Around 50 East End artists, along with art buyers, will be gathering at the East Hampton Airport for a night of cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, raffles and a silent art auction on June 22 for the third annual Hamptons Artists for Haiti Benefit. But this event is not just for the art enthusiasts. All money raised will be used to purchase new uniforms, teacher salaries, school supplies and other necessities for a new school in Ranquitte, Haiti that has been built with the help of Wings Over Haiti, an organization founded by Sag Harbor resident Jonathan Glynn.
Mr. Glynn formed Wings Over Haiti in the aftermath of devastating 2010 earthquake there. According to a report from the Earthquake Science Center, the 7.0 earthquake was estimated to have killed over 250,000 people. More than a million more were displaced and half of all structures were damaged in the area near where the earthquake originated.
Earthquake damage and a lack of funding largely destroyed one of Ranquitte’s only schools, catching the attention of banker Magalie Theodore. Ms. Theodore was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and moved to New York at the age of six. Though she has had tremendous success in New York, having studied finance and portfolio management at New York University and is currently working on Wall Street, she still dedicates a large portion of her life to philanthropy, a trait she may have gotten from her pastor father who served the people of Ranquitte.
“It was very hard to deal with,” Ms. Theodore said in a recent interview, describing her emotions in the aftermath of the earthquake when she went to Haiti with friends to help. “I’m still having issues dealing with it. It’s tough.”
After helping to form Friends of Haiti 2010, an organization dedicated to empowering and educating Haitians, Ms. Theodore wanted to expand her efforts even more through a partnership with Wings Over Haiti. Five years ago, she reached out to Mr. Glynn with an offer. In exchange for a seven-acre plot of land donated by her father in Ranquitte, about 95 miles north of Port-Au-Prince, Mr. Glynn agreed to direct resources from Wings Over Haiti to rebuild the school.
“We believe the best way to empower somebody is through education,” said Ms. Theodore, adding, “We are building a human.”
This isn'te Mr. Glynn’s first time building a school in Haiti. In fact, the artist has been helping Haitians through Wings Over Haiti for almost a decade. Mr. Glynn learned to fly in 2007, and just three years later in the wake of the earthquake, flew his private plane 18-hours to bring supplies to Haiti, stopping every three hours along the way to refuel.
For 17 days straight, Mr. Glynn flew medicine, including morphine and anesthesia, and doctors to where they were most needed. However, when Mr. Glynn returned home his days of providing aid were not over. In fact, they had just begun. He soon founded Wings Over Haiti and eventually began helping Haitian children by creating schools.
“For most of my life I was an artist and I was thinking about myself more than anyone else,” Mr. Glynn said. “I didn’t have the opportunity I have had to change children’s lives.”
After meeting middle school teacher Melissa McMullen and Haitian-American high school guidance counselor Chad St. Louis through Facebook, it became clear that one of the most effective ways to help Haiti long term was to secure its future through education.
“Children should have opportunities,” Mr. Glynn said. “It seemed like the most effective way, not only to help the children, but the nation’s future.”
Together, the three created a new school called The Heart School in Port-Au-Prince only three months after the earthquake. According to the Wings Over Haiti’s website, 178 children up to seventh grade are enrolled in the school, where each school day they receive two meals, medical attention and a “community based on learning and growing.” Mr. Glynn boasted about the school in a recent interview, saying that kids are learning multiple languages and will be attending college.
“The first school is a remarkable success,” Mr. Glynn said.
As the years passed, however, Mr. Glynn and his team have become less involved since The Heart School is now run by locals. Therefore, when Ms. Theodore approached Mr. Glynn with an idea to open a new school in Ranquitte, he was happy to get invovled.
Last year, the Hamptons Artists for Haiti Benefit provided funds to build the school. This year Mr. Glynn, Ms. Theodore and Mr. Glynn’s business partner, Arthur Bijur, are hoping to raise funds to purchase supplies, uniforms, staff and other items needed to provide a quality education. According to the website, $20 provides 10 children with a month of school lunches, $50 provides five children with soccer gear, $150 covers the cost of tuition for a year, $175 provides a teacher with a salary for a year and $300 provides furniture and supplies for one classroom.
“All the money goes to keeping up the 501(c)3 and ultimately to keep up the school,” Mr. Glynn said.
The new school in Ranquitte is expected to open in September and the goal is to enroll 400 students. According to Mr. Glynn, they’re “desperately eager to enroll.”
“They’re waiting for a school there,” Ms. Theodore said of the parents and children of Ranquitte, whose closest school is six hours away. “They’re desperate for it because they don’t have a school at all.”
Coco Myers, art curator and founder of folioeast, an East End arts organization, will be curating the silent auction which she finds to be a successful and fun way to raise money for a cause she calls gratifying.
“Hamptons Artists for Haiti is a great cause not only because it’s about helping children who live in the most destitute country in the hemisphere, but also because it’s about education. What could be more important or gratifying than building schools for kids whose schools were destroyed in the devastating earthquake?” Ms. Myers said via email. “Silent auctions are fun; people love to browse and bid, they are a great way to acquire high-quality art at good prices, unless the bidding goes way up! Which we hope it does!”
The Third Annual Hampton Artists for Haiti Benefit is Saturday, June 22 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the East Hampton Airport, 200 Daniels Hole Road, Wainscott. Tickets available at wingsoverhaiti.net for $125. Free for children under 12.
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