UNCSA Students Reach Orphans in Haiti Through Global Arts
For many years, University of North Carolina School of the Arts Social Studies teacher, Jonathan Milner, has led students to remote parts of the world. They have traveled to places like Nairobi, Kenya where he and his students fed AIDS orphaned infants and children.
Milner’s most recent trip was a result of his previous work with Partners in Health, a medical advocacy group out of Boston. Last December Jonathan Milner, his wife Cary Clifford, and their nine year old son, Owen, traveled to Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Zanmi Beni came into being as a result of the 2010 earthquake. That natural disaster registered a devastating 7.0 on the Richter Scale, took an estimated 159,000 lives and left countless others homeless. The earthquake also made it impossible for the Port-au-Prince hospital to continue housing the 38 orphans who were abandoned at birth and contained there for their entire lives. One Haitian child’s story in particular had a special impact on Jonathan.
In May of 2013 Milner led a group of 10 UNCSA students along with 2 doctors from UNC Chapel Hill to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Their trip centered around the Zanmi Beni Orphanage where they shared their love for art with the Haitian children. Though they were prepared for scenes of poverty in Haiti the reality on the ground was still shocking for the students.
In the midst of the chaos, Violist Sean Mulligan says the visible hardships facing the country were often counterbalanced by the loving and resilient nature of the people there. Josh Alexander, a doctor from UNC Chapel Hill heads the department of Pediatric Development. Even with his specialty in Pediatric Cerebral Palsy it was difficult to diagnose the Haitian children with no medical records.
Some students in the group spoke a little French and a few of the children knew a bit of English, but art and body language served as the communication medium when language failed.
Many other organizations do mission work in Haiti but their focus is to provide immediate relief. Jonathan Milner saw an opportunity to forge a continuing relationship. The emerging medical care, educational, and caretaking facilities at Zanmi Beni have proven to be critical to the survival of many of the disabled children there. For Evens Revolus, the wellbeing of the children is crucial.
Jonathan Milner plans on revisiting Zanmi Beni with his family this December. He will be taking another group of students back next May. Milner will be giving a presentation about his time spent in Haiti on Friday, September 20th from 5-6 pm at UNCSA.