POUGHKEEPSIE, NY—When the news of the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12, first reached them Andrew and Lila Meade, founders and directors of the Vassar Haiti Project (VHP), were glued to news reports then they both quickly swung into action. They began to reach out to their Haitian contacts – galleries and gift shops based mostly in the area around the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince– and the residents of the village of Chermaitre, which, for the past nine years, has been a primary beneficiary of previous VHP’s initiatives and relief efforts.
They have since had little news from their contacts, or of the fate of the hundreds of artists and artisans based in Port-au-Prince. According to Lila Meade, the local Episcopal priest who helps oversee the Vassar Haiti Project’s work in Chermaitre was actually in Port-au-Prince when the earthquake struck. He was thankfully unharmed, but the Meades have not yet had word from Chermaitre, which they hope was far enough from the earthquake’s epicenter to avoid damage.
The Meades were immediately joined in their plans for aid by several student members of the Vassar Haiti Project who are currently on campus during Winter Break. So while the Meades travel to California this weekend for the awarding of Andrew’s doctorate at Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara (CA), the students are planning a series of immediate relief initiatives. These will include monetary donations as well as material goods.
Any monetary donations that are received by VHP will go directly to the artists and gallery owners, the extended Vassar Haiti Project family, in and around Port-au-Prince. In addition, Lila Meade suggested that people might also consider donations to three organizations: Partners in Health (http://www.pih.org/home.html), Wyclef Jean’s Yele (http://www.yele.org/), and the Red Cross (http://www.redcross.org/).
The Vassar students, led by senior Anh Ngo, will be setting up boxes in dorms and buildings throughout the campus, for people to place emergency relief supplies in, that will then be shipped to the capital city for distribution from one of the galleries directly to the needy. Clothing is also needed in addition to the medical supplies, flashlights and batteries, dry food, and hygiene items. (A full list of desired items is below.)
“The priority of our drive is the donation of first-aid and medical supplies,” noted Ngo. “Over-the-counter medicines, pain relievers, bandages, are all needed. In addition, dry food, particularly powdered milk would be helpful.” She said the committee has begun to make contacts for cheap shipping to the capital city, but can certainly use assistance from the public in this regard. VHP would like to begin as soon as possible sending the supplies to Haiti.
“We are seeking clothes for adults and children, summer clothes, suitable for temperatures of 70 degrees plus,” noted fellow senior Mario Arthur-Bentil ’10. “Donations should be freshly laundered and wearable, we know that right now our Haitian friends need everything.”
In addition to the medical supplies, dry goods, and clothes, Ngo and Arthur-Bentil also said that they hope that some tents will be donated as so many people have lost their homes. The public is welcome to drop off donations to the boxes in the Campus Center and Main Building, among other campus locations, but arrangements can also be made for pick-ups within the community, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, she advised.
The Vassar Haiti Project students will also begin “tabling” in Vassar’s College Center, on Wednesday, January 20, the first day of classes. Here the community will be able to purchase a Haitian handcraft, which in turn supports the Vassar Haiti Project relief initiative, or could also donate funds towards the relief effort. The students said that they plan to “table” through the end of January.
Lila Meade said that there has been an amazing response by a Vassar alumna who had previously supported the Vassar Haiti Project. Meade just had word that the alumna will be donating $10,000 worth of water, which will be sent directly to VHP’s contacts in Port au Prince for distribution.
Other ways to support the endeavors of the Vassar Haiti Project include the purchase of art, either from the website (http://projects.vassar.edu/haiti/art/) or in person at art shows and sales. There are two previously scheduled off campus events that will occur at the end of January. One will be in Westchester the other in Greenwich (CT).
On Sunday, January 31, from 9:00am to 6:00pm there will be a Haitian art show and sale in the Solomon Schechter School of Westchester (High School Chapel, 555 West Hartsdale Avenue, Hartsdale). The sale will feature 200 original Haitian paintings, unique gifts, silk scarves, jewelry, and iron sculpture. In addition, from Sunday, January 31, through Friday, February 26, there will be an exhibition at the Gertrude C. White Gallery in the YWCA of Greenwich, Connecticut (259 East Putnam Avenue, Greenwich, Connecticut). On Friday, February 5, from 6:00 to 8:00pm, a reception will feature live performances by Vassar students, the viewing of a short documentary film about the project, plus a display of a wide variety of Haitian handicraft.
The Vassar Haiti Project’s annual Haitian Art Auction and Sale at Vassar College will go forward in April. From April 5 to 8, paintings will be on display in the Palmer Gallery. The sale will begin on April 9 and continue with a live auction through April 11. Lila Meade noted that just two days before the earthquake, they had received over 50 paintings from Haiti. She and her husband Andrew emphasized that the planned trip with 16 project members to Haiti in March over spring break will still occur, but very probably with a change in focus.
“The tragedy that has struck Haiti is all-encompassing,” noted Lila Meade, “But I’ve been so moved by the out pouring of response we’ve had from people in the immediate community and throughout the Hudson Valley and beyond, the spirit of one caring for another, that it is truly inspiring.”
Meade emphasized that members of the greater Hudson Valley community are always welcome to join and volunteer with the Vassar Haiti Project. For additional information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Vassar Haiti Project
The Vassar Haiti Project is an all-volunteer organization at Vassar College that was founded eight years ago with the initial purpose of constructing a primary school in the village of Chermaitre in northwest Haiti. Today, the project has 100 members and maintains its initial commitment to funding primary education, while also pursuing partnership efforts to improve reforestation, education, access to clean water, and healthcare in the village.
How you can help
- For immediate aid to Haiti, donate funds to organizations, including Partners in Health (http://www.pih.org/home.html), Yele (http://www.yele.org/), and the Red Cross (http://www.redcross.org/).
- Send a check to the Vassar Haiti Project, Box 594, Poughkeepsie, NY 12604.
- Donate emergency relief supplies (list below) to the Vassar Haiti Project. Contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
- First Aid Supplies: Antibiotic creams/ointments, antiseptic wipes, bleach in tablet form, Band-Aids, gauze and tape, first aid kits, gloves.
- Over-the-Counter Medications: Pain relievers, tummy aids, antibiotic creams/ointments, liquid bandage (aka New Skin).
- Emergency Needs: Flashlights, Dry goods (beans/rice), infant/powder milk, supplemental drinks (i.e. Ensure), gently used of new blankets, clothing, tents
- Hygiene: Toothpaste and brushes, nail clippers, wash/face cloths, non-alcohol or baby shampoos, bar soaps such as Ivory.
- Purchase a painting from the Vassar Haiti Project website (http://projects.vassar.edu/haiti/) or in person at one of the art show and sales. Fifty percent of the purchase price will go directly to go to the artists and artisans.
Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations at Vassar should contact the Office of Campus Activities at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space and/or assistance may not be available. Directions to the Vassar campus are available at www.vassar.edu/directions/.
For further information about the Vassar Haiti Project, visit http://projects.vassar.edu/haiti/. A video documenting the work of the Vassar Haiti Project, may be viewed on the website.
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.