The Caribbean island nation of Haiti is acknowledged to be the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Haitians have suffered through years of political volatility and instability marked by violence. The population does not have access to adequate housing. Healthcare is non-existent and disease is a constant threat particularly to children. Haitian children are born into a precarious existence with little hope of breaking the cycle of poverty. This was life as most Haitians knew it even before the earthquake of January 2010 that devastated the country with death toll figures estimated anywhere from 100,000 to over 300,000 lives lost. The earthquake focused global attention to the plight of the Haitian people. While countries, organizations and private citizens rallied to alleviate the immediate needs arising from the devastation, Artists for Peace and Justice concentrated their effort on a more long-term strategy; creating the opportunity for the children of Haiti to get an education. According to the Organization's data, 80% of Haitian children are unable to continue their education beyond 6th grade. Artists for Peace and Justice are raising funds to build schools to provide that educational opportunity yet their model in this endeavor is unique as they step back when the work is done and allow the local community to administrate the end result.
On December 10 here in New York City, Artists for Justice and Peace held a holiday benefit at which #InTheLab had the honor to speak with Filmmaker and Founder, Paul Haggis as well as attendees Artist Chuck Close, Actor Daniel Craig, Actress Susan Sarandon, Fashion Designer Donna Karan and Actress/ Model Loan Chabanol. These Artists and activists coming together to put their celebrity behind this cause is a tribute to the spirit of the Haitian people whose love of music and art has struck a chord within these individuals and others of like mind to make this long-term investment in the children of Haiti.