"I am a witness of my time," says Florestal. With the help of a startup gallery based in Haiti's capital city, Port-au-Prince, this seasoned artist and his agent hope to share the story of Haitian life with a U.S. audience.
As the saying goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words." But a thousand words wouldn't do justice to the work of Esdras Florestal. Known by friends and colleagues as "Florestal," this once-sponsored child graduated from Compassion's program in 1993 and is today an accomplished artist in Haiti's capital city of Port-au-Prince.
In bold colors typical of Caribbean-island culture, Florestal's work paints word pictures of the hard life in Haiti, of the hope his people have for a better future.
"When I was young, it was my greatest dream to be an artist," says Florestal. "I was born with this skill and from my teenage years I loved it."
Florestal knew he was skilled in drawing. One day, he was walking by a house where he saw a man painting. "I would like to be an artist," Florestal told the man, adding that he knew how to draw but not how to put color in his work.
The man, Mr. Éile, took the young student under his wing, but Florestal was too poor to pay for the art classes. Fortunately, Compassion provided the training to develop his blossoming talent.
To this day, Florestal and Éile remain close. He credits Compassion with his success as a painter. "If Compassion had not been there, I (would still) be an artist, but not a professional artist."
Florestal started out in Compassion's program in the town of Lé Sane, a one-hour drive from Port-au-Prince (about 12 miles south over four-wheel-drive roads). Now a resident of the crowded capital city, he teaches students when time allows.
But life remains far from easy for Florestal and his family. Although he is able to send his two children to school, he has only enough time to finish his consigned work, which has generated a little income.
Florestal's sponsor: a second father
Florestal has the fondest memories of his long-time U.K. sponsors, Janet and Colin Price. Having lost his father in his early adult years, the artist acknowledges how his relationship with the Prices had a profound impact on him.
The Prices, Florestal says, frequently told him they loved him very much and that they wanted him to study hard so he could become successful in life.
"I considered (Colin) as a second father," he reminisces. "As a matter of fact, he fulfilled in my life what my natural father (would have provided). Through him I reached my goal in life."
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