POUGHKEEPSIE, NY--Members of the Vassar Haiti Project spent most of their spring break in northern Haiti, from March 8 to 17, visiting the village of Chermaitre as well as other locations and schools. They brought with them over one thousand pounds of supplies, donated by Hudson Valley residents and businesses and packed into 17 backpacks and suitcases. This cargo included medical and school supplies; 400 stuffed animals (collected by Deborah Johnson Ghasia from the Arthur S. May School and Marybeth Shirzadi of Fishkill's Trinity Episcopal Church); hundreds of crayons donated by Let's Get Personal; 300 toothbrushes and toothpaste donated by Dr. Donna Trimboli; soccer balls, donated by Amigos de Futbal, a local organization spearheaded by Zac Belok of Spackenkill High School; as well as other toys and games. Throughout this semester, since the earthquake, VHP has stored many of these donations in a trailer on the Vassar campus, courtesy of Arnoff Storage.
Some of the twelve students who traveled to Haiti as well as alumna Bindy Crouch, Vassar class of 1997, an emergency response worker in Haiti, will share their experiences through words, photos, and video on Friday, April 9, at the opening reception for the 9th Annual Haitian Art Sale and Auction. Hosted by the Vassar Haiti Project, the reception will begin at 5:00pm in the College Center's Multipurpose Room. Refreshments will be provided and the event is free and open to the public.
About the 2010 Vassar Haiti Project Trip
Of the participants during this 2010 March trip to Haiti, the 12 students (Caitlyn Anderson '12, Mario Arthur-Bentil '10, Livia Dinu '10, Claire Frohman '12, Fiona Koch '12, Lauren MacLean '12, Janeen Madan '10, Kristen Meade '10, Anh Ngo '10, Xiaoyuan "Charlene" Ren '13, Claudia Sanchez '11, and Samin Shehab '11) hailed from nine countries including the United States. The non-students included nurse Pam Bunker, long-time VHP member Caryn Halle, and VHP co-founders and directors, Lila and Andrew Meade.
Their journey began in the northern city of Cap Haitien, where they stayed with Pere Noe Bernier, one of their two Haitian partners. Pere Bernier built the first school in Chermaitre, supported, since 2003, by the Vassar Haiti Project. He is now based in Cap Haitien where he has constructed and opened many schools as well as a new about-to-open hospital. The VHP members visited some of the schools and some of the VHP students may return there this summer to teach English. The group then began their trek to Chermaitre, stopping with their other Haitian partner, Pere Jean Lenord Quatorze, in Gros Morne, then continuing on to the village of Fiervil, where the road ends.
Andrew Meade, director of international services and special projects at Vassar, noted that, "We were met at Fiervil by a swarm of schoolchildren and teachers, who came down the mountain from Chermaitre. Somehow, they scooped nearly all our belongings, most of which are backpacks and suitcases weighing close to 50 pounds, onto their heads and 'zoomed' back up the mountain -- an hour and a half walk up a steep trail. We left Cap Haitien just before 9:00am and finally arrived in Chermaitre just after 7:00pm on Wednesday."
During their day in Chermaitre, they took height and weight measurements of the schoolchildren, part of the health project led by Pam Bunker. Members of the group rotated through this task while others were engaged with the children playing games (jump rope, soccer, singing). Some of the group met with engineers and representatives from World Neighbors about the reforestation and water access and purification projects - with a small group hiking to the source of the mountain spring that the village hopes to tap into so that they no longer have to walk a half mile up and down a hill with a bucket of water. At the end of the day the VHP participants put on a show for the villagers and the villagers reciprocated with a performance of native song, drumming and dance. They concluded their time with a meeting with the villagers about the current progress of the project and possible future directions.
The next day and a half the VHP group spent in the village of L'Acul, where the medical clinic that VHP opened less than a year ago is housed. There they unloaded and organized the over 200 pounds of medical supplies they had transported. Pam Bunker and Doctor Etienne, another VHP partner, oversaw the care of about 80 patients from numerous villages and VHP members staffed the clinic's waiting room, pharmacy, took vital signs, and cared for children.
During their time in Haiti the group also visited the local art markets and artists and were able to purchase nearly 60 paintings for the upcoming sale.
“Our goal has always been to create sustainability in our adopted Haitian community,” noted Lila Meade. “Before this trip, the last time we visited Haiti was in 2008. These visits are critical to assessing the progress of our initiatives as well as creating a relationship with the villagers.”
The Vassar Haiti Project blog, http://blogs.vassar.edu/haitiproject, will continue to provide an up-to-date resource of activities as well as including a daily chronicle for the 2010 trip to Haiti and Chermaitre.
