Initiatives in Connecticut
As part of its mission, Sister Cities Essex Haiti works to provide opportunities for residents of Essex to learn about the people of Deschapelles and their distinct culture by holding or supporting events either singly or in cooperation with area organizations. Sister Cities Essex Haiti is only able to support Hospital Albert Schweitzer and work on the projects in Haiti through the support and enthusiasm of the community of Essex and its environs. Since its inception, the following events have been held. Sister Cities Essex Haiti gives a heartfelt thank-you to all the organizations, presenters and supporters of these initiatives.
ETHAN BORTNICK BENEFIT CONCERT
Recognized as “The World’s Youngest Solo Musician to Headline His Own Concert Tour”, 16-year old Ethan Bortnick has been performing around the world, raising over $40 million for charities across the globe. He has shared the stage with artists such as Elton John, Andrea Bocelli, Beyonce, John Groban and Reba McEntire. In 2010, he joined the all-star line-up that recorded We Are the World 25 for Haiti. On April 6, 2017, he traveled to Valley Regional High School to perform a concert in a joyous celebration of the one-year anniversary of the opening of the Deschapelles library. Thank you to all of our supporters who attended the show. Thank you to area students who joined Ethan on stage. And thank you to our sponsors:
Benin Management Corp.; Clark Group; Pages Inc.; Essex Boat Works; Copper Beech Inn; Dreamscapes; Norm Needleman & Jacqueline Hubbard; Jeffrey N. Mehler CFP; Centerbrook Architects; Whelen Engineering; Crehan Group LLC; Linda Freedman & Chip Frost Page Taft Christie’s IRE; The Valley Railroad; Red House; James Carter Pianos; Region 4 Schools; Savour Cafe & Bakery; The Wheatmarket; Adam’s Hometown Market
and the following benefactors: Kathleen Maher & Chip Goodrich Jenifer Grant & Ron Noe; Simpson Healthcare Executives; Terry Parkinson.
CELEBRATING THE OPENING OF THE LIBRARY!!
On July 9 on the banks of the Connecticut River, supporters of Sister Cities Essex Haiti gathered to celebrate the opening of the library in Deschapelles. The highlight of the evening was a new film presented by Brenda Floyd about the library. Click on the link below to see this beautiful and exciting film.
Many thanks to all of the people, businesses and organizations who believed in us and opened their hearts to the people of Deschapelles, Haiti. We are grateful to our event sponsors:
Jacqueline Hubbard & Norman Needleman
Essex Wellness Center
Benin Management Corporation
Jeffrey N. Mehler CFP LLC
Brewers Essex Island Marina
Saybrook Country Barn
Angelini Wine Ltd.
Crehan Group LLC
For more information about the library, please click here.
An Essex resident asked SCEH if there was a need for fabric for projects in Haiti. As the library had requested cushions for the interior perimeter wall of the library and for children to sit on in the children’s area, SCEH gratefully accepted. Hearing that, another Essex resident donated additional curtain fabric. A group of women, bearing sewing machines and shears, gathered to cut, pin, sew, turn and hand-sew these “sit-upons.” There are now almost 60 pillows at the library which were presented at the Dedication of the Library in April 2016.
Many thanks to Joanne Ryan, Susan Hosak, Phyllis Greenberg, Sandy Lynch, Nikki Lindberg, Paddy Hurley, Jenifer Grant, Phyllis Greenberg, Mary-Beth Harrigan, Mimi Merton, Ann Lander and Famah Sells.
In September 2015, SCEH presented a series of lectures about Haiti at the Essex Town Hall.
A SERIES OF TALKS SPONSORED BY SISTER CITIES ESSEX HAITI
Haiti: Stories of Early Days to Present
Bob Lamothe, Sister Cities Essex Haiti board member, who came to the US at the age of 12, is a graduate of Yale University and also holds a Master’s Degree in Architecture at Columbia University. He is a Professor at Norwalk Community College and also teaches Kreyol at Yale. Bob presented “The History of Haiti: Early Days to Present”, which will combined interesting insights on both historical and more recent history.
