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September 28-30, 2018, this was my second September sale. Same location, same procedure, same room plan, and the same vibrant Haitian music. Doubtlessly they gave me a sense of nostalgia, but when I thought of the excited but nervous newbie that I was last year, I knew some things have become different.


Owning a set-up day for the first time was definitely an interesting experience for me. Much as I was always awed at the incredible change the CCMPR went through, I knew what it takes to have such a transformation more than last year. I cannot describe how much I would like to pass on all that I know about this beautiful sale when curious new members came to me with questions. Because of them, being in such a position was hopeful. I know there is so much bigger a picture that they yet to see, and I couldn’t wait for the the time when they see more and more and fall in love with VHP as I do. And this is how VHP goes on.


I missed Haiti a lot during the sale. While I was almost half-volunteer-half customer last year as I was browsing and appreciating the aesthetic beauty of the artworks, they became my nameable old friend this year. If I hadn’t been on the Haiti trip in March, I would never know how real those fairy-tale like paintings are. I would never be able to tell people about the story behind the adorable handcrafts. I would never be able to know how much more vital Haiti actually is than those already vital arts. It seemed that I suddenly was able to converse with the paintings, about the landscape, the people, and the stories beyond what is presented in the art.


Comparing to me knowing nothing even after going around the room, this year I felt omniscient while I was basically doing cashier at the small station. Not only because I knew more about the sale, but more importantly, because there were people I knew at every position. I think the one important thing that VHP has given me in this one year is the invaluable friendship we built through our work. I knew there were friends that I care about and care about me throughout the sale. I knew that they are the support I can turn to at any time in any condition. Thus, I knew we were not working at our position alone. We were working as a whole, like a snowball that rolls forward with countless snowflakes that hold on to each other.


This sale was new, but also retrospective. It suddenly made me realize, I have had this much here in VHP. Lila always says to everyone during the sale, “This space is your home.” While the last year I simply took this as an encouragement and comfort, now I have began to understand more and more of the meaning behind it.


— Laura Yang 21’, Education director


Save the Date! Join the Vassar Haiti Project in Sag Harbor, NY for our 6th annual Haitian Art Sale from July 20-July 22! The Haitian Art & Handcraft Sale ​will feature 200 original paintings, including some older, collectible works with a wide assortment of unique and affordable gifts, including silk scarves and jewelry. Many new and exquisite iron sculptures will be premiered, designed by Roosevelt, an artisan from Croix des Bouquets.

Location: Christ Episcopal Church, E Union St, Sag Harbor, NYUSA

The sale will be held in the Christ Episcopal Church’s Upper Parish Hall at the following times:FRIDAY, JULY 20
5 PM – 8 PM

9 AM – 5 PM

9 AM – 2 PM

Free and open to the public—all welcome! All sales are 50% tax-deductible.

For more information, you can call 845-797-2123 or visit thehaitiproject.org. All artwork can be viewed and purchased online if you can’t make it to the sale.


Trip Reflections

Hassan Ragy ‘21: Why Haiti? We were asked this question on our very first morning by the Haitian-American musician Richard Morse and, to be honest, it was a question that I had myself often wondered about the answer to. While I had the medium of art try to understand the vitality and vibrancy of Haiti the truth was that, to me, the Vassar Haiti Project could have been the Vassar Anywhere-In-The-Universe Project and I would have happily dedicated myself to it. But as the airplane grazed onto the runway in Port-au-Prince, there was a moment when I looked outside the window and saw tall, mottled green grasses bent gently in the wind, backed by blue-purple mountains and I saw not only the reality outside, but the exact image of a painting I had seen many times before. This trip to me was a chance to reach through the canvas and experience that art in every dimension. Ten days in Haiti have not made me an expert, nor will I ever claim to be. However, in remaining present throughout my time I was lucky enough to be welcomed wholeheartedly into new experiences. Why Haiti? Because Haiti has a heartbeat, an energy, a vitality that is palpable and inextinguishable.


Jillian Hornbeck ‘20: The most memorable experience I have from Haiti was one fleeting moment as I was brushing my teeth over the side of a cliff, on the top of the mountain in Chermaitre. It was our first night there, and the primary school had finally settled down from the excitement of the hike. The previous hours had been spent playing games with the children, and reflecting on our journey up the mountain. As I stood there brushing my teeth I turned my head up to the sky and was taken aback by the beauty of the sky, and the enormity of it all. There had to have been millions and millions of stars in the sky that night, and the sight of it all evoked an emotion I have never felt before. The best I can describe it is an ache: an ache to learn more, an ache to hear the stories of Haiti, an ache to experience life and be present like I never have before. In the preceding days I would hear stories, and experience the raw emotions of life, but I still feel a pang of that emotion I first felt that night: an ache to hear the millions of untold stories that are still out there, stars in the sky waiting to be seen. I believe that VHP is working to uncover these stories, and I hope that we will never stop listening and learning from the beautiful country of Haiti.