About the April Benefits for Haiti at Vassar
Haitian Art Sale and Auction (4/9 – 11)
The ninth annual Haitian Art Sale and Auction will feature over 300 paintings, sculptures, handcrafts, and hand-painted silk scarves, on view and for sale in the College Center’s multi-purpose room (second floor of Vassar’s historic Main Building) from Friday, April 9, through Sunday, April 11. The opening reception will be held on Friday at 5:00pm. An exhibition preview will be on view in the Palmer Gallery, April 4 – 7.
Some of the artists, whose work will be included are: Seymour Bottex, Reynald Joseph, Raymond Lafaille, Jean Laguerre, Fritzner Lamour, Mario Montilus, Fernand Pierre, Jean Adrien Seide, and Frantz Zephirin. The Vassar Haiti Project enables these Haitian artists and artisans to be self-sustaining through the sale of their artwork. The Meades noted that sales like Vassar’s are one of the only avenues for Haitian artists today to reach a marketplace.
The live auction will be conducted on Saturday, April 10, from 4:00 to 6:00pm by Bill Rinaldi of Rinaldi Auctions (registration and preview from 2:00 to 4:00pm). Absentee and telephone bidding will be accepted. A preview of the artwork is available at the Vassar Haiti Project website, http://projects.vassar.edu/haiti.
Benefit concert “Harmony and Hope: A Musical Bridge to Haiti” (4/24)
The benefit concert “Harmony and Hope: A Musical Bridge to Haiti,” on Saturday, April 24, will feature hundreds of participants, with performances by ten musical ensembles drawn from Vassar College as well as from the Hudson Valley community. The concert will support the rebuilding of the Holy Trinity Music School in Port-au-Prince, part of the historic Holy Trinity Cathedral complex in Port-au-Prince, which was completely destroyed by the earthquake. The Salle St. Cécile, Haiti’s only concert hall, along with all of the school’s instruments and musical facilities, have been lost.
Sponsored by the Vassar College Department of Music and the Vassar Haiti Project, the benefit concert will begin at 7:00pm in the Vassar Chapel. Tickets are $10 for students; $20 for general admission (minimum donation). Donations of $50 and above will include admission to a post-concert President’s Reception. Tickets will be available in advance at the College Center Information Desk, located on the first floor of Vassar’s historic Main Building.
The four Hudson Valley ensembles that will participate in the concert are: the Cappella Festiva Chamber Choir, an auditioned choir of trained vocalists celebrating its 35th anniversary season, Christine R. Howlett, artistic director, and Susan Bialek ’86, conductor; the Cappella Festiva Treble Choir, a group of young singers from the Hudson Valley, directed by Bialek; two Stringendo ensembles: the Strawberry Hill Fiddlers, a group 18 classically-trained string players from Dutchess County-area high schools, directed by Emily and Carole Schaad, as well as the award-winning Vivace Orchestra, comprised of 34 high school students from the Dutchess County-area, directed by Jonathan Handman.
In addition to the community musical groups, there will be six Vassar College ensembles featured in the program: the student-run Mahagonny Ensemble, dedicated to performing contemporary classical music, Mark Van Hare ’10 and Catherine O’Kelly ’11, conductors; the student-run Baroque ensemble, the Vassar Camerata, Emily Bookwalter ’10 and Nicholas Rocha ’11, conductors; the Vassar College Choir, an auditioned mixed choral ensemble of approximately 50 students, Drew Minter, conductor; the 20-piece Vassar College Jazz Ensemble, James Osborn, director; the Vassar College Orchestra, Eduardo Navega, conductor; and the Vassar College Women’s Chorus, Christine R. Howlett, conductor.
About the Vassar Haiti Project:
Co-founders Lila and Andrew Meade share roots in Haiti and were inspired to found the Vassar Haiti Project nine years ago with the goal to provide some help to the population of a country that even before this current disaster had 98% deforestation, 70% illiteracy, and 50% unemployment. Since its founding, the VHP has raised over $500,000 – through various efforts, including the annual art sale and auction. Through these funds, VHP has helped build the seven-room school in Chermaitre.
Today, the Vassar Haiti Project (VHP) has more than 100 members and is an all-volunteer Vassar College organization. VHP maintains its initial commitment to funding primary education, while also pursuing partnership efforts to improve reforestation, education, access to clean water, and healthcare in the village. These initiatives include planting thousands of fruit and coffee trees on the hillsides around Chermaitre; establishing water collection and purification systems in Chermaitre, with the cooperation of Poughkeepsie Rotary; and with support from the Trinity Church in Fishkill, establishing the first medical clinic in L’Acul (a neighboring village of Chermaitre) last June.
For further information about the Vassar Haiti Project and the ninth annual Haitian Art Sale and Auction, visit http://projects.vassar.edu/haiti. A video documenting the work of the Vassar Haiti Project, may be viewed on the website.
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