Literature of Haiti: Historical Influences Past and Present
Patrick Sylvain is a poet, writer, translator, and academic. He is a faculty member at Brown University’s Center for Language Studies. Patrick spoke about the history and influences on Haitian literature and focused most recently on literature of Haitian writers, both those living in Haiti and abroad. Mr. Sylvain has taught as a lecturer at Harvard, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Tufts University and University of Massachusetts. He is published in several anthologies, academic journals, books, magazines and reviews. He has been featured in: PBS’s NewsHour, NPR’s Here & Now and The Story, he was also a contributing editor to the Boston Haitian Reporter. Sylvain’s academic essays are anthologized in several edited collections, including: “The Idea of Haiti: Rethinking Crisis and Development,” and “Politics and Power in Haiti”. Sylvain graduated from Harvard University Graduate School of Education as a Conant Fellow where he received his ED.M; and also holds an MFA from Boston University where he was a Robert Pinsky Global Fellow.
Art of Haiti & Recent Restoration Efforts
Erica Moiah James, Assistant Professor in the History of Art and of African American Studies at Yale University; Mark Aronson, Chief Conservator of Art at Yale Center for British Art; and Matthew Cushman, Haitian Project Conservator at Yale’s Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage spoke about the visual art of Haiti, including the restoration efforts that began in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, and subsequent work at Yale University directed at the preservation of a suite of nineteenth century Haitian portraits. The Rigaud portraits, a collection at the Yale Peabody Museum which depicts the early leaders of Haiti, have become the subject of an institutional and international collaborative project, bringing Haitian conservators, first involved with the Smithsonian Institution’s Cultural Recovery Project in Port-au-Prince, to New Haven for further training in Yale’s conservation laboratories. Come hear about a general overview of Haitian art and more recent work restoring portraits of Haitian Presidents which provide opportunities for Haitian restorers to work with the conservators at Yale to advance their skills.
Birds of Haiti and Connecticut –Migrators and Locals
Bob Lamothe, Sister Cities Essex Haiti Board member and Professor, is an avid photographer and ornithologist. His interest in birds began as a youngster. He was fascinated by their communication skills; different calls for different reasons. At a young age he realized roosters would give a specific warning signal to the hens to take shelter when a hawk appeared overhead. That led Bob to deeper observations of all sorts of birds in Haiti. He continued that interest when he moved to CT and focused and honed much of his photographic skills on birds and their activities. He found that many of the birds he knew in Haiti were here in CT as well, either as permanent residents of both areas or as migrating birds. He has a vast collection of photos of birds that are unique to each area. Bob’s passion for ornithology and photography combined to make this an outstanding talk.
Supporters gathered at a private home on the banks of the Connecticut River on a beautiful day to see the progress that has been made on the library and the various SCEH projects. Thank you to all you joined us October 5, to support our organization and the people of Deschapelles. Many thanks as well to William Pitt Sotheby’s, the Foxboro Foundation and Thompson & Peck for their early support!
Chamber Music Concert
Many thanks to Reuben Blundell and Michael Shane Wittenberg for providing our supporters with magnificent chamber music at the beautiful Ulrich Franzen designed home of the Towers family in Essex on Sunday, September 22, 2013. Reuben, who conducts the orchestra at the City University of New York’s distinguished Hunter College, and Michael, who has served as an assistant conductor and coach at opera companies in multiple cities, performed pieces by Maurice Ravel, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Lili Boulanger. Many many thanks to Reuben and Michael for their support and to all the volunteers who helped pull this together. And, of course, our biggest thanks to our supporters who attended.
Essex Meadows Wellness Day
Essex Meadows hosted their 1st Annual Wellness Day: Run or Walk for a Cause on Saturday, August 10, 2013. About 50 people participated in a 5 K Road/Trail Race, a 2K Fitness Walk, and a 1/3 mile Kid’s Fun Race around Essex Meadows’ beautiful grounds. All proceeds benefited Sister Cities Essex Haiti.
Sister Cities Essex Haiti thanks Essex Meadows for choosing us as the beneficiary of their First Wellness Day. They did an amazing job pulling it all together particularly as it was the first time they have ever launched such an undertaking. We also want to thank the staff who helped out, the residents who ran, walked or wheeled the race, and all the other residents who came out to cheer or just to permit the race to occur.
We truly appreciate everyone’s support. Our vision was to develop a true sister city relationship between Essex and Deschapelles and their environs: the people of one community helping another community. Funds raised will enable us to continue the construction of the library. Thank you!!
