Guests packed Space Ibiza in Manhattan to support the “Haiti Shines Bright” fund-raiser for Hurricane Matthew relief on Jan. 11.
Attending the fund-raiser were former prime minister of Haiti Laurent Lamothe, and the former tourism minister of Haiti Stephanie Villedrouin, who are both raising money in to financially assist projects of The Louis G. Lamothe Foundation which is currently rebuilding homes in towns destroyed after the hurricane.
Event organizer Jacques-Philippe Piverger said aside from raising money, he pooled together resources for the event to continue a missing conversation about Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake, specifically people living in towns hardest hit by it.
“It didn’t seem like there had been much attention placed on the issue of the hurricane and to the lives affected, and it didn’t seem like there was much going in the form of providing assistance and trying to support people living there,” said Piverger.
“I wanted to make sure I mustered the support in my immediate network, and try to focus on the small towns in Haiti particularly affected to provide the people with the things they need — like tools and equipment.”
The towns of focus are Anse d’Hainault and Anse du Clerc, which are at the southern region of Haiti. Fishing nets for fishermen, gardening tools for farmers, and water filters, are a few of the many things The Louis G. Lamothe Foundation will supply them. And the foundation also has a renewable energy plan to help farmers, said the former PM.
“What we’re trying to trying to do is first ever smart village in Haiti,” said Lamothe. “Our farmers are living in the darkness from 6 pm until 6 am with no light and we want to change that.”
But the special guest of the night was not the PM, but a survivor of the recent hurricane and the 2010 earthquake. Ralf Etienne lost a leg in the earthquake at the peak of his media career. He came to the United States afterwards to enroll in Anderson University of Indiana, and saw a positive side to his life-changing experience. The eye-opening turn of events of both disasters encouraged him into being a devoted humanitarian he is now, he said.
“I would never think that losing my leg or experiencing the earthquake would be a good thing for me, but looking back — my life before earthquake I was on top of the world,” said Etienne “Then suddenly when the earthquake hit I was dying and that’s when I realized that life is not about stuff — it’s about what you do for people.”
Etienne gives back with an organization he founded called Rebuilding Haiti, which aims to provide housing and financial assistance to farmers and families. And even though the hurricane triggered traumatic experiences and caused some damaged to his prosthetic leg, his faith and escaping death allows him to focus on his countrymen and women.
“God left me with a purpose and I had to do something because of what I was seeing,” he said. “Right now there are thousands of people sleeping under no roofs and their problems become my problems. So I dedicate my life to them to make a difference.”
Overall $23,500 in total was raised, just shy of their $25,000 goal. But Piverger feels the amount of money guests donated was an indication that more people are paying attention to what the country is in need of.
“For me it’s all about a bigger number but there’s a message there,” he said. “I wanted to create more visibility with the hope that others follow suit — so hopefully that helps inspires others into action.”