POUGHKEEPSIE, NY -- Director of International Services Andrew Meade and his wife Lila both have roots in Haiti, and in 2001 they began speaking with members of the Vassar community about ways to help the Caribbean nation overcome such daunting circumstances as 98% deforestation, 70% illiteracy, and 50% unemployment. The idea of rallying around the mountain village of Chermaitre gained the greatest attention, particularly to improve the remote locale’s educational resources. With this vision the all-volunteer Vassar Haiti Project was born.
After quickly meeting their initial goal to raise funds for a school lunch program and improved teacher salaries in Chermaitre, the group’s growing success also brought the village a new seven-room primary school building which serves about 200 students and nine teachers. Now that the Vassar Haiti Project has raised more than $1 million, the people of Chermaitre have also gained a new health clinic and far easier access to clean drinking water, with further sustainable development activities proceeding.
The engines of this success have been sales and auctions at Vassar (and elsewhere in the region) of original Haitian paintings and handcrafts, with proceeds boosting both Chermaitre and Haitian artists desperate for a marketplace. The next Vassar sale and auction will be the twelfth annual, running from Friday, April 5, through Sunday, April 7, in the College Center Multi-purpose Room on the second floor of Main Building. Four hundred original paintings will be offered as well as thousands of handcrafts, including hand painted silk scarves, iron sculptures, jewelry, and woodwork. On April 5 the sale runs from 12:00pm - 8:00pm, and on April 6 things begin at 10:00am, culminating with a live auction by Bill Rinaldi of Rinaldi Auctions from 4:00-6:00pm (see bidding details at http://thehaitiproject.org/). The sale concludes on April 7 from 10:00am- 2:00pm.
A preview exhibition of sample paintings and handcrafts will be held Thursday, March 28, through Wednesday, April 3, at the James W. Palmer Gallery in Main Building. Exhibiting artist George Desarmes will attend the show’s opening gallery reception, on March 28 from 5:00-7:00pm. The Palmer Gallery’s regular hours are Monday-Friday 10:00am-5:00pm.
Since founding the non-profit project Lila and Andrew Meade have also made several trips to Chermaitre, bringing with them Vassar students and other volunteers from the Hudson Valley area. Such a group will shortly return from a 2-week visit, and on April 5 at 5:00pm they will share first hand accounts, photos, and video of their experiences at the opening reception for this year’s art sale and auction. Their experiences are also reported through the Vassar Haiti Project blog (http://blogs.vassar.edu/haitiproject/).
“Much is happening in Chermaitre,” remarked Andrew Meade. “Interviews are underway to staff our newly constructed clinic with a part-time doctor and a full time community nurse. And construction of an exciting new kindergarten/community center has begun. Next up will be the formation of a cooperative to support the women of the village, who are eager to develop and hone marketable skills with which to support their families.”
Some of the artists whose work will be included in the upcoming sale and auction include Joseph Aderson, Raymond Beauduy, Albott Bonhomme, Reynald Joseph, Raymond Lafaille, Jean Laguerre, Fritzner Lamour, Eric Jean Louis, Pierre Maxo, Makenol Profil, Serge Pierre, and Yosephat Tissaint. Their art and other works can be previewed through the Vassar Haiti Project website (http://thehaitiproject.org).
“The outpouring of support over these past 12 years show the best of our global village,” noted Lila Meade. "We look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones at this year’s sale and auction, sharing in Haiti’s beauty through the art of its people."
Vassar College strives to make its events, performances, and facilities accessible to all. Individuals with disabilities requiring special accommodations must contact the Office of Campus Activities at least 48 hours in advance of an event, Mondays-Fridays, at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space/and or assistance may not be available. For detailed information about accessibility to specific campus facilities, search for “campus accessibility information” on the Vassar homepage (http://www.vassar.edu).
Vassar College is located at 124 Raymond Avenue in Poughkeepsie, NY, and directions to the campus can be found at http://www.vassar.edu/directions.
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential, liberal arts college founded in 1861.