Haiti Mural Connects Students

In April, Dallas International School (DIS) students teamed up with artist Adrian Torres to add a little beauty not only to their school, but to a school in Haiti as well.

For the last four years, DIS upper school students have traveled to Haiti to build schools with the nonprofit organization buildOn, according to student volunteer Elijah Rogers. Founded in 1991, the organization works to eliminate illiteracy and poverty around the world by mobilizing youth to take action.

When Torres heard about DIS’ plans to go back to Haiti, he wanted to get involved. The artist, best known for his Deep Ellum mural “Deep Ellumphants,” teamed up with the students to paint a two-piece mural in Dallas and Haiti.

On April 8 and 9, Torres and students painted the first piece of the mural in the courtyard of DIS. A week later, they traveled to Haiti to start painting the second piece at the school they were building. Together the pictures depict art in its finest forms: love, nature, and beauty.

“The goal of this painting was to have something to link the schools together,” Rogers said. “The Haiti painting is very similar to the one here at our school.” Because the murals share themes and color pallets, the DIS piece acts as a memento for the students, according to Rogers’ mom, Jodi Shelton.

“When the kids see the mural at school, it’s a reminder for them of the work they did,” Shelton said. “It’s a reminder of the journey they went on and who they got to help.”

In Haiti, the DIS students stayed with host families, allowing them to really experience how the locals live.

“To be in the villages interacting with children who are studying in whatever shelter they can and to have what they’re able to have — it’s amazing to see how determined they are to learn,” said Chase Fitzpatrick, student volunteer. “It’s incredible to be with them and to learn from them. We’re so fortunate to be a part of an environment that allows us to be open-minded, to think about the world and different cultures.”

The fifth- through 12th-grade students raise funds for this trip through an annual Race for Haiti, in which they run as many laps as they can. All students are required to participate in some way and must find themselves a sponsor to donate a flat fee per lap, according to the school’s website.

This year, along with the race, the students hosted a dinner. A chef came in to DIS and prepared the food, while the students worked as waiters, serving food and drinks to everyone.

The buildOn chapter at DIS was started by Shelton who, after hearing about it from a few friends, saw it as a great opportunity for her kids.

“I wanted to raise my kids to be involved in the community,” Shelton said. “When I heard about the work buildOn does, I really felt like this was a great way for my kids and I to both be involved.”

BuildOn’s goal reflects their name: instead of building a school for a community, the goal is to give a community something to build on.

“It’s a little bit like the quote: ‘Give a man a fish and he is happy for day, teach a man to fish and he is happy for a lifetime,’” said Sebastian Gray, student and volunteer.

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