Meredith McDevitt recalled meeting the orphaned children she spent a year raising money to support as the most memorable moment of her recent trip to Haiti. After she turned to the Tyler School of Art community to provide relief for people in need, they became the focus of her charitable efforts.
“I’ve never been to a community that cares so much about each other,” the senior painting major said. “They know that they are impoverished and they know that they have to work together for them to make it.”
In 2011, McDevitt, senior Elaine Salanik and 2013 graduate Andrea Echeverri attended a discussion led by members of Penn State’s Project Haiti. The organization was focused on sending monetary aid to Haiti for natural disaster relief.
After the talk, McDevitt said she and her peers were determined to bring the effort to Main Campus.
That same year, she became cofounder of Temple’s chapter of the Project Haiti organization. McDevitt and other students have focused their efforts on raising money for a specific orphanage, located in the city of Petite Rivière de l’Artibonite, Haiti.
Now in its third year, the organization is holding what it hopes will be its largest fundraiser to date, “Artists for Haiti,” in partnership with the Tyler community.
“Artists for Haiti was started in part because the only community I really knew was Tyler,” McDevitt said. “I really knew I could count on this community.”
The fundraiser, which will be taking place on Thursday, Feb. 6, in the Student Center atrium, is a raffle of artworks created by Tyler students.
From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., patrons will be able to purchase tickets and place them in front of the artwork of their choice to be raffled off at the end of the night.
All of the money made from the raffle with go directly toward aiding the orphanage and its surrounding community. The group has high hopes of helping to move the orphanage to a safer location, which McDevitt said is their ultimate goal.
“Right now we are trying to make the best of the building the orphanage is in,” McDevitt said. “But eventually we are hoping they can move off the land – it’s hard, it’s a lot of money.”
In addition to holding fundraisers, members of Temple’s Project Haiti travel to Haiti each year to help the community firsthand. Members said the trip is an unforgettable opportunity to see how their work is making an impact.
“There has been a group of about six students so far that have gone to Haiti, and every one of them has walked away with a moving and life-changing experience and this passion to help others,” McDevitt said. “Through that, I think a lot of change is made and people are more passionate about these fundraisers and dedicated to raising money.”
Another senior member of Project Haiti, Joe McGovern, said his life changed drastically after he went on the charitable trip.
“Going to Haiti, spending time at the orphanage we sponsor and meeting the children we help support, reinforced all the reasons I joined and strengthened the connection I had with the orphanage,” the engineering major said. “It gave me a purpose aside from just going to school for the degree.”
New members of the group anticipate their chance to visit Haiti after this year’s fundraising efforts.
“I am most excited to see the kids and help out with whatever they need us to do,” junior education major Holly Miller said.
McGovern said that while raising money and helping rebuild and repair the orphanage are vital parts of what they do, giving the people of Petite Rivière de l’Artibonite the tools and education to help themselves is also important.
“One of the best ways to help is through education from within,” McGovern said. “We work to teach [the Haitians] to be self-sufficient.”
McDevitt said giving the Haitians knowledge to build their own stable environment is as important as lending a hand in the process. The community needs a strong framework in order to maintain basic societal needs, such as clean water, she said.
“The water that they use is the same water that they drink, bathe, use to make food – it’s just very unclean, so sanitation is a huge problem in the village,” McDevitt said.
Recognizing and understanding the danger in these conditions, Project Haiti members said improving the environment is a top priority.
“It’s all about teaching the Haitians how to build a community, how to get clean water when it rains, making sure the water is evenly dispersed so it doesn’t flood, things like that,” McDevitt said.
As difficult as the conditions are for the community that Temple’s Project Haiti is helping, members said that in their efforts to help, the Haitians are educating them in return.
“The orphanage’s slogan right now is, ‘What I have been given, I give back freely,’ and I just thought that was so beautiful,” McDevitt said. “They really appreciate everything, and it teaches you to appreciate things, too.”
Alexa Bricker can be reached at email@example.com.