I have driven through the Binghamton neighborhood hundreds of times, racing through Sam Cooper Boulevard to get downtown. The neighborhood had little meaning for me beyond signaling the end of the highway. Then one afternoon at an Indian Community Fund for Greater Memphis (ICFGM) meeting, someone mentioned that we had been trying to do an art project that would raise money for Caritas Village, which is in the Binghamton neighborhood. I did not know what Caritas Village was, but I like art projects so I volunteered to help organize the project. I started researching Caritas Village by figuring out where it was- who knew we had a Harvard Avenue in Memphis? As I explored the Caritas Village website, it became clear that the Caritas Village was an exceptional bright spot in a poor community that faces many challenges. Caritas’s mission of building community around the arts was inspiring.
My first visit to the Caritas Village demonstrated how it is positively impacting the community on many fronts. The building itself is a safe space for adults and kids to meet, learn, and enjoy great food. But Caritas’s influence doesn’t stop at its doors, or its property line. The neighborhood is filled with bright paintings containing messages of peace, love, and community.
Engaging with the kids and volunteers who attended our Thanksgiving card-making sessions demonstrated the power of connecting through art. Even though there were issues such as language barriers between ICFGM volunteers and Caritas participants, many of whom are Hispanic, we were able to connect through the challenge of making origami turkeys.
The collaboration between ICFGM and Caritas Village raised $1,500 for the Village. More importantly, it allowed the Indian community to connect and contribute to Binghamton. ICFGM is excited to continue our relationship with Caritas and welcomes participation from the Indian community.
– Meera Gajjar
Few Words from Caritas Village
“I just want to thank all of you again for partnering with us & teaching us the card project. I hope that we can continue the project in 2015 & perhaps make it a business for the youth in the neighborhood. We could teach them life skills, work ethics,leadership skills & financial literacy as we build community & inventory together.”
~Onie Johns, Founder & Director, Caritas Village