BWB Rebuilds Culture in Haiti + Helps Clean Up After Sandy

Rose - house to demo

Rose, a property owner in Union Beach, just before demolishing her house.

In the past decade, our world has been struck with an incredible series of natural disasters – including record-breaking hurricanes, tsunamis, and earthquakes. Each of these events wreaks havoc on the lives of thousands, if not millions of people, and recovery can take years. Even the most organized and motivated communities could use a little bit of help – which is exactly what Burners Without Borders (BWB) sets out to do. Right now BWB is busy with two major initiatives, the Jakmel Ekspresyon project in Jacmel, Haiti, and some heavy-duty cleanup in New Jersey, following in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Jakmel Ekspresyon: Rebuilding Economy through Art
After it was hit with magnitude 7.0 earthquake in 2010, the town of Jacmel was left in shambles – along with its vibrant artisan community. To meet the needs of many artists seeking a place to work and grow, the Jakmel Ekspresyon Community Arts Center was founded later that year. Since then, it has become a vital community resource for the city – run by one paid employee and a hardy staff of volunteers.

Jakmel Ekspresyon’s (JE’s) leadership believes that they can help community members develop their personal voices and economic stability by providing resources, training, and equipment, all without discrimination. Discrimination is unfortunately a problem in Haiti, and has escalated during this time of prolonged stress and hardship.

A class at Jakmel Ekspresyon

A class at Jakmel Ekspresyon

BWB supports JE in their mission and, as a result, is helping to launch the Screenprinting Project Residency, which will be in motion beginning Spring 2013. Screenprinting will bring a new form of artistic expression to Jacmel, as well as offer a new resource of revenue to the town and its resident artists. Jacmel does not currently have a local screenprinting shop for publicity materials, so businesses have to travel two hours to Port au Prince. Screenprinting would allow those businesses to spend their money locally and provide the local artists with income and business training. This project also brings with it an artist-in-residency program as well as many opportunities to get involved as a volunteer.

If you’re interested in helping make this project a reality, check out the Indiegogo campaign and share it with your network! Also stay tuned for more volunteer opportunity announcements.

Sandy Turns Lives Upside Down; BWB Helps Community Get Back on Its Feet
Much farther north, back in the US, BWB has mobilized in New Jersey to help clean up the mess of decimated houses and buildings that megastorm Sandy left behind. Upon first arriving in the town of Manasquan, NJ, in early November, BWB’s Richard Scott was invited to build a fire sculpture for the local Thanksgiving celebration. The event brought out the entire town, signifying the beginning of the healing process BWB and the community would be embarking on together.

Since then, BWB and multitudes of volunteers have been firing up the bulldozers and getting their hands dirty on the ground, clearing houses that were destroyed or had floated (literally) off their original property and onto another. As posted on their blog on Dec. 8:

After weeks of meetings, creating documents and shaking hands, we’re doing what we set out to do. In the last two days, Richard Scott and Michael Craddock cleared seven storm-decimated properties using a donated John Deere 200c track excavator, “with a thumb” Richard said, “It’s the beginning of the end.” He paused, then elaborated, “of the clean up phase, and the beginning of the beginning of the rebuilding phase.”

Restoring a community anywhere is no easy task, and will likely take years – even with all of the support possible. If you are interested in getting involved with BWB, sign up to volunteer or make a donation. And again, please tell your friends and help amplify this story far and wide.