Haitian cultural night raises money for Wings of Hope


Chris Jorgensen/Iowa State Daily

Using a drum and chanting, Haitian songs were performed at Haitian Culture night in the Memorial Union. The event was hosted by ExerCYse is Medicine.

Mike Brown

Iowa State’s Exercise is Medicine Organization partnered with a Haitian humanitarian group to share Haitian culture and raise money and awareness for the organization.

Roughly 30 people gathered Thursday in the Gallery Room of the Memorial Union to support Wings of Hope and experience and learn more about Haitian culture.

Wings of Hope, the partner for the event, is an organization which houses disabled individuals in Jacmel, Haiti. Residents with both physical and intellectual disabilities are able to have a space to learn job skills, participate in sports and arts, share in community and form relationships.

Jacky Asse, director of Wings of Hope, who spoke at the event, said that individuals with disabilities in Haiti are often seen as manifestations of evil spirits, and that the goal of Wings of Hope is to take these people in so they can have a family. Wings of Hope is a part of a larger organization known as the Saint Joseph Family, who also provide a home for orphans in Haiti and education for those who would not otherwise be able to afford schooling.

Faith Anton, a sophomore in kinesiology spoke about her own time and experience at Wings of Hope in Haiti, where she said she has twice visited, and the friends and connections she made their with staff and residents.

Attendees were able to make direct donations to Wings of Hope, as well as purchase handmade art, profits from these pieces also went towards Wings of Hope. Some of the items being sold, including some paintings and photographs, were made by Wings of Hope residents.

The items made by Wings of Hope residents featured a picture and a small profile of the individual who made the piece, and each individual will receive a portion of the money spent on their pieces.

Renee Dietrich, who works for communications and development for the Saint Joseph Family in Haiti, said residents making their own money gives them a sense of freedom and choice.

“It’s a way of showing that they can create beautiful things and people think that they have value, and that they have value, and so, it raises their self esteem and their self awareness and their connection to the world,” Dietrich said.

Assistant Director for the Saint Joseph Family, community outreach center, Walnes Cangas, alongside Asse, also shared parts of Haitian Culture with attendees. Asse used a West African drum to perform a few Haitian songs and rhythms for those in attendance.

Attendees participated in portions of the performance as well, singing along with Asse and Cangas as they performed a song, and dancing along with Asse as he taught them different Haitian dances and dance movements, including a bird movement and a spider movement.

By sharing these fun and positive aspects of Haitian culture, Cangas said he hopes to give a more balanced and positive perspective of Haiti.

“The only time that Haiti appears on the news here is when something terrible is happening over there, and we don’t want people to have that negativity about our country, Haiti, because we have a lot of good over there, and I want to bring that positivity here and share it with people, and we do that through our storytelling and our drumming and dancing,” Cangas said.

Attendees were also provided an opportunity to mingle and share in free snacks and refreshments while they asked Cangas and Asse questions about Haiti, Wings of Hope and Haitian Culture.

Cangas and Asse also both shared their stories of growing up in Haiti and how they came to be a part of the Saint Joseph’s Family as children.

Madison Dorbeck, senior in kinesiology and vice president of Exercise is Medicine, said she most enjoyed the personal stories that were shared with attendees.

Dorbeck said the dancing activities in the event also tied in with her organization’s goals while also sharing Haitian culture.

“The whole meaning behind Exercise is Medicine is getting people active because of how important it is for their health, and so, being able to bring Wings of Hope in and have them get us active in order to share their message with us just kind of fit perfectly with our drive and our motive,” Dorbeck said.

Dorbeck said this will not be their last event with Wings of Hope, and that their organization is planning two more fundraisers, including a 5k in April, with the goal of raising money to pay the salary for a physical therapist at wings of hope.