We are lucky to be partners with a non-profit called Haitian Families First. It was founded by two sisters from Pittsburgh, Jamie and Ali McMutrie. "Haitian Families First nurtures and empowers families in despair through emotional, social, and financial support, ensuring children remain with their biological families and out of unnecessary institutions."
Vivian Lee Croft, who is in charge of Pittsburgh operations, approached us and asked if we would help pilot Picture Pals: a cross-cultural art exchange program. Several schools in Pittsburgh have the chance to send and receive art from students in Haiti. Here is a description of how we have incorporated Picture Pals into our afterschool program.
Tuesdays with the students of Grandview Elementary have become full of lessons on the country of Haiti, delving into various topics of interest such as; weather in Haiti, transportation in Haiti, art in Haiti, animals in Haiti, and the languages of Haiti. As we have explored Haitian culture the past couple of weeks, the students also have the chance to send their artwork to their pen pals.
When we first began the project, the 4th and 5th grade classes did art projects more focused on introducing themselves to their pen pals. Above, students are creating a "CD Cover" personalized with all of their favorite songs, decorated with stickers, beads and colorful paper. Around Halloween, students made portrait collages of themselves, with the theme of "best Halloween costume of all time". After the first snowfall, we created paper snowflakes to share our winter experience.
One of the most popular projects was creating bracelets for our pen pals. We used rubber bands and yarn for this art project. A lot of the students in our afterschool program love making bracelets, so getting the chance to make bracelets for their far away pen pals was a lot of fun!
In the 2nd and 3rd grade class, we made projects about seasonal events. In October, we made a project about Day of the Dead and the Haitian equivalent, Fet Gede. We made marble paintings, and then used them as the backgrounds of Day of the Dead cards. We drew sugar skulls and glued them to the front of our cards. Everyone had a different way to decorate their skull.
We also made several projects about what our homes are like. These involved us painting the exterior of a house on one paper, and the interior windows and door on another paper. We glued them together so that the window shutters and door could be opened to show the inside. When winter began to set in, we made pictures about what the snow looked like on our houses. We made buildings out of collaged materials and used white paint to show the snow. Another snow-related project was a self-portrait of us collecting snowflakes on our tongues.
We have also made several recipes that originate from Haiti, in order to learn more about our Picture Pals. Try making some traditional Haitian Bread or Pineapple nog.
Be sure to keep up with what we do next for Picture Pals!
-Emily and Laura