Cheeseman Travels to Haiti with Be Like Brit Foundation
WORCESTER, Mass. -This past January, Holy Cross Women’s Soccer junior Cassie Cheeseman, spent a week of her winter break serving the community of Grand-Goâve, Haiti with the Be Like Brit foundation. The foundation, founded in 2010 in memory of Worcester County native Britney Gengel, is committed to serving the children of Haiti and offers programs that allow volunteers the opportunity to both serve and gain a better cultural understanding of the Grand-Goâve community.
“I immediately knew I wanted to apply for this trip,” Cheeseman said. “The kids at the Marie Anne Center inspired me and I wanted to learn more about Haiti and its resilient people.”
When Cheeseman first heard of the opportunity to volunteer through the BLB foundation, she did not hesitate. Cheeseman was inspired to apply for this trip by volunteer work she has done in the Worcester community. Since her freshman year, Cheeseman has volunteered at the Marie Anne Center, an after-school program for local children. She has consistently been inspired and encouraged by the kids in the program, and their positive attitudes despite the struggles and lack of privilege they face. Many of the children in the program come from families who have immigrated from foreign countries, including Haiti.
During the week, Cheeseman and her fellow Holy Cross volunteers had a busy schedule. In the mornings, they would spend four hours building a small house intended for a family in need in the local community. The work necessary to build the house in such a short period of time was a different type of grueling than Cheeseman was used to during a conditioning session at soccer practice.
“We had to dig holes to put posts in,” she said. “We had to lay the foundation with rocks, mix cement for the foundation, build the walls, and hammer and align supportive posts on the inside of the walls.”
Following their work on the house, the volunteers explored different parts of Grand-Goâve to learn more about the culture before returning to the orphanage. At the orphanage, Cheeseman and the other volunteers spent a lot of time with the children; She read to the them and played various games including gymnastics, volleyball, basketball, and of course, soccer, getting to put the skills she’s acquired in Linda Johnson Smith Soccer Stadium to good use.
“Seeing how a sport like soccer can bring such joy and a sense of unity to the kids was incredible,” Cheeseman said of her nightly games with the kids. The children were not properly equipped with shin-guards and didn’t have goals to shoot on, but were happy to play the game just for the chance to run around and connect with friends. This filled Cheeseman with sense of gratitude and gave her even more love for the sport.
She ended her week in Haiti with a final dedication ceremony for the family they built the house for, and a dance party with the children at the orphanage.
A few months removed from the trip now, Cheeseman was able to reflect on her experiences.
“The kids I met in Haiti taught me to be more present and enjoy every moment,” she said. “After returning to the United States, I have been able to appreciate being a student-athlete even more than before.”
The compassion and resilience in the face of poverty that Cheeseman observed in the Grand-Goâve community has increased her drive to serve those less fortunate.
“The BLB Foundation is an amazing organization that is truly improving the lives of the Haitian kids there through education and enrichment activities,” Cheeseman said. “I strongly recommend that others consider applying for this trip as it was the most eye-opening experience I have ever had.”
Written by Julia Insani.