Annicka Rowland ‘20: My trip to Haiti with the Vassar Haiti Project has opened my eyes to the true meaning of VHP. Before the trip, everything we talked about – from the clinic, to the primary school, to the artists we buy art from – were abstract concepts far removed from my everyday life. Now, I have seen all of this and more, allowing me to better understand Haiti. What’s more, Haiti taught me the meaning of community, hard work, and patience, ideas that are difficult to learn in a classroom setting. I have returned to Vassar with a renewed energy and passion to continue to work with the people of the Vassar Haiti Project to make it the best it can be.


Catherine Wu ‘21: Life-changing, breath-taking, overwhelming… these words are not sufficient to describe my experience in Haiti. Haiti became another home, and the people that we met along this journey became another family. Going there definitely took me some time to adjust to a new way of life, but coming back from such a vibrant and multi-dimensional place is what really challenged me. Every aspect of this journey and the emotions that we felt—joy, sadness, frustration, disappointment, surprise, determination, etc—made this experience complete. Going to various art galleries, stores, and the market to purchase paintings and handcrafts, to the health clinic and up the mountain to Chermaitre to lead meetings with our partners, to the schools and churches, to the hospitals and children’s home, and even to the guest house and hotels… all led me to acknowledge the number of possibilities that exist in Haiti despite the “Haitian situation” that many artists told us about. Dreams and hopes are manifested in the children’s smiles, the women’s harmonious voices, the vibrancy of Haitian art, and in the way that many Haitians lead their lives—with dignity and courage.

There is so much to learn from them, and I have come to admire the mens’ persistence in helping us through many difficult situations on the trip, the womens’ strength and power in taking care of entire households, the artists’ talents and resiliency, and of course the love, care, and hospitality that all these people have shown towards us. Having encountered these various experiences, I finally understand more about our project and the notion of being—being present, observant, aware, and open-minded to our surroundings and the people around us. But, there is still so much to learn, to listen, then to take actions in order to provide consistent support to our partners in Haiti as we continue our projects here at Vassar. Having the opportunity of seeing both the beauty and hardships in Haiti, I can now feel the weight of responsibility pressing more urgently on my shoulders, as I am even more committed to making a difference there. Ti pa ti pa, wazo fe niche li—little by little, the bird builds its nest.


Annabell Su ‘21: Being in Haiti feels like it happened decades ago, yet the faces, laughters, and memories are still vivid in my mind. The experience has been so special, that it seems very difficult to connect with my “ordinary” and “routine” life. Indeed, so much of our sense of being is different from what we have experienced in Haiti–the weather, the people, the conversations…Yet, when we note only the distance between two kinds of life, it separates us from communicating and connecting with Haiti; the more I think about how unique the experience is, the more I feel I am keeping a safe distance from “reality;” this is not the purpose of the trip. In fact, there are so many connections I drew and should draw from Haiti: colorful and noisy Port-au-Prince reminds me of my childhood in Bangkok, Thailand; undrinkable tap water is what I deal with everyday back in China; the positive energy of the people is no less powerful than what I saw in Nepal a few years ago…

Somehow, even though this was my first time in Haiti, I feel more rooted in Haiti than in America. The places around the world are more similar than we thought, the world itself is so much more interrelated than we imagined, and when we emphasize the differences between two kinds of life and two worlds of human beings, aren’t we missing so much that is in common, that can act as a bridge between the so-called “developing countries” and “developed countries”? As I try to normalize the experience, I stop considering it as a “once in a lifetime” experience, but as something that I will build on in the future, that I will return, both physically and spiritually, holding the feelings and inspirations I have for “remote areas” even beyond Chermaitre, beyond Haiti. Again, I appreciate the opportunity to be in Haiti, to feel (even just a small part) Haiti, and to experience Haiti with all of the amazing trippers. They are talented, sweet, kind, considerate, reflective, and I am just so proud to be part of this amazing team. As for now, I am ready to be bonded with the trippers and VHP for my whole life.


