May, 2010. I am a professional musician and the founding director of Harmonikids, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that provides music therapy to special needs children through shiny new harmonicas and gentle, entertaining music lessons - often in the most devastating time of their life. For 25 years Harmonikids has effectively aided thousands of children worldwide including those traumatized by natural disasters such as the tsunami in Indonesia and Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana.
Naturally, when the earthquake devastated Haiti in January, I wanted to bring the same kind of unique relief to children there. The statistics are beyond staggering; millions of children were left homeless and hundreds of thousands orphaned - even prior to the quake. Shockingly, an estimated 300,000 of those children are domestic slaves (in restavek) commonly neglected, exploited, and subjected to physical, emotional and sexual abuse. It seems inconceivable that a country, particularly one born out of a fight for independence from slavery, could enslave its very future. Yet, Haiti ironically and tragically incorporates slavery into its culture.
Well aware of the degree, complexity, and scale of Haiti's needs, I knew that Harmonikids could not "save" Haiti. Instead, I focused on what I could do, and what I do best to reach those most in need. I contacted the Restavek Foundation (an organization whose goal is to end child slavery in Haiti) to partner on the mission with the essential logistical and on-ground support. Director Joan Conn enthusiastically and generously offered her support. Next, I contacted my professional endorsers, Hohner Harmonicas, who generously donated and shipped 1000 harmonicas.
The purpose of Harmonikids mission in Haiti was simply to provide a musical sanctuary, a means of self-expression and joy to to children traumatized by the recent earthquake - some remarkably distressed Haitian children. The sessions we provided there effectively provided this and more ~ they offered kids a means to access some of the childhood hopes and dreams that had been cruelly stolen from them.
Read the complete Harmonikids to Haiti story here.