Walking hand in hand with them, I became really aware that I was tracing the paths that they take to go to school every day. At that moment, it suddenly struck me that the three of them – who are all around 8 years old – have never known a life without the primary school, or a life without the lunch program that VHP has been funding since day one.
In that moment, I felt overwhelmed by how tremendous a responsibility VHP has taken on. Our motto is “creating change through art” – but it isn’t until you realize that a whole generation of kids is growing up with one meal a day, with a stable primary education, with health care, with water access, that you really start to grasp how the funds we send to Chermaitre really, truly, change lives. VHP is 13 years old. Even just within the four years that I’ve been at Vassar, we’ve transformed and expanded in so many ways. But one thing that hasn’t changed and will not change is our commitment to partnership: to build trusting relationships.
Before we go on these trips, VHP’s Co-Founders, Andrew and Lila Meade, always tell us that the ‘being’ is more important than the ‘doing.’ Going to Chermaitre this second time round, I think I finally understood what they meant. ‘To be’ means being comfortable with walking in silence with Cati, Chilove, and Youvelia. It means being okay with not always having the answers, or the statistics, or the exact measurements to things. Because Cati and her friends are not statistics – they are people whose lives we are affecting in very tangible ways. They are the generous hosts who open their homes to us and welcome us with open arms.
VHP’s responsibility is tremendous, and overwhelming, but we’ll be able to do everything step by step, because we realize that we are not the fixers. We are just people here, in Poughkeepsie, who are lucky enough to share a connection and partnership with people there, in Chermaitre. For those of us who had the privilege to experience this partnership firsthand, we’ve come home with many stories to tell. We invite you to experience the Haitian artwork, and share in our work in Chermaitre:
Class of 2014, Vassar College