Good Afternoon Folks,
Who knew a woman who runs around on TV with a gun and another who runs around in heels would have so much in common? We were brought together through a bizzare turn of events, and we discovered our mutual goal of empowering women using our own unique voices. We decided to journey together with Kris, Farouk Shami, Patricia Arquette, Suzanne Lerner, and a few of their friends to experience the Haiti that Maria has come to know and love through her organization, We Advance.
We Advance was started after the earthquake in January 2010, as a direct response to the increase in gender-based violence and poor health care for women in the poorest areas of the country. We Advance works with and represents the voices of over 40 micro-organizations working in the most desperate situations and communities in Haiti.
Our itinerary was to visit some of the small, grassroots NGOs that We Advance works with, including Artists for Peace and Justice, Femmes en Democratie, and Give Love, and to join women at the trade fair and fashion show in celebrating their achievements.
This is who we celebrated:
Danielle St. Lot: Danielle has been a women’s rights activist in Haiti for 35 years. She galvanizes women to stand up for economic, political, and social justice and equality with her organization Femmes en Democratie. She launched the women’s trade fair in Haiti this past weekend with women artisans and designers from all over the country to promote their products and to show their beautiful fashions. As a former Minister of Commerce, Danielle knows that it is through not only charity but creating employment that Haiti will rise.
Claudia Apaid: Claudia is the daughter of a Haitian entrepreneur, who went to an orphanage to give toys to kids for Christmas, and, seeing the appalling conditions that the children lived in, founded Sow a Seed in 2004. Sow a Seed is an organization that collaborates with partners with orphanages all over the country to give better care to their children. She threw a Christmas party this weekend for 500 orphans, many of whom experienced their first Christmas ever.
Barbara Guillaume: Barbara is a women’s leader, poet, singer, and co-founder of We Advance. She is running for mayor of Cité Soleil, the poorest slum in the western hemisphere, because, as she says, “If we can change the worst of Haiti, we can change all of Haiti.”
Caroline Sada: Caroline is a beautiful, 37-year-old powerhouse who grew up in Haiti and was educated in the States. She worked as a high-level executive with an international makeup company and left it all after the earthquake to come back and rebuild her country.
Sophia Martelly: Before becoming the First Lady of Haiti, Sophia dedicated her life and energy to people in need in the slums of Haiti. Now she will launch her country’s “12 by 12″ initiative in January, which will enable thousands of households run by single mothers to buy food and send their children to school.
We came to celebrate the thousands of Haitian women who are working tirelessly every day to bring economic and social justice to all people in Haiti. So to them we say: we are humbled and moved to have been with you and to tell the world about your grace. We are proud to tell the world your stories.
The mission statement of We Advance is, “We are stronger together than we are alone.”
We are grateful to partner with such amazing women and to have been on this journey together.
Please join the journey: weadvance.org.
Thank you to the generous Zachary Rockwood and Paul Galichia from Lenume who created this short film about We Advance, which we presented during our Hamptons for Haiti Fundraiser on July 17, 2011. The film follows We Advance’s founders down to Cité Soleil, Haiti and to the We Advance clinic. Meet our friends and learn more about what we do through this moving film.
Thank you to everyone who came, participated and donated to our wonderful event that was held on July 17, 2011, which we hosted with our partner, Global DIRT. Together we raised over $10K through our live auction that featured art donated by Peter Tunney, Marc Baptiste, Elizabeth Jordan, and donations. We also celebrated the release and book signing of Alison Thompson’s book, The Third Wave. The raised funds went toward establishing the first ever ambulance service and our ongoing efforts in Cité Soleil, Haiti–the poorest slum in the western hemisphere. We are so grateful for our friends who came to show their support like Mariska Hargitay and Patricia Arquette just to name a few. More photos to come!
Gedelene is twenty years old and lives in Wharf Jeremy in Cité Soleil with her husband, Jeff, and their three year old daughter, Shyveechka. Gedelene was born in Dame Marie, Haiti, but when she was just a baby, she and her mother moved to Cité Soleil in order to escape her abusive father. Her mother sold charcoal in order to pay for her daughter to begin attending school at age 5.
In 2004, a gangster named Pepe terrorized Wharf Jeremy killing many people, so Gedelene went back to live in Dame Marie with her father because her neighborhood was too dangerous. When Gedelene returned to Wharf Jeremy two years later, she met her husband Jeff. She became pregnant at age 16, and her mother was so upset that she cut her off financially. Gedelene was forced to drop out of school and find a place to live with Jeff.
Gedelene and Jeff look for jobs every day. Occasionally Jeff finds brief manual labor jobs, though he hasn’t found one in 4 months. Gedelene primarily looks for jobs washing clothes and cleaning, but she has been unsuccessful. When I asked Gedelene how they manage to survive without any money, she said that they rely on God. There is a school in Cité Soleil called St. Luc that sometimes gives out rice and beans. Jeff is friends with the headmaster of the school, so sometimes they receive extra food. She shares it with her neighbors and friends, many of whom, she explains, are worse off than she is. Some days, though, she and her family just go hungry.
Gedelene, who is one of my top students, wishes to help her country but feels that she cannot because she did not finish school. When I ask her if she has any hope that she will one day find the means to go back to school, she says not unless someone helps her financially. Gedelene and Jeff cannot afford to send their daughter to school (children begin school at age 3 in Haiti), so they try to teach her on their own. Gedelene is determined to teach Shyveechka how to read and write because, she says, “Education is freedom.”
Written by Clare Harwood
Clare Harwood is a teacher for We Advance. She has taught in the New York City public school system for 5 years and received a Master’s in English Education at Columbia University Teachers College. For more information check out her blog City of the Sun.
A year after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Michael Stars co-founder, Suzanne Lerner, joined actress Maria Bello and Women Donors Network (WDN) along with We Advance teams to advocate for the health, safety and well-being of Haitian women in a nation already overcome by great loss.
Equipped with 500 pounds of donated toiletries and 200 Michael Stars tees, these organizations made their way through Haiti visiting a number of women’s organizations, including the We Advance clinic in Cité Soleil, one of the poorest areas in the Western hemisphere, distributing goods to those in need.
To read the full article on MichaelStars.com, click here or on the image below:
Maria Bello guest writes on Huffington Post…
A few days after the devastating earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010, I was on the Larry King show talking about the country that I love and had been working in for some years.
One of the celebrity guests who I shall not name was speaking for a large aid organization about how people can help and how their money will be well spent. She seemed to really know what she was talking about and so I asked her if she would be flying down. She looked at me agitated and said, “No, and neither should you, the last thing they need is another mouth to feed. You should go six months later when they need the press.” I asked, “Have you ever been to Haiti? She said NO. I then said, “Well, my friends on the ground are telling me that they are doing amputations with no anesthesia because they are not getting supplies.” She looked at me agitated and said, “Well, I work with one of the largest humanitarian groups in the world and that’s just not true!”
A week later I was in Haiti holding the hand of a 16-year-old boy having his leg amputated with nothing but Advil and local numbing solution for the pain.
To read the full article on HuffingtonPost.com, click here or on the image below: