The future that Vassar Haiti Project (VHP) envisions is twofold. We envision a future in which college students learn to be strong yet compassionate leaders through being a part of something bigger than themselves. More importantly, we envision a positive, sustainable future for Chermaitre - a future in line with what the village envisions for itself. VHP works in partnership with Chermaitre to create this future, starting with education. The current goals of the project are to continue to strengthen the operations of the school and clinic, reforest a community tree plot by planting 100,000 trees and distributing trees to individual families, and to install a water purification system.
The goal of this particular campaign is to raise funds for a new kindergarten building. Affordable education from kindergarten through sixth grade opens up the possibility for students to attend secondary school in the closest town of Gros Morne. Without VHP subsidies, education would not be affordable for the majority of the students. In line with the priorities of the people of Chermaitre, we believe that providing education to the children will help the village thrive. The new kindergarten building will play a key role in this future, serving as both an educational and a community space.
The central goal of VHP is to help ensure the future that Chermaitre envisions for itself. Education is a key component of this future. In order for this future to see fruition, Chermaitre needs a new kindergarten building.
VHP raises funds to support the future of Chermaitre in a variety of ways. We directly support the welfare of hundreds of Haitian artists and artisans through art auctions and sales in the US. These art sales in turn provide our primary means of funding for sustainable and collaborative development in Chermaitre, in the areas of education, healthcare, water access and purification, and reforestation.
Co-founders Lila and Andrew Meade both have strong personal connections to Haiti and were inspired to found the Vassar Haiti Project in 2001 with the goal of providing support to the village of Chermaitre. Haiti is a country of warm, welcoming people and resilient communities. Haiti is also a country that has 98% deforestation, 70% illiteracy, and 50% unemployment. In spite of the circumstances they face, the people of Chermaitre continue to strive for a better future with incredible strength and optimism.
VHP’s first priority is to build a new kindergarten classroom to replace the currently structurally-unsound building. The present building serves as the social center of the village and is a symbol of the vibrancy of Chermaitre. However, the structure is now unsafe to be in following severe storm damage earlier this year. The new kindergarten building we are planning to build will allow the schoolchildren to learn in a safer space that is well-protected against the elements. It is a crucial first step in ensuring undisrupted and effective education in the long-run. In the after-school hours, the building will also serve as a community space.
The Education Initiative was VHP's original initiative. It started in 2001 with a rudimentary one-room building, serving the 175 students (kindergarten through grade five) of Ecole St. Paul de Chermaître. VHP's first financial commitments were to the school lunch program, and subsequently teachers' salaries, school supplies and uniforms as well.
In 2004 and 2005, VHP’s art sales began bringing in enough funds to start constructing a new school building. By the summer of 2008, after an investment of $40,000 in construction, a new seven-room school was built. All the while, VHP continued supporting the school's lunch program. Kindergarten classes are still held in the rudimentary church/community space next to the school.
As of October 2012, there are 185 students attending the school, which has expanded to include grade six. This year, the school won Second Prize in a regional academic competition among 55 schools. Most of VHP's Education Initiative funds still go towards the lunch program, but there are many new programs we would love to start alongside it.
Today, the Vassar Haiti Project (VHP) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with more than 100 members and volunteers dedicated to supporting Haitian artists and the people of Chermaitre. We hope to share our story with the world, and that the world will help us start some good in Chermaitre.