Have you seen the flash? One Spark’s burst of light and sound fires the core of downtown Jacksonville. The most widely-known crowd-funding festival in the United States, One Spark, in its second year, aims to place the new ideas of diverse creators on full display. Tens of thousands of visitors, both from inside and outside the Jacksonville area, flock to the city’s heart for the entertainment, the refreshments, and the excitement of joining a gathering of creative people. With approximately 630 creators in total, spread across a 20-block area in the urban core, One Spark offers abundant opportunities for visitors to learn more about their ideas. The festival showcases hundreds of innovative projects, including one humanitarian effort that particularly stands out: Project #20286, officially titled Buildings for Orphans in Haiti.
A Jacksonville couple, Matt and Jessica Bush, who currently spend much of their time in Haiti, developed a project to rebuild the impoverished nation. Originally from Arlington, Matt Bush describes a passion to bring hope to Haiti’s poorest and youngest people. The couple hopes to use funds from One Spark to construct a permanent structure for orphaned children in Haiti. At present, their foundation houses 34 children in a temporary building. Moreover, the project can accomplish many of its goals with relatively little money. Working in partnership with All Things New, an educational foundation in Haiti, the project can educate children in Haiti at a cost far less than that expended in the North American school system. For example, a donation of only forty dollars enables the foundation to provide a child with tuition for a whole school year, or a pair of well-made school uniforms that will last all year long. By the standards of the United States, the sacrifice required to raise the standard of living for these children is very slight.
The value of this project lies in its humanitarian effect and its ability to break the cycle of poverty. Untold disaster has hit the nation during the last decade. Tropical cyclones, a frequent threat for the Caribbean island nation, have struck the country on numerous occasions, notably in 2004, 2008, and 2010. Nothing caused more destruction, however, than an earthquake in 2010. The quake killed hundreds of thousands, left more than one million people homeless, and reduced large portions of the capital city of Port-au-Prince to ruins, as related by CNN’s summary of the catastrophe. The disaster orphaned thousands of children. By providing them with housing and education, the project sets them on the road to building a stable life in the midst of tragedy.
The project merits support because of its ability to create social and economic improvements in Haiti. Its design helps to save children from the prospects of a long-term life spent on the streets – a lifestyle that places these children in peril of disease, crime, and a severely limited future. The foundation’s construction of a new permanent orphanage in the capital would enable more children to enjoy decent housing, food, clothing, and education. Many Americans take these basic necessities for granted. Haitians, by contrast, feel the pressing need with each new morning. Supporting this project would bring hope and support to those needing it most, while making a step, however small, toward improving day-to-day living conditions in the country.