Meeraal Zaheer ‘20: One of the things I was confronted with when I went to Haiti was my thoughts. With all of the things you take in, your brain is moving a mile a minute and it’s not easy to process everything that’s going on around you; especially with the busy days that we had during the trip. With all this in mind, by the end of our trip to Haiti I learned that self-reflection cannot be instantaneous. Rather, it needed to settle with me before I could respond to my thoughts and the conclusions that arose from them. That being said, being in Haiti taught me the true meaning of being present. I don’t think I personally have been aware of my presence – physically, spatially and temporally – as intensely and transparently as I was during those ten days. After the self-reflection and the being present, I’ve come back to Vassar with a stronger desire and motivation to work on both new and old projects in VHP. By strengthening our existing partnership with Chermaitre and continuing to expand beyond the village to partner with others in Haiti to help us achieve our mission, I am excited to see where this project will take us.


Laura Yang ‘21: On hiking day, we stayed at our clinic at the bottom of the mountain until 3 pm. Suddenly, there were children from Chermaitre running down the mountain to the clinic. We were surrounded by these cute children with the biggest eyes and purest faces. They were in green uniforms, which told us that they go to the primary school we built in Chermaitre. They just started to hold hands, grab at clothes, give pats on the shoulder, braid hair, play clapping games, and sing in Creole, just like we were their long-time best friends.

Then, they followed us all the way to the point where we started hiking. One or two children grabbed each of our hands and led us up the mountain. I was awed by how they skillfully managed the steep track in the mountain, jumping around in places that I could never imagine walking on. But they never let go of our hands. And occasionally they would even save us from slipping and then give us a big smile.

That was the time when Chermaitre started feel real to me. Those children were no longer figures in a narration of one or two sentences. They are concrete, alive human beings to me.

That was the time when everything we’ve done in VHP turned from 2 dimensional to 3 dimensional. I realized that what we are doing is not only holding sales, handling paintings and putting down numbers on inventory but really, connecting and communicating with those people.

We had never met with those children. But on the way from the clinic to Chermaitre, I felt like we’d known each other for a long time. And I realized that it was the continuous effort of every VHPer in the past 18 years that made us so close. They didn’t know us as individuals, yet, but they knew us as VHP as a whole.


Ayumi Haremaki ‘20: One of the most impactful moments for me in visiting Chermaitre was when we got to visit the primary school, and sit in on some of the classes. As I sat in on a sixth grade class studying biology, the teacher brought in a real plant, pointing out the roots, stem, and leaves to explain each of their structure and function. This made me think back to the times when in my educational experience, professors would bring in artifacts, and invite guest lecturers. I remember how important it is to have a dynamic and engaging learning experience. Even though the classrooms in Chermaitre look vastly different from those on campus, I was reminded of the universality and importance of education. Education is where VHP started, and where I feel a strong connection.


Sohaib Nasir ‘21: When I first joined VHP, I joined an organization that bought artwork from Haiti, sold the artwork, and used the returns to support a village known as Chermaitre. Upon my return from the March trip, I’m re-entering an organization that buys artwork from Benoit, Fedlin, Meerat and Jimmy, sells the artwork in Greenwich, Sag Harbor and DC, and uses the returns to facilitate Axilion’s education, furnish Dr Gueslin’s clinic, and support Edwa’s financial independence. The trip added color and character to the project I had been a part of for so long, bringing to life all the people we help and adding context to all the work that we do. The trip was, in short, an amazing learning experience, a rewarding opportunity to partner with others, and the start of wonderful relationships that I hope will last me a lifetime.


Oshin Tahsin ‘20: The March trip to Haiti 2018 was one of the most exciting and memorable times of my life. It was just not an experience, but a glimpse of another sort of world. I got see the work VHP does for real and meet the wonderful people of Haiti – cheerful kids filled with pure happiness and laughter, hard-working, strong men and women filled with passion, and talented artists painted by inspiring dreams and aspirations.

The galleries we visited and streets of Port Au Prince we roamed were flooded with art and crafts that seemed even livelier than what I see in the closets of Main building. The primary and secondary schools had children bursting with enthusiasm and curiosity, each having a dream of their own. It was very emotional to visit the clinic in Chermaitre where I got to work with nurse Julie and see patients. Dr Gueslin was very insightful and taught us a lot about medicine while we took notes and he saw patients. The meetings of the committees were very informative about the ongoing situation of Chermaitre’s five initiatives and aided immensely in our planning for upcoming projects. And, the debriefs were quite emotional and inspiring, where it was fascinating to be able to experience Haiti through everyone else’s perspective at the same time besides my own. Everyone had their own stories to tell, own feelings they encountered, and own way of absorbing it all and having notions. Every day was a different story, with different adventures it their own colors. The hikes up and down on sunny and rainy days were quite an experience for me, both wonderful in terms of breathtaking sceneries and strenuous since it was my first hike. The wild exciting car rides and our cars getting stuck in the river for hours seemed like a scene from a movie, both stressful and also relieving to see so many helping hands from generous kind-hearted Haitian souls. At a time, it felt like we could all camp out there under the gleaming stars and hear the croaking sound of river to sleep. However, our destination for that night was nearby so that did not happen. We felt comforted by the soothing wind as we encouraged all the men hard at work to get the cars out of the river, their hearts filled with sheer determination.

