PORTLAND – The holiday season is bustling with weekend craft fairs, but one art sale Saturday served a special purpose.

The Konbit Sante Art Sale had three goals — raise money for the organization, raise awareness of Haiti’s plight and promote the work of Haitian artists.

The idea for the art sale was born when Skeek Frazee of South Portland, a member of the Konbit Sante Board of Directors, asked her women friends in the community for help in raising money.

“Women see it as a win-win,” said Karin Anderson, a principal of the Dala Consulting Group in Portland. In addition to buying art, “You learn through the art and conversations they have (about the art).”

Anderson, who volunteered for Saturday’s art sale, decided to get involved to get a better understanding of issues that Haitians face today.

Konbit Sante is a Maine-based volunteer partnership that has been working to save lives and improve health care in northern Haiti for 10 years. The situation became desperate in January when an earthquake struck the island nation, triggering numerous relief efforts.

In recent months, however, the nonprofit organization has seen interest in helping the country wane as news coverage of the natural disaster faded, Frazee said.

“We have people on the ground down there right now,” Frazee said, continuing aid efforts made especially critical in light of the recent cholera outbreak.

Two Maine members of Konbit Sante are in Cap-Haitien with a water engineer who has volunteered to work on water quality problems.

With 6,300 cases of cholera reported and 260 deaths in the north where Konbit Sante operates, the organization is trying to raise awareness and prevent further spread of the disease.

As people filtered into Saturday’s art sale, Frazee was handing out yellow flyers with information about the outbreak.

She was also providing information about the art for sale, which was crafted by Haitians, purchased by Konbit Sante and brought back to Maine to sell and raise funds for the organization.

“Haiti is a poor country, but they create art with what they have,” she said.

The metal pieces resting on tables and hung on the walls of the arts center were crafted from recycled oil drums.

Each piece had a unique design featuring intricately detailed figures such as angels, birds, fish, butterflies and mermaids.

“Look at this one,” one woman said pointing at a piece of two women carrying baskets on their heads. “Oh, I didn’t even notice. Look there’s a fish on her head. That’s so cool.”

She selected the piece for purchase, musing at all the intricate detail.

Teresa Valliere of Portland, an area mental health professional, came to the art sale to learn more about the organization and purchase a piece for herself. She said the art reminded her of work she bought during a trip to South Africa.

“I love the ingenuity and creativity. Everything can be made into something,” she said.

Judith Parker, owner of Tavecchia, was inspired by the art. She offered to dedicate a wall in her Exchange Street boutique to sell the art for Konbit Sante.

“It’s so decorative,” she said. “I’d like to do something more to help.”

Faith Sheehan of Portland, who also volunteered to work at the art sale, was thrilled with the outcome. A number of people not only purchased art, but also offered to volunteer in the future, she said.

“It’s bringing people in contact (with the organization),” Sheehan said. “This gives people something to do, even if it’s something little.”

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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