On January 12, 2010, Boulder-business owner, Rico Changeux, learned immediately about a devastating earthquake that swept through the city of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He soon found out an estimated 230,000 inhabitants perished. Additionally, according to the Disaster Emergency Committee (in the UK), over 188,383 houses were badly damaged and 105,000 were destroyed by the earthquake, leaving 1.5million people homeless. Rico couldn’t stand the idea of watching his home country, his relatives and neighbors, suffer, so he proposed to his father that they turn Rico’s childhood home into a children’s home for kids orphaned and/or abandoned during the earthquake. He called the home, The Vertile House (pronounced: Ver-teele), after his loving and compassionate mother who passed away when he was just a senior in high school.
Eight years later, The Vertile House shelters 22 children, who range in age from 5-19. Stateside, the organization is run completely by volunteers. Rico manages a fully Haitian staff who maintain and manage the house and its inhabitants. The mission of the Vertile House is to provide orphaned and abandoned youth in Carrefour, Haiti with a safe, stable and nurturing home. They empower each child with opportunities to envision and realize a healthy future.
Come hear about this unique foundation with a Haitian-born founder from its Executive Director, Meredith Changeux and founder, Rico Changeux. They’ll talk a bit about Haiti, its limitations and impoverishment, as well as its beauty and resilience. They’ll weave in contemporary issues of tourism, race and market scarcity to set a backdrop for a better understanding about the foundation and its significance in an immensely over-populated city neighborhood called Carrefour. They will also talk about the current state of the foundation and the plan to expand Vertile’s impact by building a community school and a vocational program for young adults. Last, they will bridge the connection between the Boulder and Denver communities who support the organization and the children in the house themselves.
Born in Haiti, Rico came to the West Coast in 1984 where he lived in San Francisco until he was 23. Rico's been dancing and performing capoeira, hip hop, and salsa, and studying martial arts since he was living in Port-Au-Prince. While living in L.A. and San Francisco, Rico traveled and performed with Jesse Powel's R&B tour, Dru Hill, and Pras from the Fugees. A gifted instructor with a passion for teaching, Rico taught for a variety of studios in California and Colorado until he opened his own, Streetside Studios, in 2008. This Boulder studio is among the busiest and most popular in the area, and there are currently one hundred dancers of all ages and abilities performing on Streetside’s performance troupes every year. He is also the sole proprietor of Streetside Productions, a video and audio editing company.
In 2010, following the devastation of the earthquake in his native Haiti, Rico established The Vertile Foundation. Named in honor of his late mother, The Vertile Foundation raised money to rebuild the Changeux family home in Carrefour, outside Port-au-Prince, to house vulnerable children in the area. The Vertile House currently provides food, shelter, clothing and an education for children, orphaned or abandoned, who may otherwise be living on the streets.
Meredith grew up in Boston, Massachusetts. After receiving a Masters in Foundation, Policy and Practice in Education from CU Boulder, she taught in the Boston Public Schools before ultimately relocating to Denver.
She taught social studies and community leadership to students at Vantage Point High School in Northglenn for fifteen years. For over a decade, she served as a staff person on curriculum development projects at the University of Colorado’s Program for Teaching East Asia (TEA). Meredith lead as a master teacher on three study tours to Asia for students and educators, and facilitated several 30-hour seminars on content and pedagogy for teachers in the Denver Metro area. She developed lesson plans published on MIT’s Visualizing Cultures website and has presented to educators throughout the country on engaging all kinds of learners using this website. She has coached teacher candidates in the classroom and presents as a guest lecturer at the School of Education at CU Boulder.
She currently works in the Denver Public Schools as an Assistant Principal of Collegiate Prep Academy High School and facilitates presentations around equity and culturally relevant curriculum.
She is currently serving as our Executive Director, and under her leadership, we have grown our volunteer committees, clarified the focus and vision of our teams, and established a strong, committed board of directors. She spent time at the Vertile House in the summer of 2014, with her own children, Violet and Xavien, and has recently returned from a second family trip in January 2018.