Essex Elementary School Benefit Concert
Essex Elementary School hosted a Family and Friends for Haiti event on Friday evening, June 14, 2013. A concert on the lawn by the Carnival Trio Caribbean, a Caribbean steel band, and the Sterling City Band featuring EES teacher Ms. Armstrong and her bandmates was enjoyed by all! EES children sold their own handicrafts, Girl Scout Troop 62041 sold ice cream, and the film ‘Welcome to Deschapelles, Our Sister City” was shown. Thank you to all Essex Elementary School community for making this such a wonderful event.
It was such a joy to see the enthusiasm and energy directed to not only raising funds for the Deschapelles library project but also for the very important goal of increasing awareness of Haiti, Deschapelles, and the sister cities relationship that has been forged between the people of southeastern Connecticut and the people of the Deschapelles area. All of the funds raised at the event will be used exclusively to build the library in Deschapelles.
Thanks to all the people at EES who made this happen: the teachers who organized the students to make the peace pots and to contribute the refreshments, the staff who set up and then quickly cleaned up after the event, the people who publicized the event, Scott for your leadership, and Marjorie for your incredible ideas and organization, the parents who understand the need and advantages of helping their children see beyond their world, and, of course, the students for their unbridled joy, enthusiasm, and interest.
Essex Elementary School is a wonderful caring community.
Tri-Club Rotary Celebration
On May 14, 2013, Sister Cities Essex Haiti and the Rotary Clubs of Chester, Deep River and Essex celebrated the Rotary Clubs’ successful three-year fundraising drive to provide Sister Cities Essex Haiti with the ability to purchase 1,000 books for the Deschapelles Library. The Rotary Clubs presented Sister Cities Essex Haiti with a check for $10,000! In addition to the check, they have also given SCEH 106 extra books! Kathleen Maher, President of Sister Cities Essex Haiti, thanked the Rotary Clubs for the funds and the books but also for (1) their early support of SCEH that gave credibility to the organization at its formation; (2) their many invitations to Rotary events to help increase awareness of Haiti, Deschapelles, SCEH, the proposed Deschapelles library, and SCEH’s other projects; (3) their introduction to other Rotaries giving us the ability to show our film “Welcome to Deschapelles, Our Sister City” to the New London Rotaract and the Mystic Rotary. Kathleen also noted that the Rotary Clubs of Verettes, Haiti and Ancaster, Ontario installed the well at the library site. Terry Smith, Chair of the Library Committee, gave an update on the library construction and shared photos. It was a true celebration!! This gift will enable the people of Deschapelles the ability to open their library with a supply of books for children and adults. Kathleen especially thanked the International Committee of the Chester, Deep River and Essex Rotaries for spearheading the book drive under the leadership of Jeff Mehler and Susan Carpenter. THANK-YOU!!!
SCEH in the Movies!
A film, Welcome to Deschapelles, Our Sister City”has been produced by Essex residents Brenda and Logan Floyd. It is a beautiful and sensitive film introducing the viewer to Deschapelles, its people, its culture and its spirit. It will be used to inform Essex and surrounding communities about Deschapelles, SCEH, and to raise funds to build a library in Deschapelles. It has been shown several times in our area: at the Essex Town Hall, to the Tri-Club Rotaries of Chester, Deep River and Essex, to the New London Rotaract, to the Mystic Rotary, St. John’s Episcopal Church in Essex and at several private venues. For more information about these showings, please click here. We invite you to come see it. We know you will enjoy it.
From March-May 2013, Dreamscapes, a full service graphic arts and web design studio located on Main Street in Essex, permitted Sister Cities Essex Haiti to use their store window to present information about Deschapelles, Haiti, and the efforts of SCEH and ODES to build a library. Entitled “Good News From Haiti”, the colorful display attracted many residents and visitors people strolling through Essex the opportunity to learn about us. A highlight of the display was an invitation to attend the May 10 film showing of “Welcome to Deschapelles, Our Sister City.” Thank-you Dreamscapes and all those people who took the time to increase their awareness of Haiti and its people. For the story behind this photo, please click here.
Art Show at Page Taft Realty
Page Taft Christies International hosted a month-long art show and sale featuring Haitian art from February 14 through March 17. Featured art works included imaginative pieces of metal art work created out of cast-off oil drums and paintings by artists from the Artibonite area of Deschapelles. All profits from the art sale will support Hospital Albert Schweitzer in addition to all of the artists who are able to sell their art work in the Essex area.
