The aroma of Haitian dishes on Thursday night wafted across the lobby of the Brenau University’s John W. Jacobs Jr. Building.
“Taste of Haiti” indeed.
But the event, intended as a fundraiser benefiting schoolchildren in the earthquake-wrecked nation, was more than a celebration of the island nation’s food.
Participants in the three-hour showcase of Haitian culture also displayed talents in song, dance and poetry.
Ginou Oriol, a Loganville resident whose parents are from Haiti, kicked off the event with a version of the country’s national anthem. She stood at a podium with the Haitian flag suspended from the ceiling behind her.
“The university was very nice to do this, I think,” she said afterward.
“And it helps bring an awareness. Anytime, people take your cause and help, it’s a beautiful thing.”
Two sisters, Macita and Yamatha St. Germain, worked with other students and college officials to put on the event.
Yamatha was born in the U.S. but schooled in Haiti. Macita was born in Haiti and has lived in the U.S. for 22 years, working now as a preschool teacher.
The women said they felt compelled to show others what Haiti was like before the Jan. 12 earthquake that laid the island nation to ruin and killed more than 200,000 people.
“The pictures they are seeing now are not what it used to be like, way before,” said Yamatha St. Germain, a junior at Brenau, in an earlier interview.
Organizers are looking at sending money the event raises through donations and a silent auction held Thursday night.
“The idea behind the fundraising is to ... make a sustainable impact,” said Bill Lightfoot, dean of Brenau’s School of Business and Mass Communication, told the audience gathered for the event.
“Haiti does not have much, if any, of public education system — this is pre-earthquake,” he said. “The children of Haiti ... are the next generation. They’re the generation that can help make a difference.”
Yamatha St. Germain said that after the tragedy happened, “we felt kind of useless, in a way, because we’re over here and people over there were suffering.”
“We wanted to find a way to help,” she said.
The sisters didn’t lose any family members in the disaster.
Still, Macita St. Germain told the crowd, she was devastated when she heard the news.
“I can’t tell you how much I cried when this happened,” she said, adding that one of her daughters asked her, “Mommy, what does that mean? Haiti’s gone? We’ll never see it again?”
“I said, ‘Let’s hope not,’” she told the audience.
Macita St, Germain recalled her reaction when her sister called her about the fundraiser idea. “I thought that was perfect,” she said.
The school benefiting from the fundraiser hasn’t been selected yet, but that’s “because nothing is rebuilding yet. They’re just starting,” St Germain said.