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Photos, music of Haiti on display at Portland City Hall

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Photos, music of Haiti on display at Portland City Hall

PORTLAND
— First Friday art walkers should make their way a little east to City Hall this week, to see a photography exhibit about life in Portland's Haitian sister city.

The photographs are of people in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, and were taken by volunteers for Konbit Sante, a Portland-based nonprofit that works to improve the health-care system in Haiti.

"Our mission is to form long-term relationships with the existing public (health) system there," Nate Nickerson, executive director of the nonprofit, said. "We work to strengthen their system," he said, rather than trying to establish a separate health care program.

Konbit Sante was founded in 2000 by a group of medical professionals and others who learned of Cap-Haitien's hospital system through colleagues in Miami. The organization began sending staff and volunteers to the city to help health professionals there develop and improve existing health-care programs.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and has the highest AIDS rate. Two-thirds of Haitians are malnourished and do not have access to the most basic health care, according to Konbit Sante. There is no public sanitation in Haiti and little potable water.

Nickerson said the nonprofit now sends water engineers, electricians and other professionals to Haiti to help improve physical conditions at health-care facilities, in addition to sending health-care professionals.

In 2003, Portland and Cap-Haitien became sister cities. The photography exhibit is a celebration of that sisterhood.

"We've never done an event like this before," Nickerson said. "The point is to celebrate the sister city relationship and successes over the years."

A reception is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 4, from 5-7 p.m. in the City Hall Rotunda. In addition to remarks from city and Konbit Sante leaders, 22 photos will be unveiled. There will also be live Haitian music from Boston-based musician Marcien Guy-Frantz Toussaint, who performs under the name Gifrants. 

Gifrants was born in Cap-Haitien and plays what he calls voodoo jazz. Gifrants will play from 6-7 p.m.

The reception and concert are free and open to the public. 

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net