- After a week of subzero temperatures, and storms, the sleepy, snow covered town of Wainscott came to life Saturday night, in support and celebration of the Wings Over Haiti foundation's first annual "Hamptons For Haiti" fundraiser. Hundreds gathered at East Hampton Studios, nearly a year to the day after a catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked Haiti, leaving an estimated 220,000 dead, and more than a million homeless.
Omarosa poses on the red carpet at the Wings Over Haiti event.
Guests were greeted by bright flashing lights, and a performance by Spanish rock group Mr. No Shame
, as they drifted between the dance floor and a silent auction, which featured donated works by many local artists, New York Knicks
tickets, and a wealth of other fabulous items. Tagine Restaurant provided spectacular food for the event, while Reve Vodka mixed up delicious cocktails.
Projection screens around the room displayed images of the children Wings Over Haiti has helped. Each child held up a sign on which they had written their name, their age, and what they wanted to be when they grew up. From accountants, to doctors, to nurses, it is the hope of Wings Over Haiti that these children's dreams will one day become a reality.
The host of the event, Omarosa
of the hit TV show "The Apprentice," walked the red carpet along with Wings Over Haiti founder Jonathan Nash Glynn
, his partners Melissa McMullanShad St. Louis
, and up and coming musicians Alex Young
, Francois Alexander
, and others.
Wings Over Haiti's Story
Glynn, a Sag Harbor based artist and pilot, began earthquake relief efforts in January 2010 by flying his small plane down to Haiti and delivering supplies. Meanwhile, students at JFK Middle School in Port Jefferson Station were struck by the tragedy and were horrified that children were suffering. "It was devastating watching what these people were going through and we wanted to help them," said seventh grade student Gianna Bottone
who attended the event with her classmates.
The students began by making backpacks for those who had been injured in the earthquake and raising money. McMullan, a sixth grade teacher at JFK Middle School, contacted Glynn after seeing an article about his relief efforts. "I came and talked to kids and was really taken by how powerful she [McMullan] was, and how creative she was with the kids," said Glynn.
Shad St. Louis, Melissa McMullan and Jonathan Gylnn share a hug on the red carpet.
Glynn offered to fly the students supplies to Haiti, and soon after, the Wings Over Haiti foundation was born. Glynn and McMullan partnered with Shad St. Louis, a guidance counselor at Middletown High School and the team headed to Haiti. "The second I stepped foot in Haiti I realized that it was where I was meant to be," said McMullan. She has been to Haiti seven times since the earthquake first occurred. "At the end of the school year I said [to the students] 'you know what guys, we are opening a school.'"
of Hunter's Shelters fabricated a school and two outbuildings, which were shipped in a cargo plane to Haiti. It was not an easy task getting the supplies from the plane, through customs, and to the site in Croix-Des-Bouquet. "Trying to get something done in Haiti is absolutely impossible. We're talking about the one percent of the population controlling everything, and that's the bureaucracy," explained McMullan of the situation.
The government in Haiti has been plagued by endemic corruption, which has prevented much of the aid given to the earthquake ravaged country from reaching its people. "It blew my mind that they would be profiting from the destitute situation of their own people and basically making a living from it," said Glynn. At one point, a customs official said to Glynn, "Jonathan, we know who you are and we know you're trying to help, but there is a business to poverty - and it's not going to change."
Eventually the school was built and currently educates 43 students and cares for their families. The curriculum at the Wings Over Haiti School is a multi-lingual format where the children are taught in Creole as an anchor language, but are taught English and French as well. "Those are the two languages that are dominant in business and in more elite circles in society, and if people don't know those two languages they are often left out in the cold," explained McMullan.
Musicians Alex Young and Francois Alexander performed at the event.
The children at JFK Middle School create the curriculum for the children, send them uniforms, soccer balls, books, and more. They even wrote their own book entitled "Dear Haiti, Don't Give Up" and sell them to raise money for the school.
Back At The 'Hamptons For Haiti' Fundraiser
After an hour of mingling and enjoying the musical performances at the event, Omarosa took to the stage to introduce Glynn and his team. "We are all here for a good cause and we are here to lend our support, to raise awareness, but also to raise some money," said Omaroasa in her opening address. Glynn then spoke, thanking guests for coming and for their support of the organization. He also took a moment to thank McMullan and the children she works with, "This is a remarkable educator with a very creative spirit and very charismatic," he said of McMullan's character.
St. Louis took a moment to thank the audience, and tell his story of being born and raised in Haiti. "We're going to get out of this," he said of the devastation since the Earthquake, "With Wings Over Haiti we are giving the kids hope and empowering them."
The crowd was then introduced to Mana Alexandra
, a young Haitian mother who lost both of her legs in the earthquake and has since immigrated to the United States. Alexandra told her story in her native Creole, while St. Louis translated. On the day of the earthquake, Alexandra had asked a friend to watch her child - her plans changed however after she got a bad feeling, and was talking with friends when the quake hit. She woke up in front of a church, while hundreds of people ran by.
She tried to rise but could not feel her legs. There were no gurneys to carry her so she was placed on a wooden door and carried to the hospital. She spent the next five days without food, and the hospital was too overcrowded to care for her. She was laying in the midst of dozens of dead people and recalls screaming "Jesus, Jesus why don't you just take my life right now, why must you make me suffer and go through misery. Eventually, Alexandra's legs were amputated.
Mana was found living under a blue tarp in front of a church by volunteers at General Hospital on the ground in Haiti. Proceedings began with Congressman Steve Israel
of New York's Second Congressional District, and Alexandra and her young child were granted humanitarian parole in the United States. The entire community worked together to help her get surgeries, physical therapy, and prosthetic legs. She can now walk. "Standing here on this stage is a miracle," said Omarosa of Alexandra's journey, "We have to make sure that we have made a commitment to be the change we want to see in Haiti - to be the change that we want to see in the world."
Finally, McMullan spoke of her experiences with Wings Over Haiti over the course of the past year. "The school is really run by kids here in the United States from all across Long Island. The way that Wings Over Haiti works is, I go to Haiti, I come home, and say 'Okay listen, we need more uniforms, or the kids are struggling learning about X, Y, Z,' and the students here go to work and they get it done," McMullan explained of the work she and her students have done.
Following the speeches, guests viewed a video about Wings Over Haiti's journey over the course of the past year. Wings Over Haiti's next mission is to purchase a plot of land in Haiti for the 43 children and their families being assisted by the foundation. The goal is to give the Haitians an opportunity to help themselves and be self-sufficient. "Everything on the land has to be run by Haitians without depending on anybody. We'll get our own water, our own power, grow our own food, and show them that you can do this by yourself without anybody else," said McMullan. St. Louis expressed his hopes for the future, "My goal, my dream, is that within 20 or 30 years, that one of these kids can be the Senator or the President of Haiti and it's going to happen," he said adamantly.
The night carried on with a booming performance by the unique group Bastards of Boom
, followed by performances by Alex Young, Francois Alexander, Wyclef Jean's
sister Melky Jean
and more. Guests danced the night away at another fabulous event in the Hamptons while supporting a great cause.
For more information about Wings Over Haiti go to www.wingsoverhaiti.org
JFK Middle School students Khendrick Beausoleil, Steven Doerler, Kyle Murray, Gianna Bottone and Paul Dowty pose with the book they wrote and had published in support of Haiti.