Alex: Lila often told our partners in Haiti that the people of Haiti teach us how to care for the world. I couldn’t think of a more accurate way to describe how much I learned about both humanity and myself from our experience in Haiti. There really is no way that I can accurately describe the beauty, vitality, and strength of the people and places we saw and the interactions we had in Haiti. Never before have I been forced to confront such harsh and juxtaposing extremes. Unable to stop thinking about our partners in Haiti, I return back to America and Vassar more motivated and focused than ever to make VHP as strong a program as possible. Thank you to all our partners in Haiti, especially Pere Wildaine, Andrew and Lila, and the 2016 Trippers for making this the experience of a lifetime!
Amaesha: As soon as I arrived in Haiti, I was overwhelmed by the welcoming atmosphere. Whether it was Jina’s unwavering hand as I climbed the mountain or the little girls who braided my hair with such patience and care, I realized that love has no language. Seeing Jina’s face light up as she understood Tic Tac Toe and Mackenson’s face break into a smile as I let him wear my jacket made me realize that the beauty I admired in the surrounding landscapes and Haitian art was the same beauty that I saw everyday in the faces of the different people I interacted with. Having so little but giving so much of themselves, they left permanent marks on my soul. As for my fellow trippers, Lila, Andrew, Pere Wildaine, Quincy, Edson, Benoit & Jimmy, I learned so many important life lessons from these people that I will cherish forever. Every part of our journey helped me see VHP in a new light and helped me to understand myself a little better. As I take part in VHP events, I will continue to visit Haiti in my mind and heart. This is a trip I will remember for years to come.
Thank you for living powerfully in the question of who you and VHP are, rather than being stopped by those questions or settling upon one answer. Thank you for time and time again presencing your higher selves, for coming from love while stepping boldly into the unknown. Thank you for your incredible willingness to constantly step beyond doubt and outside of your comfort zones.
Thank you for your trust and thank you for tenderly loving and taking care of one another – and for having a blast in so doing!
Thank you also for loving Haiti.
Mwen remen ou anpil.
Anna: This trip had been a wonderful and inspirational journey. I learned a lot throughout these 10 days about VHP, Haitian culture, and self identity. I had the opportunity to see Haiti in its natural, original form after only being able to visualize it from the words of others. Seeing the different styles of Haitian art, talking to locals with limited Kreyol skills, and forming these new relationships with a culture that is completely different from my own made me treasure every interaction I had; I love Haiti not only for its culture, but because it also constantly tempts us to question, reevaluate and learn the dynamics of life. I know that we are all not the same people after this trip. The experiences in Haiti were mountains beyond mountains. I will treasure these memories dearly, and thank you to everyone for making this trip possible.
Hao: Before this trip, I had a vague impression of Haiti and what VHP is doing in Chermaitre; but the trip visualized everything. Now I come back with 100 reasons to love Haiti: I love the flowing river, the surprises and happiness on children’s faces, the colorful painting strokes, the sound of nature between mountains, and the people passing by, greeting “Bonjour” with shiny smiles☺. I appreciate everyone who made this trip possible, and became such a precious, transformative, and fun experience in life.
Kidus: I truly believed before this trip that I understood what VHP was and did.
I honestly was completely in the dark about both Chermaitre and our work there. There are a million different cheesy lines and ideas that I could convey to describe our experiences or the people there. I won’t claim to know or really understand a culture or people from a 10 day trip, but I do feel comfortable stating that I met some lovely people, saw some beautiful landscapes, and experienced firsthand the inspirations for the wonderful art I took for granted at our art sales.
I’ve learned that the work we do isn’t perfect, but it has had real, meaningful results for our partners in Chermaitre. I hope to continue this work.
Shoutouts to Andrew and Lila for everything you have done and continue to do; to my fellow trippers for putting up with my philosophical tangents; and Pere Wildaine, Edson, and Quincy for not abandoning us on the side of the road after days of listening to us butcher Creole and asking too many questions.
It was grand.
Lauren: I don’t know what to do with myself now that I’m not constantly surrounded by 12 of my favorite people at Vassar, and the two who made the entire experience possible, Lila and Andrew. I don’t think I really believed people when they said I’d be processing the trip for the next six months, but I get it now. I think I’ll be trying to understand everything I saw and learned on this trip for the rest of my life. I don’t know what else I can say about it right now, because I’m still exhausted and emotional and can’t think straight, but I just want to conclude that I would not trade my experiences in Haiti for anything. In ten short-but-so-very-long days, I fell in love with Haiti and its people, and I think they deserve anything we can do to support them and show the world how beautiful, powerful, and admirable they are. My relationship with VHP, and the world, has been forever changed, and I want to thank Lila, Andrew, my fellow Trippers, Pere Wildaine, Edson, Quincy, Mackenson, Benoit and Jimmy, Nurse Rosenerline, the children of Chermaitre, and everyone else I met or got to know for that. Love you all. [Current music: Only Just a Call Away, by The Struts]
Lila: The level of team for VHP is now taken to a new level. This trip stretched us all into the question of (ok everyone, sigh) being and who each of us are individually and collectively in caring for this wild and wonderful world we live in. Thank you all for the laughs, the tears, and the love that poured out for over 12 days. I shall never forget the moments of the trip where we were one. And for our family left behind in Haiti, thank you for teaching me that simplicity is the way. And last but not least, to Pere Wildaine….why didn’t you vote for “our” car to be #1? You know we were the best…..
