Art plays a pivotal role in our lives. Art is everywhere. From the clothes we wear, music we listen to and to the food we eat. It can make a difference in our lives. Whether it be to liven up a room or give someone a meaningful living wage. Professional Photographer and founder of the Center for the Arts, PAP, Nadia Todres knows this best.
I met Nadia with colleagues a few years ago in a New York City diner near 10th Avenue & 42nd street through the ecojot GIVE Program. We had spoken before then but only by phone. Nadia is present. Her passionate energy is contagious. She shared her very real stories of Haiti and her need to empower young girls through the arts. Her mission had only just begun.
Below are a few photos taken by Nadia a year after the earthquake in Haiti.
The girls write letters on donated recycled ecojot paper.
These beautiful children live in difficult and for some unimaginable conditions yet they smile from ear to ear and are eager to learn and make something of themselves. Hope cannot escape them.
At the Center for the Arts, young women are given the opportunity to learn literacy, social and creative skills.
Yes, here is Rainn Wilson with Nadia's girls. Looks like they're having a stare down... :)
Hand made jewelry is a popular favourite for tourists (myself included) which in turn gives with the girls opportunity to support themselves and their families. Finding work in Haiti is not very easy and sometimes nearly impossible. Therefore, simple ideas like this can help greatly while they continue to learn valuable skills.
Back to when I first met Nadia and she shared her goals to empower young girls I had to ask her why only girls? Why not young boys too? With the utmost sincerity she responded she would love to but she had to start off small and focused in order to make a real difference to someones life. She found the greatest need in young adolescent girls and decided that was her focus. Girls who live in tents who are subject to early pregnancy, abuse and rape. She needed to first help these girls break away from this all to common fate.
Although she is focused on empowering young girls Nadia doesn't stop there she stays connected with the families, community and young men like Bernard. I am proud to say I own a custom one of a kind piece by this handsome young man. Nadia surprised me with the yellow handbag similar to this and I've been in love ever since. (He takes orders if interested!)
This is a very special video sent to me and I am hoping 2016 will be the year I visit Bernard and the girls of CFTA. Thank you again for this video Nadia.
I'm sure many of you are wondering how does a woman like Nadia pick up, head to Haiti and create all this opportunity. Well first it takes a lot of courage, compassion and a need to connect with locals. As they say behind every great woman there is a great man standing by her. I believe the same is true for men.
Ysmaille Jean Baptisite, a father, brother, friend and confidant. Nadia met Haitian born Ysmaille while in Haiti and he opened his home to her as they shared the same dream.
He turned his home into a school.
An orphan himself he knew what it meant to be given a chance, an opportunity; hope. He wanted to pay it forward the same way he was given a chance to create a life for himself as a self employed welder, religious man, father and friend. And that he did. I believe meeting Nadia took his dream to make a difference in his community into a reality that is impacting Haitian lives and the world for the better.
Here we are at the former ecojot headquarters in Scarborough before our evening fundraiser.
Words spoken by Ysmaille at the evening fundraiser in Toronto hosted by the talented Carolyn Gavin.
The power of art has no borders. It can make a difference to all of our lives. Ysmaille passed away tragically on January 23rd of this year but his energy and spirit live on in everyone of his family, the girls, Nadia, friends and myself. His legacy will continue to shine on and the Center for the Arts, PAP is growing.
Much appreciated donations can be made on their Fractured Atlas Donation page
Thank you for reading and HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL! See you in the New Year!
Here is a painting I created in honour of Ysmaille. Words he often spoke.