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<b>BAIE DUHAMEL:</b> Emilie Newton helped villagers build a school.

Courtesy Photo

BAIE DUHAMEL: Emilie Newton helped villagers build a school.


Learning Life’s Lessons

Emilie Newton Helps Build a School in Haiti


SPOILER WARNING: Do not read on unless you wish to learn results of Santa Barbara’s November 5 mayoral election.

Well, not official results. But let’s see, how many male mayors have we had in the last 30-some years? Just one, Hal Conklin, and his reign was short, having been ousted due to the city’s term-limits law.

Barney Brantingham

In the meantime, Sheila Lodge, Harriet Miller, Marty Blum, and Helene Schneider have wielded the gavel. And unless the sun comes up in the west and the rivers all run uphill, Helene will be reelected. (Wayne Scoles, it’s just not your year, dude.)

VILLAGE IN HAITI: Last summer, Emilie Newton of the Santa Ynez Valley arrived in a tiny Haitian village so poor it had no school.

When she and other young volunteers left a week later, the dream of an education for the children of Baie duhamel was well on the way to reality. Today the school is finished, completed by others.

Emilie, daughter of Carla Frisk and Jeff Newton, and a junior at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, went to Haiti with buildOn, a global nonprofit. “I will never forget the people I met, spoke to, and lived with for those seven amazing days in a world so different from ours.

“As we neared the village, a woman popped out of nowhere and started running alongside our car. She was singing and waving a tree branch, she was so happy. We didn’t really know what was going on until we rounded the bend in the road; the entire village was waiting for us, all dressed up in their Sunday best.

“They began to run at our cars, singing, dancing, playing music, and smiling more than any group of people I have ever seen. When they reached the cars, they opened the doors and helped us out. They kissed our cheeks, hugged us, and held our hands.

“Then it dawned on me; we were like their heroes. We were bringing them a school, an education, a future: one they could have never dreamed of until now. The sight was overwhelming, and many of us were crying at the beauty of these people. They had a tiny fraction of what we had at home and yet were happy and smiling every moment of every day.

“Every morning we worked for four hours on the school, mixing cement, building rebar, and moving rocks, sand, and water. In the afternoons we would have a cultural lesson in the village. We helped bake bread at the bakery, watched a man make fishing nets, and we talked to the youth, the elders, and the women of the village.

“Talking to the youth gave me the greatest perspective of how lucky we are living in the U.S. They had one torn-up soccer ball, and although they enjoyed basketball, they had no hoop, court or ball. … The closing ceremony in the village was very emotional, and many were crying. We presented the school headmaster with a huge bag of new soccer balls and school supplies. When the children saw the soccer balls, their eyes lit up and grins filled their adorable little faces. As we hugged and kissed our new families and friends good-bye, we looked back at the amazing week we had just had.”

NAMES IN THE NEWS (BUT THEY’D RATHER NOT BE): Beanie Baby billionaire Ty Warner broke down crying in court while pleading guilty to tax evasion, hiding $25 million in secret Swiss bank accounts. Santa Barbara High grad and financier Charles Schwab was unmasked as one of the previously secret donors to a group that worked to defeat Jerry Brown’s tax measure last fall and to support a measure to limit the power of labor unions to raise political cash. Schwab gave $6.2 million. Both big-money efforts lost.

SILKY MUSIC: The Silk Road Ensemble lived up to its lofty reputation at Campbell Hall last weekend, a gathering of superb musicians playing exotic world music on exotic instruments. A true pleasure to hear, thanks to UCSB Arts & Lectures.

CAMERATA PACIFICA: Pianist Lera Auerbach, born near Siberia and who defected from Russia as a teen, teamed up with Chicago-born (Siberia to some) cellist Ani Aznavoorian Friday night at Hahn Hall. They performed Auerbach’s signature composition 24 Preludes for Violoncello and Piano.

BUS STOP: In Bus Stop, being staged by the Theatre Group at Santa Barbara City College, William Inge cooped up his characters in a Midwestern café in a raging snowstorm and let the sparks fly. (Through November 2.)

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