Nauset Regional High School has a strong connection with Haiti, which is reeling from the effects of a massive earthquake that struck the country on Tuesday. As it happened, a group dedicated to supporting a community in Haiti was gearing up for a weekend fundraiser to support its work there; now those funds will likely be redirected to help with dire needs.

Nauset Regional High School has a strong connection with Haiti, which is reeling from the effects of a massive earthquake that struck the country on Tuesday. As it happened, a group dedicated to supporting a community in Haiti was gearing up for a weekend fundraiser to support its work there; now those funds will likely be redirected to help with dire needs.

Lisa Brown, who teaches World Music and Diversity classes at the high school and each spring leads a trip to Haiti with selected students, said this Saturday’s fundraiser in Eastham “is our biggest fundraiser of the year” and was slated to support programs at a school and an art center that she and artist Ellen LeBow helped establish, and built with the help of students and other volunteers.

The art center is the village of Matenwa, in the mountains of the tiny island of La Gonave, not far from Port-au-Prince and the epicenter of the earthquake, which had an estimated magnitude of 7.0. Among the projects the group supports are music lessons for children, a water cistern project, a mountain radio station that needs solar panels in order to increase its broadcast capacity, and personal initiatives such as supporting a woman who was badly injured in an accident and has launched a small restaurant to make a living.

“All those things are really important, that’s what we do already,” Brown said. “Now we’ll help according to specific needs. For example, I understand the water cistern in the school has cracked – that means there’s no fresh water.”

Brown said she has had some contact from friends in Haiti. “We’re getting spotty news, because there’s spotty infrastructure,” she said. “One of the teachers was in Port-au-Prince doing teacher training, and he woke up outside the building where he was staying – he was thrown clear before the building collapsed.”

That teacher was one of the fortunate ones; news stories yesterday estimated thousands of people were killed in the earthquake, and aftershocks were continuing.

Brown, who has been visiting Haiti for 12 years and taking students there for a decade – students helped build the arts center in Matenwa – said she is very worried about the people in that community. “I fear for the many, many people I know that are in severe danger’s way,” she said. “I understand the airport now is non-functional.”

So far, the people she’s been hearing from are former students who want to know if she has heard anything from Matenwa. She has received several phone calls from friends in Haiti, and is still trying to get more detailed information on conditions in the village.
Meanwhile, this Saturday’s fund-raiser – a dance being held at Messina’s Restaurant – has taken on new importance. “Initially we were hoping to raise $10,000 to $15,000,” she said. The evening will include dancing, with a student DJ playing Caribbean music, a dinner buffet and lots of raffles. Brown said they have lots of great donations from local businesses. “We’re auctioning off everything from plumbing supplies to a house in Mexico for a week,” she said.

The Cape Codder

If you go

What: Merci d’Avance Dance, fund-raiser for community in Haiti

When: 6 p.m.-midnight Saturday, Jan. 16

Where: Messina’s Restaurant, Route 6, Eastham

Tickets: $20 includes buffet and raffle ticket