Santa Cruz Sentinel Article

A group of local women haul art supplies to kids in Haiti
Posted: 01/03/2011 01:30:43 AM PST,  photo credit: Shmuel Thaler


APTOS — Jenni Ward’s home art studio was bustling Sunday as she and some friends packed up oodles of art supplies to haul to Haiti, where they’ll be handed out to children to use as a creative outlet in recovering from the earthquake that devastated the impoverished country nearly a year ago.  Ward, who lives in Aptos, Julie Ulm of Soquel and Melissa Schilling, a Santa Cruz native who now lives in Oakland, are part of the group that loaded up old suitcases with crayons, tape, glue, yarn, beads, paint, erasers, sketch paper, paint brushes and myriad other materials.

They depart Tuesday for Port-au-Prince to spend a week with children
living in tent cities and those who attend school at Wings Over Haiti.  “I love to travel, and I love to teach art,” said Ward, 33. “This is my skill I can offer. Why not go to Haiti and make kids happy and let them be creative?”  A 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, killing 230,000 people and leaving more than 1.5 million homeless.  The idea to help kids in Haiti heal from the tragedy through art therapy came to Schilling in October as she
was showing children in New Orleans how to build a garden. Schilling, who teaches cheese and wine classes across the San Francisco Bay Area, often looks to volunteer and help others in need during her off time. She’s done similar work in Argentina and Mexico.  Schilling said she became hooked on Haiti after reading a newspaper article that illustrated the country’s slow, painful recovery from the earthquake — still lacking reliable supplies of food, water and shelter. “I love mixing travel and adventure with giving,” Schilling said. “I’m so happy that they wanted us to come. I wasn’t sure if it would be too soon.”  She sent an e-mail to all of her friends and family to see if anyone was interested in joining her. That’s how she found Ward and Ulm, as well as a couple of other friends who wanted to come along.  A pitch for donations went out on Facebook and the women raised nearly $8,000 through, a website that helps gather donations.  Art supplies worth hundreds of dollars were donated by various companies and stores, including Palace Arts of Santa Cruz.  Ulm, 25, is particularly looking forward to the trip because she lived in Haiti for five years when she was a child and her
parents worked at a school there.  She remembers the crude, sparse environment in which the family had to boil water for showers and homework was done by candlelight.  “The Haitian people taught me a
lot,” Ulm said. “I want to give back a little of what they passed on
to me.”  One of the projects the women have planned for the kids is painting a mural on the wall of their school.  The mural, to be named
“Things with Wings,” will be covered with butterflies, airplanes, and
anything the kids’ draw that flies.  The women also plan to teach finger knitting and basic drawing.  Some of the kids’ art projects will be brought back to California and put on display, though a location hasn’t been picked yet.  Also joining the trip are Amanda Luu of San Ramon and Jacquelyn Knapp of Oakland.