Lily: Before leaving Haiti, I questioned what it would be like to return. How do I respond to the question, how was your trip? A sentence certainly doesn’t do this experience justice. It wasn’t “good.” This trip has given so much meaning to what VHP does, and my work with the organization. Meeting the villagers of Chermaitre, it makes all of the work we do here real, and makes me so much more determined to do as much as I can. Being on this trip with such an amazing group of people helped me to get so much more out of this experience. They inspired me, and helped me to interpret all of the feelings and experience from this trip. Now that I’m back, I know that I will be relying on them to help me readjust. My priorities have changed so much, and I know that this trip has forever altered my perspective and I couldn’t be more grateful to have been a part of this experience.
“Does VHP really help the people in Haiti? Why do you love VHP?” I asked Shiqi.
“Ask me the same questions after the trip.” she replied.
And now, I am back from Haiti, sitting in the same dorm and in front of the same computer. Yet I am different and all the questions I asked Shiqi have answers. My ten days in Haiti, accompanied by our wonderful team, Pere Wildaine, Edson, Quincy, people in Chermaitre and more, are thought-provoking and unforgettable. The trip contextualized VHP and Chermaitre. Statistics from the reforestation initiative are no longer numbers, but they contain the villagers’ complaints about the soil, PW’s great vision for the program and lovely coffee sprouts in the seedling plots. “Chermaitre” is no longer a name of a village, but it is the kids who danced and sang for us, the people who smiled and said “Bonjour”, the simple lifestyle of the villagers, as well as the poverty and struggle we witnessed. “Do not romanticize smallness, think BIG!” and the trip will keep inspiring me to work harder and have the determination to make VHP larger and better. I am grateful for being on this life-changing trip!
Melanie: Sitting behind a big screen in the library, I have no words to describe the complexities of this trip. The questions and thoughts that our experiences in Haiti have generated remain in my mind and heart. I would like to acknowledge the openness and friendliness of the people we met, especially our translator and mentor Pere Wildaine, our drivers Edson and Quincy, as well as the people of Chermaitre who made sure that we came back from our hikes in one piece. They made this trip unforgettable, and I will treasure every moment that we shared together.
Paarul: I’m back at home, getting ready to go back to Vassar, yet Haiti is continuously in my thoughts. Everywhere I look, I see abundance and I’m reminded of the poverty and simplicity of Haiti. As Zoe says, I’m also left with a whirlwind of emotions as I’m readjusting back into life here – and one of those emotions is determination. I’m determined to help us share and act upon all that we experienced and the love we received in Haiti. With another Munchy Monday around the corner, I’m positive that this trip has called us all into action and I’m excited to see what’s next!
Serena: People usually say something is unreal to describe its amazingness. And while I would call Haiti “unreal” because it was incredible in so many ways, Haiti is 100% real. The beauty and brokenness, the joy and suffering, all of it. The people there embracingly loved us without resentment despite our privilege to live worrying over status, success, and power rather than food, shelter, and health. Thankful for all the people who we made relationships with and took us under their wing throughout the trip. Grateful to God for bringing me to Vassar to join this project. I hope that Haiti continues to have hope in the promise of Jesus, and we can continue to love our global neighbors and show a tangible hope.
Thao: The biggest contrast from the trip for me was the poverty and difficult living conditions versus the strength, love, and hope the people of Haiti continuously surprised me with! The interactions, experiences, and memories from the trip have and will continue to give me the strength and hope to love more, dream bigger, and work harder to be able to help more people and improve our work as the Vassar Haiti Project. I believe that my biggest accomplishment last year was joining VHP, and this year I am most proud and thankful to have had the opportunity to go on this trip with all our brilliant trippers, as well as our incredible “honorary trippers” Pere Wildaine, Quincy and Edson. The trip would not have been as perfect without any of you, mwen sonje ou et Ayiti!!!
Zoe: Reflecting back on our trip from my familiar dorm room, my mind is full of flashbacks of beautiful scenery, moments shared, and a whirlwind of emotions. What stands out to me the most are the connections and relationships we formed; learning Kreyol, speaking with Edson, Quincy and Pere Wildaine, playing UNO and tic-tac-toe, speaking Spanish with Mackenson, sorting beads and playing in the corner of the clinic with Amaesha and the 3 little boys we met. Equally salient is the extreme juxtaposition we witnessed. While sorting beads and having fun at the clinic, a boy was brought in and lay on cardboard with an IV inserted, nearly unconscious because of Cholera. Driving through Port-au-Prince I was entranced by the vibrant colors and beauty of the city, this was contrasted by rubble and damage still present from the earthquake. We danced, laughed and jump roped with children in the Kindergarten/Community Center building that is still under construction. This location also proved to be the location of intense sorrow when I learned that during a storm some of the cinderblocks the building is made of fell on some children and eventually had mortal consequences. These gut-wrenching, emotional moments lit a fire under me and my fellow trippers. We are now more motivated and determined than ever to raise the funds needed for our initiatives – most notably, funds for completion of the building construction and for the books for our friends in secondary school. I hope everyone will join us in our efforts!