The center in Haiti, Forest of the Artists, was created in 1997 in two locations in the far northwest of the country: Gros Morne and Jean Rabel. The northwest has been beset by hurricanes, floods, landslides, and extreme poverty. The center started when one of the sisters began teaching local boys to paint with acrylics. At the beginning, they used makeshift canvases made from old clothes, which they’d ironed and coated with whitewash. Now the project has expanded, and they make beautiful artwork, painted crosses, and baskets.
In addition, the 2010 earthquake that destroyed Port-au-Prince, forced many people to leave the capital, some returning to smaller cities such as these, desperate for work. One program at the site is designed to help women who have returned after the earthquake to get back on their feet. This program includes providing former seamstresses who lost everything with new sewing machines, teaching displaced women new skills such as sewing, cooking, and craft-making, and also providing financial and technical support for women to start or expand small businesses.