The gardener's eye

The Gardener's Eye

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Haiti: Once a Garden Island

On February 17th, I am scheduled to return to Haiti for the fourth time for an eye care mission with the PA VOSH (Volunteer Optometric Service to Humanity). It is impossible to concentrate on seed catalogues and planning for next year's garden today. Haiti is on my mind and in my heart. Haiti is a place of great beauty and extreme cruelty. Long before our Civil War and just 28 years after the birth of this nation, Haiti became the world's first black republic but remains the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The Haitian people are handsome and proud. They are also impoverished, primitive, hungry and now devastated by a horrific earthquake.

I have experienced Haiti's brutal history first hand. I was in Haiti in 1986 when a coup d'etat ended the nearly 30 year reign of terror of the Duvalier dictatorship. Unfortunately, the last 25 years has not seen any prosperity for the Haitian people. Robert and Nancy Heinl's book Written in Blood: The Story of the Haitian People could not have been a more appropriate title.

Maggie Steber, a photographer I met in 1986 while in Haiti, recently wrote a moving essay about Haiti . Maggie Steber's NY Times Lens blog essay . Her book, Dancing on Fire; Photographs From Haiti, has some amazing photographs taken after Jean Claude Duvalier fled from Haiti. Two Haitian art books Island on Fire by filmmaker and art collector, Jonathon Demme and Where Art is Joy by Selden Rodman are beautiful compilations of extraordinary Haitian art that give insight into the culture of the Haitian people.

Please consider making a donation NOW to one of the many organizations (I chose the Red Cross) that are bringing aid to Haiti. Thank you.

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