The Vassar Haiti Project (VHP) is holding its 15th annual sale and auction of Haitian paintings and handcraft, beginning Friday, September 18. Proceeds from the event support numerous programs in Chermaitre—a mountain village in Haiti unreachable by road.
The annual sale has moved from the spring to the fall, following Vassar College’s decision to consolidate its two Family Weekends into one.
Founded by Andrew Meade, director of international services at Vassar College, and his wife, Lila, 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 saw 1,000 patients in its first full year, and provides health care to the residents of 30 villages. Dr. Dan Katz, a local Hudson Valley surgeon and member of VHP's Medical Advisory Board who visited the clinic in October 2014, had this to say, “After eight hours in the clinic I was exhausted but honored and humbled that these people had trusted me, a total stranger from another land, with the intimate details of their health.”
- Women's Cooperative. The 75-member cooperative was formed by village women looking to develop and hone marketable skills. The Co-op already harvests, roasts, grinds, and bags coffee that the VHP very quickly sells. The women are learning how 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 serves 300 children in kindergarten through sixth grade. A 50+% increase in both food cost and enrolment over just a few years has presented a challenge in terms of consistently providing hot meals to these schoolchildren.
VHP counts on success at sales and auctions of original Haitian art, held at Vassar and elsewhere, to generate the funding necessary to fund these important initiatives.
The sale at Vassar will run from Friday, September 18, through Sunday, September 20, in the College Center multi-purpose room on the second floor of Main Building. On Friday, the sale will run from 12:00 – 6:00pm. On Saturday, September 19, the sale will be open from 10:00am – 7:00pm, and will feature a reception and presentation at 5pm by student participants. On Sunday the sale will be open 10:00am – 2:00pm. 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/). Lorraine Kwok, a VHP president and member of Vassar’s class of 2015, said after traveling to Haiti, “I have come to understand the gravity of my commitment to the project and to the people of Chermaitre. I have seen how selflessness and compassion can bring together a group of individuals in two different parts of world to achieve a common goal.”
For more information about VHP, visit http://thehaitiproject.org.
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