The journey has engraved many cherished memories in my mind and has touched the deepest corners of my soul. It has made me feel every kind of emotion, some I have never felt before. If I could go back in time at an point of my life, I would definitely relive it all again.



From our trippers!


Lila Meade: I woke up to the cacophony of roosters singing in harmony to the response of dogs protesting whatever impending danger they perceived. This started happening at 3am. I’ve forgotten that sleep is not the foremost conversation when we come Haiti – the rhythm of this country is such that sleep is overrated. Especially in contrast to all I still have to learn. While this is my 19th trip to Haiti, the beautiful Haitian people keep reminding me of how much I can still grow. It is always humbling.

In less than three days, we sat in our fifth (what is now infamous) debrief meeting last night. The ‘we’ is ten amazing Vassar students, and the one and only Caryn who has loved and supported this project since its very beginning 17 years ago. We now have a cache of over 115 beautifully vibrant pieces of original art that we shall be selling over the coming months in our upcoming art sales. We think of how many lives we’ve touch and will touch through the art. We are so lucky.

Our partners here in Haiti remind me of why we do VHP. Benoit Profelus, a young artist who was still wearing his apron covered in paint smudges when he came running to our simple guest house in Gros Morne to greet us said, “I just couldn’t sleep last night, I am so excited knowing that you are coming today. I welcome you!” Benoit, at the ripe age of 24, has started an art school which now is training 22 young people how to paint and start a livelihood for themselves.

Benoit, I can hardly sleep also. I love you and your people. I am privileged to be welcomed into your heart and to learn from you. Being here in the rural, mountainous part of Haiti is a stark contrast to Port au Prince where we were just a day ago.

Our students are transforming before our very eyes, taking in everything. This group of ‘trippers’ as we affectionately call them (students going on the Haiti ‘trip’) are wide-eyed, open, introspective, and struggling to make sense of the contradictions that are Haiti. I love being with this group as I watch us drink in everything that we see. We’ve figured out that there are probably two of us out of thirteen who are extroverts– so we must allow lots of time for reflection. Journaling seems to be the antidote.

I am moved beyond words watching us work as a team. I am moved beyond words watching Catherine take in the plight of Haitian artists as she interviews them and absorbs their challenges. I am inspired by how each and every one is taking care of each other – and me for that matter. (Thank you Ayumi for grounding me as we worked our way through the art market “Miss! Miss! Miss!”). I fall in love with Andrew again and again as I watch him masterfully navigate all challenges with such strength and gentleness. I am listening and reminded what it takes to make concrete changes in a village somewhere in the depths of the Haitian mountains while concurrently making changes in our part of the world in New York.

And today, we head into these breathtaking mountains where I will get to embrace some of the most loving, tenacious, and caring people in my life. We all can’t wait for the hour and a half drive through riverbeds and unmarked roads that will lead us to the base of the mountain and then the two hour uphill climb to Chermaitre. I hope my crying knees forgive me for what’s about to come. But I know my heart will be singing when we arrive to see our family in Chermaitre again. I just can’t wait.


Ayumi Haremaki: Hassan, Meeraal, and I are busy journaling, trying to take in everything we have experienced.


Laura Yang: I am busy writing down Annabell’s (and everyone’s) quotes, trying to record every delightful moment we have created together.


Jillian Hornbeck: Haiti has been a beautiful and exhilarating time so far which has opened my eyes and has already taught me countless lessons. This country has a vibrant movement and energy, and I am excited to finally make our way up to Chermaitre and see more of Haiti!


Sohaib Nasir: I love hiking. I realized today morning that I misplaced my sunglasses so I am kinda sad. But its okay because we’re going hiking.


Hassan Ragy: Yesterday we drove from Port-au-Prince to Gonaives. Driving through dry, rocky mountains covered in shrubbery, along the sparkling blue ocean lined with coconut trees, over rolling hills and acres of rice farms, through crowded cities and markets, and areas where the only people for hundreds of meters are busy in the rice fields, all with the striking backdrop of the mountains. Haiti is rich, beautiful, and diverse, in its landscapes, wildlife, and its people.


