In January, the news of a magnitude 7.0 earthquake in Haiti rocked the world. The capitol, Port-au-Prince, with its old and fragile infrastructure, was all but completely destroyed.
At the beginning of March, retired Seattle family doctor Bruce Gardner left his cozy spot in Fremont and took his skills and heart to the center of post-earthquake Haiti. With little assistance, supplies and a lot of hope, he took the medical supplies from NGOs and went to work in the small neighborhood of Belair outside of the capitol. His observations when he arrived: sanitation was poor and illness rampant, all exacerbated by the fact that most people are sleeping in the streets with little to eat. Food aid and medical supplies have been available, but it is not enough. While taking a break Dr. Gardner would walk down the streets and note the destruction from the earthquake - everywhere rubble and dust. All of Haiti is like a "giant outdoor camp," he said.
On the streets, he also observed joy amid the rubble. Many children are homeless and not attending school, leaving them to occupy their time by scavenging for food and water, and finding entertainment. Enter kites. With materials of the streets they make and fly kites, much as they have always done. Certainly, kite flying has a tradition in Haiti that precedes the earthquake disaster, with kite fighting surrounding the Easter season in the spring. In a city with little open space, they fly from rooftops - most houses are one-or two-story and flat-roofed. During the season, whole families would fly kites from sun up to sun down.
With kites, the Haitian children allow laughter to re-enter a shattered city. "Hope and life go on, the kids can't rebuild a house, but they can build kites and still take flight," said Dr. Gardner. He was able to obtain two examples for DF, one purchased with a small bag of peanuts, and the other for one US dollar. Both children were proud of their sales. Thank you to Dr. Gardner for his efforts, and these symbols of resilience are now in our collection, described below.
Blue Kite & Black Kite
DF Cat nos. 2010-04-K-01329 and 2010-04-K-01330
Two hexagonal shaped kites made with lightweight plastic shopping bags as sails and locally harvested spars (spars in Haiti are often made with the center vein of a coconut tree leaf). While children are known to use the white sap from the candelabra plant for glue, these kites are lashed together by fragments of plastic string and sewing thread found in the streets. The children know kite building - the blue kite's maker bowed the middle spar at top to give a convex surface to the plastic sail, and kept this bow with a taut string on the back of the kite. There is fringe gracing the outside of this kite and two strips of cloth tails are attached at the bottom on each side. The black kite is more crude in appearance, but still flies. With an understanding of the environment in which these were created, they are as beautiful as any we've seen.
For more on the joy children's kites are bringing in Haiti, see "The Kite Makers" in the New York Times Editorial Notebook, March 6: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/07/opinion/07sun2.html