You notice her immediately. Deep golden brown complexion. Close-cropped blonde hair. Flowing, colorful clothes, always the latest pret-a-porter French fashions from sunglasses to shoes¬.  Standing barely 4’10” Pierrette Cairo is a giant of a human being, a force of nature, the rare individual who combines charisma with a heart for helping other people and the political savvy to get things done.  Joby Taylor, former Guadeloupe program director and Pierrette’s friend, says:  “It is an irony of greats in her ilk that their charisma is a virtue of always deflecting attention away from themselves…she’s never there when the local TV cameras are out, not in false humility, but because her gift is her curiosity about others and her zest for life.  She is interested in the real and too involved in life to skim its surface….  Her insight is uncanny.  Even across barriers of language and culture, she tunes in to our students.”

Pierrette has been the bridge builder for VISIONS in Guadeloupe from the beginning, introducing us to people, offering program ideas, navigating local politics.  She understands the value of community service, youth empowerment, and cross-cultural solidarity.  Never heavy-handed in her advice, we have learned through experience to listen and trust Pierrette.

When we met Pierrette she was Director of Trois-Rivieres’ OSBF (Office Socioculturelle Bloncourt Francillete), Cultural and Youth Outreach office, a unique partnership between the city and non-governmental arts and culture center. For most of our seasons in Trois Rivieries we enjoyed collaborations with Pierrette.  She now teaches at the Bord-de-Mer Primary School in Trois-Rivieres.  Pierrette balances an active civic life, especially in the arena of cultural expression. She has long been Director of the “Maison Du Carnaval,” which hosts the largest Carnival celebration on the Western Island of Guadeloupe, complete with floats, music, and the participation of dozens of community and youth groups.

Last summer in Petite Anse, where Pierrette was born, our contracted cook became unavailable just before our program. Pierrette, the superlative team player, stepped in to cook our evening meals.  Of course, she was fabulous, though her role went far beyond putting hot food on the table.  We are honored and blessed that Pierrette Cairo is at the heart of VISIONS Guadeloupe.

2009 Update:  Pierrette has continued to work with us summers in Petite Anse, to assist in program planning in the off season. More than our cook, she is a wise counselor to our staff and mother to our participants.

VISIONS in The New York Times