May 21, 2013
Chris T. Wilson, OVN correspondent
When the full moon rises over Ojai Saturday evening, Libbey Bowl will fill up with musicians and fans joining forces to benefit a Haitian orphanage and school started by a local couple after the devastating earthquake there in 2010. Rising rock star Lissie will headline the bill, having just arrived back in Ojai after a tour of the Midwest and Britain to promote the release of her new single, “Shameless,” and upcoming album.
The Changing Tides orphanage was founded by Ojai’s Vance and Cheryl Simms in 2010 after the devastating 7.0 earthquake there killed 220,000 people and left millions of others without homes and basic necessities.
This is the second benefit concert Lissie has headlined in Ojai for Changing Tides. Last August, along with Todd Hannigan and others, she helped raise $17,000 for Changing Tides. On Saturday, Hannigan will perform again, and local singer-songwriter Emy Reynolds will also perform.
“Vance is doing this incredible work not only for the kids in the orphanage, but also for the people in the community,” Lissie said. “Within the community, he has a really positive impact. I like his style; he’s very practical and really cool. He’s just like, ‘I’m in a position where I can help, even if I can only help this handful of kids, I know that is something that is worth doing.’”
Funds collected from the benefit concert in August have helped to offset the day-to-day expenses of housing 15 children in the orphanage and educating 30 young students in the school. The orphanage and school currently sit on leased facilities, but Simms said he’s recently purchased a piece of land with the help of another donor, and is looking to build a full 12-grade school there.
“We do a lot of community outreach programs, in addition to the orphanage and school,” Simms said. “The money raised from the concert was a very big part of our budget. It costs about $3,800 per month to run the orphanage and school. We do a lot with that money, including running a clean water program and feeding some elderly in the neighborhood.”
Simms took Lissie and her band’s guitar player, Eric Sullivan, to Cité Soleil, a densely populated slum in Port Au Prince where they was witnessed first-hand one of the poorest places on the planet. They put on a concert for the neighborhood near the orphanage, and spent a week there. Fender donated a few guitars that Lissie and Sullivan took with them.
“These kids are the future of their country, which, even before the earthquake, was the poorest place in the Western Hemisphere,” Lissie said. “We filmed everything and we’ve made a promo video that Vance can use, and we’re making a little series from the video we shot.”
Lissie hopes the video they shot will help her fans be more involved in understanding her interests. “I want people to know what I’m passionate about,” she said.
Simms travels one week per month from Ojai to Haiti, often taking people with him.
“I took a bunch of Thacher kids and their parents and they want to make a return trip,” Simms said. “We’re trying to take people who want to help. It opens your eyes to see how a part of the world lives. You can see it on TV, but it’s so different when you’re there and see it for yourself.”
Simms said he’s got a long and growing list of committed volunteers who are on board to help build the school and new orphanage as those plans evolve.
Ticket sales for Saturday’s show have been going well, he said. He anticipates a last-minute rush of sales the day of the concert.
“Last year we sold 450 tickets the day of the show,” he said.
Saturday’s concert in Libbey Bowl is set for 6 to 9:30 p.m. Visit www.changingtidesorphanage.org to learn more about Changing Tides, and www.lissie.com for tickets (click on “gigs”). Tickets are also available at Julia Rose and Company, 335 E. Ojai Ave., and Contempo Hair Design, 205 S. Signal St. Simms encourages people to follow the Changing Tides page on Facebook.