Annika Rowland: This trip has been unlike any I have experienced. I have greatly enjoyed traveling though Port Au Prince and and am beginning to better understand the lives of the Haitians. Today we visit the clinic and hike up to Chermaitre, and I could not be more excited. I know the next few days will be life changing.


Tahsin Oshin: It has been overwhelming 3 days since we reached Haiti, and each day has revealed a different part of VHP and Haiti for me. Travelling with a dynamic group, it has been an interesting and pleasant experience to see Haiti through others eyes.


Caryn Halle: Someone said “One day in Haiti is like a week…” They may have meant this due to Haiti’s intense rhythm, but I would say that is true given how much we have accomplished in such a short time. We are just a few hours from our ascent to the village, and I am incredibly excited to see the changes that have occurred in the village over the last four years, since my last trip. It’s also truly an honor to be a part of this diverse group of students, and to be able to see Haiti through their eyes. There is so much more to learn.


Annabell Su: Ready to go :)


Art & Soul

Never did I imagine that arranging paintings on a panel, in preparation for Art and Soul, (our fundraising event which funds the clinic in Haiti for a year) would have such an unforgettable effect on who I am as an individual. As I visualized what was being portrayed, and trying to understand what the artists were conveying, I was taken on an internal journey that I did not want to end. It began with a vibrant painting of beautiful women dancing to their own rhythms, as if they were unmoved by the outer world and untouched by the disturbances surrounding them.

This reminded me of the power of women, and how we are able to create inner spaces of abundant joy and peace in spite of what surrounds us. We are able to be the binding force that holds everything together,
 regardless of the many instabilities that exist in our world. We are able to keep the rhythm going.

-Makeba Walcott ’19, Women’s Initiative Director


Listen to a recent radio interview with Peter Leonard, Lila Meade and Molly McCarthy about the Art and Soul Gala by clicking on the link below!



Art & Soul Preparations

Preparation for Art & Soul is the epitome of collaboration and cooperation amongst the various VHP committees. In the last two weeks, the Health Committee has reached out to the Merch Committee and Events Committee to check on gifts and signup sheets.

                              As Art & Soul is approaching, the committees are working together to get the fine details down, from posters to merch to food. Questions are thrown from left to right to make every single minuscule detail perfect for the event. And I believe this process really highlights the sense of community, teamwork, and dedication that defines VHP. 

-Connie Zhong, Health Committee Member


Preparations for Art & Soul

As we prepare for the Art & Soul Gala, we have asked some of our Health Committee members to share their thoughts. Thank you to Violet Tan for starting us off!


“The upcoming Art and Soul Gala has sent the various VHP committees aflutter with activity. The Health Committee’s various deliberations on logistics and performance line-ups is especially telling of the gravity of this event. Issues arise, from important questions – “what sort of presents should we give to the sponsors?” – to minuscule problems – “poster dimensions, anybody?” No detail is too small; no stone is left unturned. VHP members have thrown themselves into this project with no-holds-barred gusto, and if all goes well – it will – the Art and Soul Gala will be a sight to behold.”

– Violet Tan, Health Committee Member


St. Mark’s Sale

Over the weekend of February 2nd, VHP hosted an art sale at the St. Mark’s Church on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C for the second time.  This sale was spearheaded by the brilliant Jackie Eiting, who sits on our Board of Directors, and was executed by community volunteers who housed us, Vassar alumni who helped work the sale, and VHP students who spent their weekend away from Vassar.  As one of our most successful off-campus sales, it was a true team effort with each VHPer working in harmony from set-up Friday morning to tear-down Sunday afternoon.
Returning from my junior fall semester abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark as one of the co-presidents, this sale was extra special to me.  It was amazing to meet new and returning customers and see so many people embrace VHP’s compassionate mentality, especially in light of President Trump’s disrespectful comments towards Haiti.  However, what made this sale the most special was having the opportunity to bond with the four Vassar first-years going on the annual trip to Haiti in March.  Witnessing their excitement at being involved in VHP and anticipation of the trip was infectious and reminded my of my own experience preparing for the trip two years ago.  Having once engaged in these conversations as a first-year with the current presidents, and now having the same conversations as a co-president myself showed me what a full circle VHP is.  Remembering the transformative experience I had in Haiti two years ago confirms why I have stayed stayed involved in the organization and continue to work hard for Chermaitre.  I’m so excited for all the exciting things VHP has coming this semester!
-Alex Ng ’19, Co-President

Love is one of the Vassar Haiti Project’s core values so today, and every day, we celebrate it in all of its forms. Happy Valentine’s Day from VHP! ❤


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