Thursday, May 9, 2013

Creative Haiti at 45 Church Street, Wellesley Square

An enterprising group of students at Wellesley High School, Massachusetts has partnered with Cite Soleil Opportunity Council to help grief-stricken Haiti. Under the leadership of Wellesley High School teacher Mrs. Jane Lord, the class has been selling these amazing original works of art to support both the Haitian artists and Haiti Clinic. Cite Soleil Opportunity Council (CSOC) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization founded by Wellesley resident Dr. Larry Kaplan in September, 2010 as an outgrowth of his volunteer medical services in Cite Soleil after the earthquake. (See more about CSOC below).

The class has helped to build to reach a wider audience. All proceeds from the sales go to 501(c)(3) public charities such as Haiti Clinic working within the Cite Soleil Community.  With minimal overhead and administrative costs, CSOC pays the artists more than other American groups, and distributes over 95% of all sales profits to 501(c)(3) public charities such as Haiti Clinic and supports revitalization of the community with Haitian-generated projects including micro-finance loans, trade school grants, public work activities and civic empowerment groups.

About the Art
This unique art form was born in Haiti in the early 1950’s by a blacksmith, Georges Liautaud, who designed simple metal crosses for the graves in Croix-des-Bouquets cemetery near Port au Prince.  The art is made from scrap tin or recycled 55-gallon oil drums transported to the metal artists’ workshop by push cart or on top of taxis.  After the metal is set on fire to burn off any paint or residue, it cools and the flattening process begins. The drums are pounded into a flattened “metal canvas” of approximately 3’ x 6’ and the designs are drawn onto the metal sheet with chalk.  Using hammer, chisel and other simple tools, the artists then cut and pound various shapes and decorative patterns into the metal.  The art is either left in its natural form or painted.  The finished designs are signed by the artist and coated with a protective finish.

About Cite Soleil Opportunity Council
While working at Haiti Clinic, Wellesley resident Dr. Larry Kaplan identified a number of Haitian artists creating traditional, handcrafted tin art without benefit of a market for their remarkable artwork. Consequently, Dr. Kaplan realized that sales of the art could in turn produce income for the artists, giving them a sense of pride and purpose, and fund healthcare and other services desperately needed in the Cite Soleil community. Returning to the United States, Dr. Kaplan formed a joint venture with Wellesley (MA) High School’s Global Marketing Class to acquire and sell the tin art for the benefit of Cite Soleil residents.

February 2013: CSOC sent an additional ten Haitian men and women from Tecina to driving school, a ten-week course of study that leads to licensure and allows graduates to drive taxis and taptaps in Port -au-Prince. Typically, the driver will rent a taptap from the owner and drive the vehicle for 10-14 hours/day with the potential of earning $15-25. The students will repay the school tuition with their earnings. Since starting in 2011, CSOC has sent 45 Tecina residents to trade school and five children to elementary school, and funded five micro-loans for local business development.

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