The Accidental Haitian at Piedmont Park

One Grant Park resident explains her journey in helping rebuild post-earthquake Haïti through the arts.

Grant Park resident Audrey Jones, a graphic artist, has spent the better part of the last two years in Haïti following the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake that killed 316,000, injured another 300,000 and displaced 1.3 million. Jones, who returned back to the States for several days before returning next week. She'll be giving a presentation today at Piedmont Park in the stone drum circle from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The event also will feature music, food and in-depth look at her humanitarian efforts through her aid group, Mwen Renmen Ayiti.

Q: Why the mid-life career change?
A: Six months after the earthquake I spent eights weeks working at an Internally Displaced persons camp with a Non Governmental Organization in Port-au-Prince. I took one clear message home from that stay. Nearly everthing I've done with my life could potentially be of use to someone in a disaster situation. I'm not a medic, independently wealthy, or a celebrity. But my human value became so clear during this experience that I had begun to plan for a return even before heading home.

Q: So what have you got?
A: Energy, song, dance, art, theater, education, perseverence, sarcasm, patience, flexibility, problem solving skills, humor, lyrics, a store load of creativity and love for starters. Collectively they make for odd position requirements, but I am a proud volunteer – and the work I've chosen demands more from me than any paying job I have ever held, government or private sector. http://youtu.be/kwm-9SqHE4M

Q: Two years though?
A: I have specific loyalty to Haïti. This increases with each trip [heading out for #7 on Tuesday]. The relationships that I've built are now as close to my heart as family. I don't see myself outside of Haïti reaching in. I see myself priveleged to know those I work with and the new and different perspectives they share have seriously altered my life. http://youtu.be/y2T5-ZeszzY

Q: How does Mwen Renmen Ayiti fit into the equation?
A: I didn't want to be an NGO. There are about 12,000 of them in Haïti now as opposed to 1,000 before the earthquake. Though I have worked with over 15 organizations in Haïti being independent appeared to be the way to go. I thought about core values and a mission statement and arrived at a name that may sound corny in English, but hits the spot in Kreyol. Mwen Renmen Ayiti means - I love Haïti. Mwen Renmen Ayiti is a project that engages participants in art, education, athletics, innovation, health awareness and job development, to positively affect life quality in Haïti.

Q: How do you go about your mission?
A: Here's the crux...I understand stats for cubic feet of removed rubble. I understand improved medical care, it is mandatory to deal with choldera, birth and every form of life health. And of course houses must be rebuilt. But I think a lot about the quality of life and things that can affect it. A young Haitian woman cried on a hot broken down bus when I sang, “I've Got the Music in Me” to the group and got to, “Le yon pwoblem vini mwen pase a kote'l” (When something get's in my way I go around it.) She said she just needed to hear that in her day. Everyone wants to feel betteer, including me. Lets take that personal inventory, put it to good work, and celebrate the results.

"The arts foster a delight in living, not just in surviving." (Contributed by Seana Reilly) "Artists provide a necessary function, which is to remind people that they have the creative potential in themselves and, by extension, the gumption not to depend on others to provide it for them." (Brett Busang) "Haitians are the most creative, enduring, problem solving, ready for "next" people on the planet. (Audrey Jones)

Q: What is The Accidental Haitian?
A: The Accidental Haitian is not an attempt by me to assume the role of someone with Haitian ethnicity. My time in service in Haïti has been a priviledge and I want to share that. Join me in a discussion of love on purpose, July 14th, 2012 from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Piedmont Park including music, visual media, food, and cultural activities. There are no perfect answer for what comes next for Mwen Renmen Ayiti or humanitarian efforts in Haïti...but this will be a perfect place to cast your attention on the most beautiful country on Earth. J. Perry says it best, “Peyi sa twò rich pou-l pòv” - “This country is too rich for poverty.” http://youtu.be/-HL-IHS5YgY

Audrey Jones February 14, 2014 at 02:39 PM


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