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The Fat Lady Sang

Cineus Louisme, showing us one of his terrific new tree of life designs.

Cineus Louisme, showing us one of his terrific new tree of life designs.

Brutus Wiseton, shown here with his wife in the doorway of their home.

Brutus Wiseton, shown here with his wife in the doorway of their home.

One of the things that we do at Beyond Borders that perhaps does

the most good, and gives us the greatest joy, is to bring artists from Haiti to visit the United States for a couple of weeks.  While they are in this country, they demonstrate their craft at shops and special events; they sell their work, meet the people that buy their art, and gain a larger view of the business of selling art beyond what they do in their village workshops. It is a tremendously valuable experience for these select artists; they have an incomparable opportunity to learn and then to share their knowledge. They work hard while they are here to be sure, but they are also able to earn relatively large sums of money in a short amount of time. In every case, they have been able to return to Haiti and use those earnings to dramatically improve their own lives as well as those of their families. When you stop to consider how much money the United States, and indeed the world as a whole has poured into Haiti in foreign aid, (According to the USAID website, $318 million was appropriated to Haiti by the United States alone in fiscal year 2013.) you would think that the US government would be HUGELY in favor of Haitians earning their own money and stepping away from the cycle of dependency that has been created over the decades and been re-enforced to an astonishing level, since the 2010 earthquake.  YOU WOULD THINK! Haitians learning, earning, and being empowered to stand on their own two feet.  Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

Yet, the US government works in mysterious ways.  (That’s the kindest way I know how to put it.) Beyond Borders contacted two of our long-standing, solid producing artists and said, “Do you have a passport?  Can you get one?  We’d like to bring you to the US for a couple of weeks.  What do you think?” The artists, Cineus Louisme and Brutus Wiseton were over the moon with excitement.  They had seen what a huge boost it had been to other artists we had brought over in the past and they were eager to have those same experiences.  They got their passports, we purchased their roundtrip plane tickets, they filled out their visa applications, we bought, BOUGHT (Yes, you read that correctly, at $135 a pop.) their visa appointments from Soge Bank, (A Haitian national banking franchise) and then, when the appointment day rolled, around they went in to the US embassy in Port-au-Prince and were both turned down cold.

At that point, Beyond Borders as a whole sprang to action.  We brain-stormed.  We called people.  We wrote e-mails.  We posted on Facebook.  We asked questions.  We called in favors.  In short, if there was a tree to bark up, we did.  Last week’s phonecalls to the embassy again went unanswered.  It’s tough to know what to fix, if you don’t know what’s broken.

We’re still clueless.  Did we not apply in time?  We started the process six months ago.  Was that not enough?  Was there something out of order in their paperwork?  If so, what?  Not enough money in their bank accounts?  How much do they need? After writing and calling and what felt like begging and pleading, we are no further ahead in our goal to get Cineus and Brutus here by mid-November than we were a week ago.  Though we have not given up the hope of bringing them in at some point in the future, for now, the fight is over.  The fat lady sang.

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