In 2009, months before a colossal earthquake devastated Haiti, actor Rainn Wilson and his wife, author Holiday Reinhorn, visited the country. Reinhorn had been invited by Sean Penn’s charity, J/P Haitian Relief Organization, to hold workshops in creative writing for young women, and Wilson decided to tag along, offering to teach theater to the girls.
“I was very skeptical,” Wilson said of his first trip to Haiti. “I was like, ‘That seems ridiculous. The last things that these girls need are these games, and singing songs and taking photographs. These girls need jobs and rice and shoes.’ ”
By the end of that first visit, however, Wilson and Reinhorn were smitten with Haiti and its people, and convinced of the power of the arts to facilitate positive change. They developed Lide (which translates to both “leader” and “idea” in Haitian Creole), a program that teaches young women creative writing, drama, photography and fine arts. Now they’re ready to bring others onboard, holding the inaugural Lide Foundation Fundraiser in West Hollywood on Dec. 10 in hopes of recruiting members of the Hollywood community to volunteer with the organization.
Lide’s first year has seen the program grow to include partnerships with charities that teach literacy, with plans for a vocational summer school where girls can learn skills for jobs in hospitality. The org also has started its own scholarship fund. Wilson and Reinhorn take pride in the fact that Lide has enabled many Haitian teachers to become mentors for young women.
“This is not to train girls to become professional artists,” Wilson said. “This is using the arts to empower girls, help them find their voice, give them hope and help build community. When you teach a skill to a young woman or girl, they will share that information with their friends, their sisters, their aunts, their community. Whereas if you teach young men a skill, they’ll leave home and go to Port-au-Prince and become a taxi driver.”