By Nancy Polinsky Johnson,
Shady Ave Article in Spring 2015 Issue
A Point Breeze-based non-profit and art-gallery dedicated to helping Haiti has a new name and new executive director.
Friends of Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti is now Haiti Friends, and Eddie Rawson, 35, has assumed leadership of the organization from his mother, Lucy Rawson, who founded the local auxiliary in the 1980s to support the work of the hospital in Deschapelles, Haiti.
Mrs. Rawson is now president of the Haiti Friends board of directors and continues to purchase Haitian artwork for the Haiti Friends Gallery at 6739 Reynolds Street, where sales help fund the mission’s work.
“Our former name was such a mouthful and everyone called us ‘Friends’ anyway, so we decided to streamline,” says Director Rawson, who previously served as chief of operations for Moving the Lives of Kids, an organization that employs youths to combine art and community service by creating public murals.
Rawson’s interest in art was inspired by his many trips to Haiti as a youngster. His grandparents founded Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti in 1956, and his father, Ian Rawson (now retired), served as managing director of the hospital.
In addition to raising awareness of Haiti’s vibrant culture, Haiti Friends manages the Haiti Timber Re-introduction Program (HTRIP) to remedy some of the impoverished nation’s chronic problems. “We’re working to reforest the Artibonite Valley around the hospital, which has been deforested over the years,” Rawson explains.
Trees provide soil retention for steeper hillside crops, reducing flood damage and decreasing erosion. The shade provided by growing trees helps stimulate the growth of many different crops, and trees provide lumber and charcoal, making them a valuable source of revenue. “We plant 400,000 trees a year,” Rawson notes. “By this June, we will have planted two million.”
For more information, visit haitifriends.org. Haiti Friends Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 9 to 5, and Saturdays by appointment.