WINGS OVER HAITI
Designer Donna Karan
Photos & Story by Debra Rothberg
4TH Annual Hamptons Artists for Haiti Benefit
On Saturday, August 7 The fourth annual Hamptons Artists for Haiti was held to benefit the Wings Over Haiti mission to open their second school in the mountains of Ranquitte.
East Hampton Airport Artists, Designers, Collectors and Philanthropists joined forces across three airplane hangars at East Hampton Airport to significantly advance WOH’s funds for their Ranquitte project.
The first school built by Wings Over Haiti in 2010 is in the capital of Port au Prince, today WOH a 25-person faculty with more than 215 students, from nursery to 7th grade kids eat two meals per day and get opportunities that would be rare, if not miracle without this program.
Monies raised by Hamptons Artists for Haiti will help Wings Over Haiti’s (WOH) get to their next step—a second school in the mountains of Ranquitte.
When planning for this year’s Wings Over Haiti benefit in East Hampton on July 7, Haiti’s plight was recast in the light of the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.
Jonathan Nash Glynn, of Sag Harbor who started WOH since 2010, after devastating earthquake leveled much of the nation, expects Haiti’s conditions to be worse than ever.
Knowing Haiti’s plight Alec Baldwin and WOH mission jumped right in as this year’s WOH honorary chair.
“What’s happening right now to the people of Haiti is tragic. There is so much suffering, and the children there can’t be forgotten,” Baldwin says. “When I learned about the Wings Over Haiti school and their efforts to feed and educate so many kids, and give them a real shot at a better life, I jumped at the chance to help in any way I could.”
WOH event honorary committee included Donna Karan, Patricia Arquette, Eric Fischl, Maria Bello, Molly Channing and Emily Wickersham.
The benefit also debuted a new Buddy Program for donors to sponsor individual students throughout their educational journey at the WOH school.
Guests enjoyed an open bar, music by DJ Gian Carlo, hors d’oeuvres, raffle prizes and more.
Wings Over Haiti wants to bring something beautiful struggling families in Port Au Prince and Ranquitte.
Magalie Theodore, a Haitian who lives and works in New York City, was so moved and encouraged by WOH’s first school, gave the organization a seven-acre plot of land in Ranquitte with the condition that they rebuild the dilapidated school that once stood there and fill it with kids.
They’ve already completed one building with four classrooms for 51 students, but there’s much more to be done.
Glynn told me say that none of his organization’s work would be possible today without his co-director and “main man” Arthur Bijur, a former advertising executive with a strong background in the not-for-profit world.
“I went to Haiti and I was in,” Bijur says of how he came to join his friend Glynn and WOH four years ago. “It’s an eye-opener,” he adds, describing what he found in the still-ravaged country more than seven years after the earthquake.
“It was amazing that there was still rubble in the streets, there was still destruction visible everywhere … it’s an intense place to visit.
In Ranquitte people live in mud huts with tin roofs and dirt floors. They turn their mattresses sideways to sleep five or six to a bed, if they’re lucky enough to have a mattress.
“They really, really are desperate,” Bijur says, noting that the poverty is painfully visible. And with rising political turmoil and gangs taking advantage of the situation, things are only getting worse.
He cites a UN World Food Programme study that says Haiti has one of the highest levels of food insecurity in the world, with nearly half the population—4.4 million Haitians—in need of immediate food assistance. Among those people, 1.2 million suffer from severe hunger, and more than 1 million are classified as being in an emergency situation. The UN also points out that two children out of 10 do not attend primary school, and the literacy level is just 61% for the population over 10 years of age.
“It’s a mess, the people down there are really suffering … it’s gone from bad to worse,” Glynn says. “There are tens of thousands of disenfranchised kids who hardly eat and have no education.” Wings Over Haiti, however, is bringing something beautiful to these struggling families in Ranquitte.
“Our goal in a short period of time is to feed, give medical attention and to educate 400 kids in this particular area, and we’re well on our way now”.