The Big Book Club Getaway at Mohegan Sun
Sister Cities Essex Haiti joined The Big Book Club Getaway at Mohegan Sun on February 2, 2013! It had a booth to present information and was able to show a film, Welcome to Deschapelles, Our Sister City. More than 40 bestselling and award-winning authors and presenters converged at Mohegan Sun on February 1-2, 2013 for The Big Book Club Getaway, which benefitted The Alzheimer’s Association. Speakers included Yale Professor Carlos Eire, a winner of the National Book Award for Non-Fiction, Leeza Gibbons, iconic American talk show host, and Brad Meltzer, #1 bestselling political suspense author, and others. For more information, click here.
Annual Rotary Tri-Club International Meeting
The International Committee of the Chester, Deep River, and Essex Rotaries held a dinner on January 15, 2013 where the film “Welcome to Deschapelles, Our Sister City” was shown. The program included guest speak Brenda Floyd, film-maker and a director of Sister Cities Essex Haiti. Brenda and her son, Logan, spent time in the summer 0f 2012 filming footage in Deschapelles, its people and culture, ODES, SCEH projects and Hospital Albert Schweitzer. We are grateful to Rotary and all of its members for their continued support of Sister Cities Essex Haiti.
Chamber Music Benefit
Karen Birch Blundell returned to Essex on Sunday, September 30, 2012 with the Exponential Ensemble performing chamber music to benefit Sister Cities Essex Haiti. Karen (on the oboe) was joined by Founder Pascal Archer (on the clarinet), and William Hestand (on the bassoon). The concert took place at the beautiful Ulrich Franzen designed house in Essex. Karen, with the Essex Consort, performed a concert for Sister Cities Essex Haiti in May 2011. Thanks to the Exponential Ensemble, Karen, Pascal and Billy, for donating their time and talent to benefit Sister Cities Essex Haiti, to Didi Towers, for allowing us the use of her beautiful home, to the Girl Scouts who helped at the event, and to all those music-lovers who attended. To learn more about the concert, click here.
On September 18, 2012, Chester Village West, a retirement community in historic Chester, Connecticut, hosted a breakfast for its residents and members of the Chester, Deep River and Essex Rotaries. Representatives from Sister Cities Essex Haiti focused on the library project and shared the most recent architectural renderings of the building. Susan Carpenter, a Rotarian who is heading up the drive to provide 1,000 books for the library, made a successful appeal for contributions to that effort. Thank you to all who attended and contributed!
Region 4 School District Initiative
Essex Elementary School conducted a “Helping Hands for Haiti” initiative whereby students raised money by doing services for family, friends and neighbors and raised nearly $3,000. Chester Elementary School held a Service Learning Project entitled, “From Our Village to Theirs – Helping to Rebuild the Schools in Deschapelles, Haiti” that raised nearly $500 for school supplies in Deschapelles. Deep River Elementary School students decorated over 100 Pringles cans and filled them with school supplies for Deschapelles pre-school students. They are held a “Tip a Teacher” benefit at Oliver’s Tavern in Essex in June 2012 and raised over $1,700. To see the children opening the Pringles cans, please click here.
John Winthrop Middle School and Valley Regional High School held a bake sale on May 12 and raised $552 to support the Early Education Teacher Training Project. In addition, John Winthrop Middle School held a Talent Show in the Spring of 2012 that raised over $400 to buy books for Deschapelles children. To learn more about these exciting initiatives, please click here.
Have a Heart for Haiti Fundraiser
Sister Cities Essex Haiti held its second Have a Heart for Haiti fundraiser on Friday, March 2, 2012, at the Left Bank Gallery on Main Street in Essex. Thanks to all our supporters, it was a great success!! The best part of the evening was the outpouring of support from the community for Haiti, Hospital Albert Schweitzer, and Sister Cities Essex Haiti projects in Deschapelles. Thank you to all who came, donated, volunteered and supported SCEH. To learn more about the fundraiser, please click here.
On January 12, 2011, Bells were rung for 35 seconds at St. John’s Church and elsewhere, the duration of the Haiti “trambleman” to commemorate the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. To learn more, click here.
In February, 2011, St. John’s Church’s annual Shrove Tuesday Jazz Concert free will offering was donated to the SCEH Library Project. To learn more, click here.
