Introduction to the ACFFC
Working with the Art Creation Foundation For Children (ACFFC) has been such a delightful experience! I first discovered the organization during a scouting trip in March of 2011 with Kelly Cambell from the Village Experience, Suzanne Sterling from Off The Mat Into the World, and Amy King, who works with Tour Haiti. We were together in Jacmel, Haiti and visiting potential NGO’s to work with. I was already personally building the Jacmel Children Center, but love partnering with other organizations in the vicinity, and introducing the organizations to one another for potential collaboration and sharing of resources. http://www.artforhaitianchildren.org
You can’t help but fall head over heels in love with the ACFFC the moment you arrive at their property. The kids welcomed us with open arms, and we were all surrounded by the most excited Haitian children, that were quick to greet us with hugs and beaming smiles. Their building was filled with the most colorful and fun painted murals, and you could just see and feel the creativity and fun created there. The kids have an art work station outside the building, and about 15 of the kids were in the middle of a paper mache making class.
As we explored the property and the building, we soon discovered just how talented these kids really are! Every single square inch of the building was painted by the kids- and the most colorful and fun images. I felt like we were looking at walls painted by Picasso or Matisse! Downstairs, the kids were divided up into age groups, the younger group was having a paper mache lesson, the middle school aged children were painting, and the teenagers were having an English lesson. As we walked upstairs, I was astounded by the incredibly paper mache masks that hung on the walls- the most colorful, beautifully crafted masks, and the upstairs was filled with paper mache products- everything from multi-sized bowls, to hummingbirds, flamingos- to gigantic masks- Astounding!
We met with Georges Metellus- the Director of the ACFFC. He gave us the background of the ACFFC. We also spoke internationally with Judy Hoffman, Founder and President of the ACFFC- and is incredibly protective of the kids, and the people and organizations they work with. Fortunately, you can see immediately that the kids best interests are always at hand, as the kids are thriving, and their artistic and scholastic accomplishments are shining through. Georges is a Haitian man that cares so deeply about these kids at the ACFFC- he knows each child, their family, where they live, and what their immediate needs are. So much more than just an art school, they are one big family that take care of each other. You can tell in the way that the kids interact with each other, share, work and play together.
I could not wait to come back down in Haiti and work with the kids! In June of 2011, I had my first opportunity to do so. We brought a group of 25 volunteers down through the organization Random Acts, our non-profit sponsor that are helping us to fundraise and build the Jacmel Children Center. As we entered the ACFFC grounds, we received the warmest welcome from the kids. We got to spend 2 action-packed, fun-filled days with the kids.
During our first visit, the Haitian kids gave our group of 25 volunteers a paper mache lesson. Despite their limited English, and our non-existent Creole, we each learned how to make a paper mache bowl. We were individually paired with a child, ranging in age from 8-15, and they walked us step-by-step through the paper mache process. It was so fun- and so rewarding for the kids to be able to actually teach us how to make art. Our group loved it, and their was so much laughter, banter and exchange during the paper mache experience.
One of the volunteers in our group brought a make-a-quilt project down, and each of the children and volunteers were given a square to decorate. Everybody spread out throughout the center, and together we made a peace quilt. This was the first time the children had created anything quite like this, and they had so much fun making it. The quilt is now hanging in a very prominent place in the Art School.
Another activity our group got to be a part of was the ACFFC Drama Production. A select number of the kids were part of a play that was to be performed in Canada later in the summer. The kids were diligently performing, and working on costumes, their lines, and staging. We got to help the kids complete their costumes and prepare the stage. One of the most surreal experiences I’ve had in Haiti was the evening they performed the play for us. The play was being performed for the entire community of Jacmel, and took place about 2 kilometers from the school. We helped the kids carry wooden benches the distance, so that the parents of the students as well as our participants could properly sit to watch the performance. And the performance was fantastic. Although the performance was in French, so I was unable to understand, the kids had great stage presence, poise and confidence. They were completely into their roles, costumes were great, and the Haitian crowd watching it loved it. Smiles and applause abounded after the 3 act performance finished. After the performance, we carried the benches over our heads back to ACFFC.
The kids at the ACFFC are game and excited to do anything and everything. When I asked if I could teach a yoga class to the kids, everybody- all ages-wanted to try. We needed a place big enough, so we ended up walking with the kids down to the waterfront. On the way to the waterfront, the kids asked if we could stop so they could show our group the mosaic mural they created. I was thinking it would be a small mediocre mosaic wall along the side of a building. I was stunned and blown away by the majestic and beautiful mosaic masterpiece that the kids brought our group to- over a New York city block long wall- a true work of art.
The kids had been trained by Laurel True, the Founder of True Mosaics Studio, has maintained a professional studio practice in architectural, public and fine art mosaics for over 20 years. Her vibrant mosaics can be found in hospitals, parks, hotels and in public, commercial and residential settings worldwide. She facilitates community-based mosaic projects through her organization the Global Mosaic Project. She began working in Haiti in 2010, where she has an ongoing role as Lead Consultant for the Mosaic Jacmel Project. She worked with the kids at the ACFFC and taught them how to create and make mosaics.
The wall was stunning. The ACFFC kids were so proud, and each child took our participants by the hand and pointed out their personal mosaic pieces that they created. The cheerful, vibrant and exquisite mosaic wall was filled with flowers, butterflies, animals, and the most beautiful tree- all symbolic of rebirth and hope after the earthquake, and that no matter what challenges Haiti has been through, nature and people will persevere. The kids were beaming, and were so proud of their work and contribution to bringing beauty and hope to a place that has been through so much.
After the wall, we headed to a shaded platform on the water to enjoy yoga. With the help of a translator at the ACFFC, we gathered the 80 kids in a big circle, and all enjoyed yoga together. The kids loved it. Smiles and laughter abounded. Not only are the kids in Haiti incredibly agile, they are strong, incredibly balanced, and eager to try anything. Halfway during the yoga class, I was teaching kids arm balances- poses I would usually teach an intermediate yoga class- and the kids were nailing the poses! Incredible. We had so much fun, and each time I return to Haiti, we always enjoy yoga together
Since that trip, we worked hand-in-hand with the ACFFC on every Yogaventure trip we’ve taken. Its been wonderful to work with the kids, and to see their progress and artistry blossom and bloom. They are amazing, and we look forward to many more adventures and art projects together!