Richardson Metis wears two black bracelets on his wrist every day—one is beaded, and the other is a band with the word “Haiti” stamped into the leather. He says they are daily reminders of the promise he made to the kids at St. Francis Xavier Haitian Orphanage to come back to see them again.
Metis, a senior civil engineering major, was born and raised in Haiti. He is now the president of Temple Project Haiti, a student organization in which members travel each Spring Break to visit the orphanage in Petite Rivière de l’Artibonite in Haiti and make lasting improvements for children living there, like installing running water and building a latrine.
“[Children from Haiti] don’t have the platform to allow them to showcase their skills,” Metis said. “In order for them to succeed, somebody has to say, ‘You can do it.’ Me, being from Haiti, I feel like I can be that.”
The orphanage, which opened in 2011, recently purchased an improved plot of land in Haiti to better raise the children. The facility currently houses, feeds and bathes 18 children.
Metis has been a member of Temple Project Haiti since his sophomore year.
“In college, you have four years,” he said. “You want to be able to say, ‘I learned things.’ You want to be able to say, ‘I used my college organizations to learn so many lessons.’ We don’t learn our lessons in class. Project Haiti will allow you to see the world from a different standpoint.”
During the school year, members of Temple Project Haiti hold several fundraising events for St. Francis Xavier Haitian Orphanage, like selling grilled cheese sandwiches around Main Campus. Temple Project Haiti’s biggest fundraising event of the year, “Artists for Haiti,” will be held this Friday at East End Salon in Old City.
To raise money, Temple Project Haiti will auction off donated pieces of artwork, many of which are donated by Tyler School of Art students. Children’s drawings from Haiti collected this past spring break will also be on display, but not for sale.
Ben Arsenal, a co-founder of the music label Worldtown and the professional recording studio Elevate Sound Studios on 9th Street near Dauphin, will donate his time and play music with an African and Caribbean focus at the event to create a cultural atmosphere.
“It’s not just about going down there and building bathrooms and kitchens,” said Peter Mastrogiacomo, CEO and principal of Grayson Sky, a marketing firm used to promote Artists for Haiti. “It’s actually the part of giving the kids hope and a smile of this creativity that actually could help. It can give them that dream and vision that it doesn’t have to be serious. You can fantasize and be whimsical.”
Brooke Storms, a junior communication studies major, worked as an intern with Grayson Sky to help organize Artist for Haiti. She said she’s inspired by the work Temple Project Haiti does.
“To actually have the organization raise the funds and to really be so dedicated to something so far away, it’s interesting to me,” Storms said. “A lot of people do student organizations to add something to their resume and this just so isn’t like that. It’s more real life than some of the other Temple student organizations.”
After graduation, Metis plans to continue visiting and helping the children of Haiti. His ultimate goal, he said, is to build a school there. Meanwhile, he wants to be of assistance to the community using his skills as an engineer.
“I want the kids to understand they are going to be great,” Metis said. “You can’t help a whole country but you can help little by little.”
Grace Shallow can be reached at email@example.com.
Video by Linh Than.