Ever since the earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, I wanted to do something to help the Haitian filmmakers and artists who lost so much but still had the willpower and passion to tell their own stories.
Many of these filmmakers, musicians and artists lost friends and relatives in the earthquake – as well as much of their equipment and other valuable resources.
Stephanie contacted me a year ago about the possibility of teaching a workshop in Haiti. I immediately said yes – but with one condition. I was going to volunteer my time and expertise, and all the income generated from the workshop was to go back to the Haitian filmmakers and artists.
So how can you help?
Haiti needs many more professionals to come and help get the artists back on their feet by donating their time to teach workshops and by also reaching out to others to sponsor the workshops to keep them going.
To find out more about what is facing the filmmakers, musicians and artists of Haiti, please take a moment to read this excellent interview with Stephanie from ProductionHub.com called How You Can Help Give a Voice to the Voiceless in Haiti.
And please bookmark this page because I will be writing daily of my journey to Haiti starting Sunday, July 28. 🙂
Sunday, July 28 – Day 1
Up at 5:30am. Trilby drove me to the Vancouver airport and she saw that I got through security ok. Airport Security! Hmmm…Isn’t that always where the main pressure is now when we fly?
I was looking forward to arriving safely to Montreal, getting to my hotel and then going downtown to meet my son Andrew for dinner.
My flight to Montreal left on time. Happy to report it was uneventful – until we arrived over Montreal where we were greeted by a summer thunderstorm. So we flew in circles for about 15 minutes until the storm cleared and then we landed.
So far so good.
Waiting for your luggage always includes a bit of apprehension. Will it actually arrive and not be sent to some exotic foreign location by mistake?
My one, well-traveled red suitcase did arrive. I saw it come out in the distance. Whew. Relief. But only for a moment. What was that white thing sticking out from my suitcase. OMG! To my horror, I saw that my whole suitcase was open as it was slowly coming towards me on the conveyor belt.
I took it off the conveyor, carefully avoiding the looks from everyone around me. The zippers had completely broke and I now had no suitcase. It was totally useless and tomorrow I was flying to Haiti.
Ok, Now what. I know. Walk around the airport and find a store that sells luggage. Buy a suitcase, transfer everything into it and voila! Problem solved.
Alas, that didn’t work. The two stores I found didn’t have a suitcase big enough.
Ok. Now what? I then spotted a place that shrink wraps suitcases. After a few minutes of discussion on my dilemma, we decided the best answer was to transfer all my items to a box, take that to the hotel overnight and then in the morning they would shrink wrap the box and I can then use that as my check-in “luggage” to Port-au-Prince. Good idea.
They sold me a box ($8.00) to put all my stuff in. I grabbed the shuttle to my hotel and checked in. After a phone call Stephanie in Haiti to let her know what happened, I took a bus to downtown Montreal and had a great evening with my son and two of his friends at Reuben’s Deli on rue Sainte–Catherine (Of course – Montreal smoked meat!)
Back to the hotel to repack my “luggage box” and then 4 hours sleep. What a first day!
Monday, July 29 – Day 2
Up at 6:00am, breakfast and then on the shuttle to the airport. My flight leaves at 10:30am but I want to get to the airport extra early in case I have any other surprises.
Got my box all “plastic wrapped” ($10.00) and then waited in line to check in. When I got to the check in counter, my box was weighed – and it was 4 kilos heavy! Unless I unwrap it and take some stuff out for carry on, then get it shrink wrapped again (another $10.00) and then get back in the now long line up, it was going to cost me $100.00 for being overweight.
I told her my suitcase story from the day before and she tired to convince me to unpack and take some as carryon. I couldn’t bear to do that all over again so told her I would go for the $100.00.
She checked me in and then told me I had to take the box to the heavy luggage area. I asked her if I was to pay her and she said no. She was going to let me through – because she felt I was going to Haiti to help. That was amazing. I never even told her why I was going to Haiti.
After shaking her hand and thanking her 99 times for her generosity, I checked my “luggage box” and went through security.
No problems there.
And here I sit now (at gate 51) waiting for AC950 to take me to my next adventure – arriving at the Port-au-Prince airport
Arrived at the Port-au-Prince airport. Had no problem going through immigration. Took a while waiting for my “luggage box” but I finally saw it coming down the conveyor belt. YES! We made it!!!
Put the box on a luggage cart and ventured outside – and got zapped by the heat and the high humidity. Stephanie and her husband Mike were there to greet me. We put everything in their car and off we went to Ed Cashman’s house (the Canadian Vice Council’s house where I will be staying.)
I unpacked my luggage box and happily put it in the garbage. (Hmmm…need to get a suitcase in Haiti before I leave.) The four of us then went for dinner at the Montana Hotel restaurant high up on a hill overlooking POP. (The Montana Hotel was destroyed during the 2010 earthquake and many people lost their lives there.)
We had a great dinner, accompanied by a huge rainstorm with lightening and thunder as a sideshow. Then back to Ed’s where I called it a night.
My first impressions of Haiti?
The constant movement: cars, trucks, motorcycles, UN vehicles and TapTaps (small open cars and trucks used as taxis.)
The noise: Car and truck horns (not out of frustration, but out of courtesy to let the vehicle in front of you know that you are passing them on their left.)
The people: of every age and description selling, buying, hustling, sweeping, sitting, talking, making food on the sidewalks.
The colors. Eye popping colors everywhere: the fruit, buildings, trucks, clothes. (This is the Caribbean after all!)
Rubble. Still so much to clean up after the 3 years.
The roads. Let’s just say they need a lot of repair.
Hope. I also saw a lot of hope in the eyes of the Haitians I have met. And after all, that is why I am here.
We shall see what the rest of the week brings.
Saturday, August 3
So much has happened during my week here, I have been so overwhelmed with what I have seen and experienced, that I will be writing the rest of this blog when I get back to Vancouver next week.
But the workshop was a real success. We had over 50 students and the response I got from them at the end of the last day was something I will remember forever.