Vashon responds wholeheartedly to crisis in Haiti

Priscilla Schleigh, owner of Giraffe, is donating proceeds from sales of Haitian-made items to charity. - Amelia Heagerty/staff photo
Priscilla Schleigh, owner of Giraffe, is donating proceeds from sales of Haitian-made items to charity.
— image credit: Amelia Heagerty/staff photo

Days after a massive earthquake shook Haiti, Vashon Islanders have rallied behind the small Caribbean island, planning fundraisers and raising thousands of dollars for the people of the ravaged nation.

From concerts to an enormous bake sale at Bob’s Bakery, Vashon residents have thrown their support behind the country where as many as 200,000 people may have been killed by the 7.0 quake that hit on Jan. 12.

Some of the Islanders who organized the efforts have long-standing connections to the Latin American country; other Islanders, without ever having set foot on Haitian soil, gave time or money.

“It was already bad enough before, and since the earthquake, it’s total chaos,” said Micaela Beytebiere, an Island high-school student who has volunteered in Haiti and plans to visit again in March. “The infrastructure in Haiti is really bad; the buildings are not put together well, and almost everything is down. One out of three people were affected.”

She was one of more than 20 Islanders who volunteered at Bob’s Bakery this Sunday, when the shop is normally closed. The bakery was open in a fundraiser for Haitian organizations, and raised more than $4,400. Two tip jars were overflowing with cash on Sunday afternoon, and people had been buying sweet and savory goodies all day.

Bob’s will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 24, with funds raised going to Haiti Children, Three Angel’s Children’s Relief, Answered Prayers and St. Joseph’s Home for Boys.

The largest of the Vashon events planned to help Haiti is a fundraising event at Open Space for Arts & Community, slated for Feb. 21 and featuring local musicians and Haitian Creole cuisine. Organizers plan to donate funds raised to a Port-au-Prince orphanage where several Vashon children were adopted from. The orphanage also ran a school and clinic. All were greatly damaged by the earthquake.

“There are quite a number of people on the Island who are connected to Haiti,” said Priscilla Schleigh, who lived and worked in Haiti for four years. “It’s a grave situation there.”

A Haitian proverb, “Where there is life, there is hope,” is driving Schleigh — and others who have lived or worked in Haiti or who have family members from the island — to put together a benefit event that Shleigh said she hopes raises $5,000 to $10,000 for the Haitian orphanage. Vashon Island Youth Chorus and Island musician Paul Colwell will perform at the event.

“There are a lot of smaller events on the Island, but we want this to be an Island-wide event to let people on Vashon know how connected Vashon truly is to Haiti,” Shleigh said. “There is such an amount of love on Vashon for Haiti, ... and we want to get that word out.”

Other events to benefit the Latin American country are planned throughout the next several months on Vashon.

A concert featuring Vashon bands will take place at 9:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 22, at the Spice Route restaurant. Admission to the concert is by donation; money raised will be given to the Red Cross. Featured at the concert will be Moon Fruit, Grebes, Chomage and Stony Beach.

Giraffe owner Schleigh sells some Haitian-made items at her fair-trade shop. She’s donating half the purchase price from those items to Mercy Corps, which is currently working on water and sanitation issues in Haiti.

Books by the Way is planning a weeklong event in February where people can create a shirt or bag with a silkscreened image to show their support for Haiti, said co-owner Jenni Wilke. The shop will be taking donations all week and giving the funds to a relief organization, she said.

Bethel Church had planned fundraisers for Haiti before the earthquake hit, and they are only strengthening their efforts in the aftermath of the disaster. A massive rummage sale will take place at the church in February, with all proceeds going to Haitian organizations. A ping-pong tournament is scheduled for March at Bethel, and all entry fees will be used to help Haiti.

“People are hurting,” Schleigh said. “This is a horrible thing, but out of the rubble I think we can start to create some order.”

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