The Vassar Haiti Project (VHP) is holding its 14th annual sale and auction of Haitian paintings and handcraft, beginning Friday, April 17. Proceeds from the event support numerous programs in Chermaitre—a mountain village in Haiti unreachable by road.
Founded by Andrew Meade, director of international services at Vassar College, and his wife, Lila, the VHP has raised more than $1,000,000 since 2001. The money has gone to extraordinarily good use, supporting various projects in Chermaitre. VHP’s most recent initiatives include:
- Medical. A three-room medical clinic has been fully operational since April 2014, and is overseen by a full time nurse and a physician, who are both Haitian. The clinic serves thousands of people across 30 villages, most of whom had no previous access to health care. Dr. Dan Katz, local Hudson Valley surgeon and member of VHP's Medical Advisory Board, visited the clinic in October 2014.
- Women's Cooperative. The 75-members-strong cooperative supports village women in harvesting, roasting, grinding, and bagging coffee that the VHP sells. The women have also begun to learn to sew fabrics and make jewelry. President of the cooperative and village resident Jeanne Saintulis hopes for the women “to be healthy, financially stable, and to feel like they are living with people here to help them. Because if you have people helping you, even though this is not the way you dreamed of living, at least you will be able to live better.”
- Education. Chermaitre’s primary school is thriving. Once housing 175 children, the school now serves 380 children in kindergarten through sixth grade. This increase in enrollment along with a 50+% food cost increase over the last few years has presented a challenge in terms of providing hot meals to these schoolchildren as consistently as when VHP first began its work.
The engines of VHP’s success have been sales and auctions at Vassar (and elsewhere in both in the Hudson Valley region and beyond) 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 run from Friday, April 17, through Sunday, April 19, in the College Center multi-purpose room on the second floor of Main Building. On Friday, the sale will run from noon - 4:30pm, followed by an opening reception at 4:30pm that includes an auction preview and auction registration. The auction will be held at 6pm (absentee and telephone bidding will be accepted). On Saturday, April 18, the sale will be open from 10am – 5pm. On Sunday the sale will be open 10am – 2pm. Hundreds of original paintings will be offered as well as thousands of handcrafts, including hand painted silk scarves and iron sculptures.
Since founding the non-profit project, Lila and Andrew Meade have made several trips to Chermaitre, bringing with them Vassar students and other volunteers from the Hudson Valley area. Their experiences are also reported through the Vassar Haiti Project blog (http://blogs.vassar.edu/haitiproject/). Anh Ngo, a member of Vassar’s class of 2010, said of traveling to Haiti, “I learned humility. In that tiny mountain village of Chemaitre, we speak of resilience of spirit in the face of hunger, of human determination and sacrifice so that the next generations can have a better life.”
For more information about VHP, visit http://thehaitiproject.org.
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