The future that Vassar Haiti Project (VHP) is creating is threefold. We envision a positive, sustainable future for the village of Chermaitre, Haiti. We also promote Haitian art and culture in the U.S. through art sales, which in turn provide our primary means of supporting five sustainable development initiatives in Chermaitre. Thirdly, college students and community volunteers learn to be strong and compassionate leaders through education and practical applications of global citizenship.
Our five sustainable development initiatives are education, health, reforestation, water access and purification, and women’s leadership.
Education: VHP supports student meals, teacher salaries, school supplies, and building infrastructure for École St. Paul de Chermaitre, a kindergarten-to-6th grade school of 383 children.
A Haitian doctor and nurse staff the newly constructed Chermaitre-Fiervil Clinic, providing dependable health care to Chermaitre and 30 nearby villages.
Reforestation: Thousands of fruit, lumber, and coffee trees have been planted in Chermaitre since 2010, with plans to plant 100,000 in total next year.
Water: A network of cisterns was installed to address limited water access in mountainous Chermaitre. We also plan to expand our water purification program to reach more families.
Leadership: 75* energetic and self-starting women
of Chermaitre have come together to form a co-operative to provide a space of solidarity, develop their business-related skills, and better their livelihoods. They hope to sell hand-roasted coffee, handmade jams and peanut butter, napkins, jewelry, and other
handicrafts, both locally and in the U.S.
*of which 54 are official co-op members
Vassar Haiti Project members make several trips a year to Haiti to purchase original Haitian artwork and to meet with our partners in Chermaitre, who include the local priest, the village school director, the women’s co-op, and the nurse and doctor of the Chermaitre-Fiervil Clinic, among many others. While there, we are committed to deepening our relationships with our partners while also forging new relationships with other organisations working in Haiti. Our days in Chermaitre are action-packed with meetings, focus groups, and children’s health and wellness measurements. These activities allow us to measure the progress of our initiatives and collaborate with our partners in creating strategies for the future.
Vassar College students and U.S. volunteers have the opportunity to participate in these trips, exposing them to Haitian culture and give them the chance to widen their global perspective.
VHP funds our five sustainable development initiatives in three major ways: (1) The sale of Haitian art and handcrafts, (2) Grants, and (3) Private donations. Our primary means of funding has been the sale of art: Through art auctions and sales in the U.S., VHP shares the splendours of Haitian culture and supports the welfare of hundreds of Haitian artists and artisans.
The Vassar Haiti Project was founded in 2001, and is a collaborative, all-volunteer organization. Today, it is recognised as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with over 100 members and volunteers dedicated to supporting Haitian artists and the people of Chermaitre.
Co-founders Lila and Andrew Meade both have strong personal connections to Haiti and were inspired to partner with and to support the village of Chermaitre, Haiti. What started as a commitment to providing school lunches for 175 students at Ecole St. Paul de Chermaitre has blossomed into a commitment to supporting 383 students, 7,000 clinic patients, the 54 women of the Femmes de Chermaitre women’s co-op, water access for 150 families, and thousands of fruit and lumber trees on the mountainsides of Chermaitre.
The Haitian people we have met in our 13 years of work have been nothing short of warm and welcoming, and Chermaitre has shown itself to be an incredibly resilient community. At the same time, we know another reality exists: Haiti is also a country with 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 strength and optimism.