Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Please Help Support Haitian-led grassroots group MESS in Jakmel, Haiti

Hello friends and supporters,

We are writing you to ask for your financial support in obtaining an office space for MESS, a student public health movement birthed out of the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. As some of you may know, Jacmel Working Group collaborated with MESS during our two month stay earlier this year.

MESS's work in Jakmel has proved to be an integral part of the Haitian led relief effort. However, MESS could be far more effective with an office space. Throughout the year they have held their meetings at a picnic table or anywhere they could find space. With an office, they would be able to set up a computer workstation, host meetings and store supplies for their public health activities. We are hoping to raise $3000 to secure an office plus utilities. Please donate to MESS through our paypal.

MESS was formed after the collapse of the entire university system in Port au Prince. Upon returning to their hometown of Jakmel, the displaced students formed MESS to respond to public health issues of earthquake survivors. These include primary health care mobile clinics, public health education around hygiene and sanitation and STI's, violence prevention and public safety, and mental health support work.

During the early part of our trip, we met MESS and through a series of meetings figured out how we could best support them in a model of solidarity not charity. After our meetings with MESS, we showed our support by consulting with their oversight and mental health committees, volunteering at their mobile health clinic sites and mental health support groups, provided medical donations and committed to raising money for their continued efforts.

On a recent trip to Haiti, Ivy met with MESS and was updated on their current work and their current needs. They have continued to plan and implement mobile and mental health clinics, public health education, and have expanded their work to domestic violence prevention focused on men speaking to men. They now also have a weekly health-focused radio show every Sunday at 6 pm on Radio Express, Jakmel's first and oldest community radio station.
You can donate finances via our paypal for MESS's office space.

Please forward this far and wide so that we can reach our goal of $3000 for MESS.
Thank you all for your support in the Haitian-led relief effort. Please check this blog for periodic updates on MESS and other great projects.

Ivy Jeanne McClelland
Jerry Gildea
Jacmel Working Group

MESS Update December 2010

I recently returned to Jakmel,Haiti for 10 days and
met up with MESS and was updated on their recent work.
They are still going strong but have fewer members as
school recommenced this fall.

MESS has expanded their work to now include
grant writing and computer skills workshops hosted by a local
multimedia center. They have also started providing domestic violence prevention workshops specifically having men talk to men about domestic violence.
They are in the process of becoming registered with the Haitian government
but are in need of funds to do so. They now have a weekly health focused radio program airing on Radio Express, Jakmel's community radio station. They recently collaborated with students from the University of Chicago to implement a needs survey about education in the Jakmel area.

In the coming months, MESS plans to hold a reflection day retreat with all of their members reflecting on their accomplishments, struggles and their vision of the future
direction of MESS. MESS is still in need of resources to continue their work.

The following is a wishlist from our recent meeting:

Funds for office space ($3000 us estimate)

Legalization/ registration process($75 us)

Mobile clinic costs ($140 us each clinic)

Multilingual Website development

Medical supplies, office supplies

Digital media (Computers, printers, scanners,digital cameras, video projector)

MESS would like to express their deepest gratitude and appreciation
for all of the support they have received this year.

Here is a message I recently received from Jean Damas, MESS committee member,

We are very happy to see how you pay attention to MESS, we don't have word to thank you but We asked god to bless you and your family and everyone who helps MESS, because when you HELP us you Help the population.

The next post will detail our current fundraiser for MESS.
Please forward this far and wide and again we thank you all for your support.

~Ivy Jeanne
Jacmel Working Group

The following are photos of MESS's activites,
the radio program, mobile clinics, computer skills workshop and my recent
meeting with MESS:

Monday, December 6, 2010

KOLAJ-New Artist Kolektif helping kids in Jakmel

After the earthquake, my good friend Ambroise Anderson
started making art with children to ease their pain and
grief as well as way to heal himself.He initially started the project by using money he received from Timberland clothing company for using his artwork on Timberland T-shirts. The first project he did was to make kites, called kap in kreyol, with kids. The children first painted on them and then flew them
on the main Plaza in Jakmel, where a tent city was erected after the quake.

