Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Calgary Helps Frank Help Haitian Orphanage

***Update: over 1,200 people attended this event and more than $40,000 was raised. Thanks to all involved!

Orphaned girls in Haiti will receive much needed help because The City of Calgary, City of Windsor and artists nation-wide are teaming up to raise funds.

In the wake of the quake that debilitated the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, Beth Gignac, manager of Arts and Culture with The City of Calgary recalled a gentleman named Frank Chauvin from her hometown of Windsor who had, in the late 1980’s, opened and ran an orphanage out of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince.

“My grandmother had volunteered there, and when the earthquake happened, the first person I thought of was Frank,” said Beth.

Upon further research, Beth learned that the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit on January 12, 2010 had severely damaged Le Foyer des Filles Chretiennes Orphanage.

Three girls and an employee died that day and the buildings were declared unsafe to live in.
“For the two weeks after the earthquake, I was devastated because I couldn’t get a hold of anyone,” said Frank, a former police detective from his Windsor home.

Eventually, he was able to speak with a woman who has run the orphanage since its inception and he heard first-hand of the extreme damage.

“She has a big mess on her hands – it’s definitely not safe for the kids,” he said. The girls are currently housed in tents in the compound and neighbouring lots.

“We have to rebuild and relocate to a safer, more stable area,” explained Frank, adding that a place has been found 20 kilometres outside the capital, and the building process is in place, once funds and a dwindling supply of materials arrive.

This is where the Cities of Windsor and Calgary stepped in.

Beth Gignac said that she was contacted by local artists about hosting a fundraising event shortly after news of the calamity broke. She contacted acquaintances at The City of Windsor who put her in touch with Councillor Jo-Anne Gignac (no relation to Beth).

“An extraordinary thing happened,” said Jo-Anne of Beth’s proposal to help Frank, a man who she’d never actually met. The two municipalities determined to assist these 70 or so Haitian girls and began making phone calls to artists in each community to see what support was available.

“There are a lot of great causes, in this case we know that every penny raised will help those girls in that orphanage in Port-au-Prince,” said Jo-Anne.

The result of the two Cities’ efforts is the Windsor Artists for Haiti Event on March 9, and Calgary’s Artists for Haitian Relief Event on March 10. There will also be a Calgary art exhibit fundraiser at the Axis gallery in Hotel Arts in April. Beth hopes these two events will raise at least $50,000 to go along with Windsor’s funds.

This is all a bit overwhelming to Frank, who said the cross-country events “Scared him at first” because he wasn’t accustomed to people fundraising for him. He preferred the neighbourly, spirit-of-community way of raising funds: having people approach him and offer their assistance by way of volunteering, or donating funds.

“This is big. The earthquake shook everything – we can’t walk away from it – we’ve got to go for it,” said Frank, almost at a loss for words, describing Haitian orphans today and what many Canadians will be doing over the upcoming weeks to help them. “We turn girls away every day . . . we’ve got to feed and educate these girls. These concerts....it’s just fantastic.”

Calgary Artists for Haitian Relief will be presented at the Jack Singer Concert Hall at the EPCOR CENTRE for the Performing Arts.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Doors open 7 p.m., performances start at 7:30 p.m.

Featured artists include:
  • The Dudes
  • Corb Lund
  • Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra with Kris Demeanor
  • Woodpigeon
  • Michael Bernard Fitzgerald with his Loud Love Choir
  • The Polyjesters and Denise Clarke
  • Jan Lisiecki
  • Sheri D. Wilson
  • Bravo!FACT
  • Cantos Music Foundation
  • DJ Rob Faust
  • Curiously Canadian Improv
Tickets for the event are $25. Available at EPCOR CENTRE for the Performing Arts Box Office

By phone (403) 294-9494 or online http://tickets.epcorcentre.org

Presented by Field Law

To learn more about helping Frank help Haiti, please visit helpfrankhelphaiti.org.

***Photos of Frank and Le Foyer des Filles Chretiennes Orphanage.

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