By Jennifer Browning
Vibrant steel drum music played in the background last Friday at the Rebuild Haiti: Mission Possible silent auction event hosted by the Coral Gables Congregational Church. Project Medishare worked in collaboration with the Florida Association of Volunteer Action in the Caribbean and the Americas (FAVACA) and the Lambi Fund of Haiti.
After introductions by Project Medishare founders Dr. Barth Green and Dr. Arthur Fournier, CBS News Miami Anchorman Calvin Hughes shared with the more than 200 attendees his experiences covering Haiti. Hughes recalled his first story about Haiti when a boat full of refugees washed ashore in Miami Beach in 2004. Deeply moved by the event Hughes began writing a proposal requesting to cover a story from the streets of Port-au-Prince about the situation in Haiti. In 2008 his request was granted, and Hughes arrived in Haiti with many surprises. The Miami reporter discovered most of the reports from the tiny Caribbean country were negative, so Hughes began searching to break new ground in how Haiti is portrayed.
Growing up poor in St. Louis with his single mother, he found much in common with the people of Haiti. He saw that despite their economical struggles, the people in Haiti had not given up hope. Hughes intended to do a story on the Haitian prison system but his focus changed when one night he found students in Champs du Mars, a nearby park, studying while huddled outside under street lights. Hughes met and interviewed Joana St. Paul, 15, who told him that she often spent four hours an evening studying by these lights because of the lack of electricity in Haiti. Touched by St. Paul’s story, he soon turned his focus from the prison system to the park and students outside, giving him a way to report the positive sides, showing the resilience and the strength of the Haitian people.
“Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind,” Hughes told the crowd.
Even after the recent destruction from storms in Haiti, Hughes still sees hope and believes Haiti has a bright future with the new Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis.
“Where there is crisis, there is opportunity,” he said, “and with dedication, commitment and money, Haiti can make a turn around.”
Hughes ended his speech with his commitment to show the positive images and stories of Haiti on Miami’s Channel 10 News.
Auction items ranged in a variety of Haitian art and hand made crafts including paintings, metal art, sequined beaded flags. Other items auctioned were services such as chiropractic visits, spa visits, concert tickets, sporting event tickets, a cruise for two on Royal Caribbean, a week retreat in Montana, and a bongo drum signed by Gloria Estefan. Dr.s Fournier and Green attended and gave the introductory speech for Project Medishare.
Dr. Fournier brought copies of his book, “The Zombie Curse” and autographed the books sold. All proceeds went to the fundraiser.
The silent and live auction proceeds are currently being counted. All proceeds will be split between the three hosting organizations.