These first projects inspired him to start KOLAJ-Kolektif Atis Jakmel, an artist collective. There are a few adult collective members that all facilitate art projects with Jakmel's youth.
On my recent visit to Jakmel, I had the pleasure to see the
KOLAJ expo, a three day event during Fet Gede (Day of the Dead), where they exhibited over 40 sculptures they made with children on a public stairway. They are now looking for a home for the kolektif as they currently only host their workshops outdoors.

You can visit their website at: www.atisjakmel.org
to find out more info and how you can support them.
They are always in need of art supplies and funds to continue the project.

Below are pictures of the KOLAJ event:

Gran Lakou and Jakmel Ekspresyon-New Art Center in Jakmel, Haiti

Lakou, the queer performing arts troupe is now going by the name of Gran Lakou
and now has a home at the new art center in Jakmel called Jakmel Ekspresyon.

Back in March, several of us were raising funds to bring Lakou to San Francisco
for the Cuba Caribe dance festival.They were not able to obtain
their travel visas so they decided to use the money raised to start
a new art center that would be queer, disabled and women inclusive and free from discrimination. Thus the founding of Jakmel Ekspresyon.

The two-story space has office space, studio space, a community kitchen and the second story is the performance and exhibition space. Some of the new and exciting projects underway at JE include: Gran Lakou's aerobics workshop, World AIDS day awareness event and ongoing photography workshops with children.

Jakmel Ekspresyon and Gran Lakou appreciates any support you have to offer.
For more info please check back here and we will keep you posted when they have a

If you are interested in donating to JE or Gran Lakou you can do so here just make a note of it. Please get in touch if you are interested in putting on a benefit for
these great projects.

Thanks alot!
~Ivy Jeanne

Below are photos of Gran Lakou performing at FOSAJ, Gran Lakou's aerobics workshop and of Jakmel Ekspresyon from Nov 2010:

Saturday, December 4, 2010

International Women's Day

March 8th is International Women's Day and in Haiti this year several local women's organizations marked the day by honoring the lives and work of Myriam Merlet, Magalie Marcelin and Anne-Marie Coriolan. I took the tap-tap over the mountain pass from Jacmel to Port-au-Prince with my friend Etienne to attend.

It's only about 40 km from Jacmel to Port-au-Prince, but it usually takes roughly 2 1/2 hours to make the trip as the mountains are steep and the road is narrow. I didn't know what to expect as we wound our way down the mountain, passing tiny villages and farmers on foot walking donkeys loaded down with their yields of casheman, bannan and tobacco.

After navigating the labyrinthine streets of Port-au-Prince, we arrived to a dead-end road,roped off to host the ceremony. There were sharply dressed ushers seating people in rows of chairs that faced a stage at the far end of the road. It was an exceptionally hot and beautiful day and the sky was bright blue beyond the massive tarp erected to shade the attendees. Scores of people steadily streamed into completely fill every seat and then to stand in every inch of space available beyond the rope.

I made my way through the crowd with my video camera to get a good view of the event. when I turned around to face the crowd, I was struck by how many people were there. The feeling was electric. There was so much emotion packed beneath the tarp. I saw groups of feminists from all over the world in attendance, they came from: The Dominican Republic, Cuba, Canada, Puerto Rico, the Americas and even as far away as Europe.

The group from the Dominican Republic had specially printed up placards in the shape of the female symbol with the faces of Magalie, Myriam and Anne-Marie printed on them.
I saw women bursting into tears, embracing each other. There were lively conversations between new-guard and old-guard feminists.

On the stage were three alters dedicated to each of the women honored. The flower arrangements were large and colorful. In front of the stage, there was a table completely covered in lit, purple candles. I became entranced by the flames. There were six hours of speakers and performers in total, each executed with so much reverence. The ceremony began with an acapella quartet of young men in ties, reminiscent of old American do-wop groups. I could only make out very few words of the ceremony, but it didn't really matter, I knew what they were ultimately conveying.

The final act was by an extraordinary performance group made up of four men and four women. Through movement and song, they performed a 30 minute piece about loss and grief caused by the earthquake. Their movements were slow and exacting. In their final piece, the group passed a very long, shear cloth to each other where one of the women crouched in front of a large brown pot and pushed the long purple fabric into the pot until it slowly disappeared.