” children (children used as slaves) in Haiti. Through Ellen, Kathy learned how this non-profit organization is directly funding a mission for liberated restavek Haitian children. This was the perfect opportunity for a unique partnership – children helping children.
Kathy Brandon organized an artist’s production company in the school, Clay Aid, which made special pendants and “Hearts for Haiti”. These simple clay hearts, when fired, glazed and strung as pendants, become a freedom song for the children in Haiti. The project caught fire and mobilized the entire school, student families, neighboring school districts, news organizations, and internationally, the Restavek children’s community. To date, $2,300 has been raised by the sale of these little clay hearts and pendants. Kathy’s students were invited to decide how to use the funds to benefit the children at Restavek, and they chose goats, chickens, books, and art supplies. What an amazing success and outpouring of love by these children!
But it’s just begun! Restavec Freedom Alliance has invited Kathy and two others in to come to Haiti, as ambassadors from their community.
Kathy’s curriculum connected each of her students with a “buddy” at the Restavec Freedom Alliance, and each has written a story and created a pendant for their buddy. These will be accompanied by a picture and history of the student who created the artwork and story, and presented by Kathy to each Restavek child. This way, they will personally “meet” each other. Haitian members of Kathy’s community have joined the project by volunteering to translate the stories and histories into the Creole language spoken by the children at Restavec Freedom Alliance.
After presenting these works, Kathy will begin a curriculum with the Restavek children, who will create their own hearts and stories for her U.S. students. This will open a channel between two cultures, enabling the children and communities of both to develop an understanding for the other. The children of Restavek can also market their new artwork to assist in supporting themselves. Her U.S. students are establishing a deep connection to their communities, and learning how to personally open their hearts to love, respect and care for others. They are a power of example for all.
So much – from a loving idea, and a little piece of clay…..
Last, but not least, the local Rotary has recently invited Kathy Brandon and Ellen Donohue to present the collaborative project to their members, in order to evaluate Restavec Freedom Alliance as a potential charitable beneficiary. As funding hopefully increases, more shelters can be built and more services provided for the children.