Girl Scout Troop 62041 have been very active supporting SCEH. They volunteered as servers at the October 2010 fundraiser, and, after learning more about Haiti, they chose to present Haiti at the Girl Scout World Thinking Day colloquium at the Essex Town Hall. To learn more about World Thinking Day, click here. They also began a pen pal program with teens in Haiti. To learn more, click here.
Tri-Club Rotary International hosted a dinner to raise funds for Hospital Albert Schweitzer in February of 2010, just after the earthquake. In the Fall of 2010, they committed to donating 1,000 books for the Deschapelles library. They invited Terry Smith, chair of the Library Committee, to speak at their annual Tri-Club International dinner, and in March 2011, they again held a very successful fund-raiser for SCEH’s efforts. To learn more, please click here.
In May and June 2011, Essex Meadows Lifecare Retirement Community hosted an art show featuring Haitian art. Featured art works included imaginative pieces of metal art work created out of cast-off oil drums and paintings by artists from the Artibonite area of Deschapelles. All profits from the art sale supported not only Sister Cities Essex Haiti and Hospital Albert Schweitzer but also all of the artists who were able to sell their art work in the Essex area. To learn more, please click here.
On May 15, 2011, Karen Birch Blundell, Adam De Sorgo and Kristen Leitterman launched their musical group, Essex Consort, with an oboe concert at the Essex Congregational Church. The free will offering was designated for SCEH. Additionally, Karen Birch Blundell introduced SCEH to her Musical Fraternity, Sigma Alpha Iota’s Person to Person outreach program. They have a special fund to support musical efforts in Haiti, and they accepted SCEH’s Musical Project as a partner. This enabled us to purchase musical instruments, music and music stands for the musicians. Click here to learn more.
In April 2010, the Essex Elementary School initiated a Read-a-Thon with proceeds to go to the SCEH Library. On June 21, 2011, Essex Elementary School presented Sister Cities Essex Haiti with a check for $8,275 to support the proposed library/community center in Deschapelles, Haiti. The students raised the funds during a three-week Read-a-Thon in which 107 students read 34,448 pages in a total of 727 books.To learn more about this amazing effort, please click here.
The Gallery Committee of Essex Meadows Lifecare Retirement Community invited Sister Cities Essex Haiti to install a second Haiti art exhibit as the first one last Spring was so well received. The art was available for viewing from September 14 through October 8, 2011. They were especially eager to have additional opportunities to purchase some of the metal art work. For some wonderful color, beautiful hand painted silk scarves with Haitian motifs, all created on the Haitian island of La Gonave, were also included. The artists are all paid in advance for their work, and the profits support Hospital Albert Schweitzer. The Show was dedicated to the memory of Mary Lee Robertson, a resident of Essex Meadows, an acomplished artist and an enthusiastic supporter of Hospital Albert Schweitzer and Sister Cities Essex Haiti.
In September 2011, Essex Savings Bank chose Sister Cities Essex Haiti as its featured “Business of the Month.” Sister Cities Essex Haiti was able to present a display showcasing its initiatives in and around southeastern Connecticut and its support of Hospital Albert Schweitzer and its various community projects it has undertaken in Deschapelles in collaboration with ODES.
We are grateful to Essex Savings Bank for providing this opportunity to inform more people about our organization and our initiatives.
Original efforts began as “Have a Heart for Haiti” awareness and fund-raising for Hospital Albert Schweitzer through publicity and support such as the dedication of the February 14, 2010 Essex Winter Series Valentine’s Day Concert to Hospital Albert Schweitzer.
In September, 2010, SCEH was invited to establish a designated fund account with Middlesex County Community Foundation to enable donors to make tax deductible contributions to SCEH. To learn more, click here.
In October 2010, SCEH held a fundraiser at the Connecticut River Museum which involved over 40 volunteers and raised over $35,000 for Hospital Albert Schweitzer and the Library Project. Friends of Sister Cities Essex Haiti and Hospital Albert Schweitzer enjoyed Haitian music, art and food. To learn more and to get the recipes from the Haitian fare served at the fundraiser, click here.
In October 2010, as part of an initiative to bring greater awareness of Haiti, Hospital Albert Schweitzer and Sister Cities Essex Haiti to southeastern Connecticut, the merchants of downtown Essex participated in “Haiti Week”. To learn more, please click here.