Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer
"Participating with the Vassar Haiti Project is in so many ways a dream come true.
“Living and attending school in Haiti in the 1970’s gave me the opportunity to get to know the land, the people, and their glorious art. Despite the poverty, the political turmoil, the environmental devastation, and lack for years of any kind of governmental infrastructure, the dignity and spirit of the Haitian people remains powerfully strong, vibrant and free. It is this vibrant spirit which translates so colorfully and creatively into art, which is one of that country’s few remaining viable exports.
“I consider it a privilege to be engaged in this work. One of the greatest thrills has been the great and growing numbers of people, including dozens of Vassar students, faculty, staff, and administrators, and folks from the Hudson Valley and beyond, who have requested the opportunity to participate either as a member or a partner of this project.”
Andrew Meade is the Director of International Services at Vassar College.
Co-Founder & Executive Director
“In 2001, Andrew had a ‘little idea’ of supporting a school in Haiti which he took to the Dean of the College, Colton Johnson. This seed has blossomed into the Vassar Haiti Project today.
"By buying the artwork from Haiti and supporting the livelihood of artists, the project has blossomed into a family and partnership with students and community members. Vassar students have reached out way beyond the walls of the college (and themselves!) towards making a ‘concrete’ difference in Haiti. And then, they take what they learn and put it to use in the world when they graduate. What a joy and privilege it is to work with students of such passion, integrity and insight. They keep pushing the project (and me!) towards new levels!
"What was planted years ago has now become a virtual forest! I have grown to love Haiti through its incredible art, culture and spirit. This project has taught me much about what is truly rich in life. I dedicate my work in this project to my mother, Lily, who spent her early childhood in Haiti and who taught me how to love, respect and care for others.”
"The Vassar Haiti Project has been a huge part of my life and that of my family since almost the beginning of the project when it was a bunch of friends and a few students looking for a way to make a difference in the lives of this remote village in Haiti through art and handcraft sales. Journeys to “Ayiti” with the project have provided me the opportunity to witness the beauty and inspiration of the land that has been illustrated so vividly and uniquely by each of our artists, as well as to see first hand just how the project has made a difference in the lives of the people in our village. In the last few years in particular, I have also come to realize that it is not just the future of Chermaitre and of Haiti but also of the students at Vassar and of the community at large which is being so positively impacted by this project. Watching our students develop strong leadership skills, as they conceive of initiatives, plan their implementation and become incredible human beings and citizens of the world, ready to tackle 21st century problems with confidence and grace, has been a real privilege. I am so grateful to be part of a project that continues to grow and expand and attract an incredibly capable cadre of students and community members who will push the project to new levels of outreach and action!"
"I am thrilled to be participating as both a Board Member and volunteer with Vassar Haiti Project. I am an Owner and Partner in a small consulting firm and have been a Management Consultant for over 35 years. My career has focused on Leadership Development and Building Culture in both the profit and not for profit sectors. It has been especially rewarding to be able to contribute my skills and experience to the student volunteers and leaders for VHP. Though I am deeply committed to and proud of the work that VHP has accomplished in Chermaitre and surrounding communities in Haiti it is working with and partnering with the students that brings me the most joy.
"My current focus is building this Board especially in the arena of fundraising. We have a great Board of people committed to the sustainability and expansion of this incredibly valuable organization. I think we are all united in our stand that what Lila and Andrew have built and nurtured is an amazing model for development In Haiti and developing global leaders and deserves support to grow and flourish. "
Danny Z. Aronzon
"I'm a lucky guy. I was fortunate to be able to put myself through college and medical school, marry my college sweetheart and become a Daddy to three brilliant, beautiful and extremely successful daughters.
"I've had three great careers, the first teaching Pediatrics at NYU, the second practicing pediatrics in Poughkeepsie helping families raise their kids and the third as CEO of Vassar Brothers Medical Center, building needed services and firmly establishing the medical center as a regional referral center. All three give testament to the adage 'that if you do something you love you'll never work a day in your life'.
"My involvement with multiple community organizations working with extremely dedicated people all focused on improving the quality of life in the Hudson Valley was and is another labor of love.
"But working with the Vassar Haiti Project has been extra special. Not only has the project accomplished amazing things for the people of Chermaitre Haiti but even more importantly it has nurtured, trained and minted the world's future leaders in global citizenship.
"So you see I'm one lucky guy. "
David grew up in New York City and moved to the mid-Hudson Valley in 1997. He joined the Vassar Haiti Project as a volunteer in its’ first year, 2001. David organizes the annual VHP auction, helps out at the various sales, and enjoys working with the students.
"From its inception, I've had enormous respect for this project, it's truly a virtuous circle. By buying Haitian art, we create a source of income for Haitian artists. The profits go back to Haiti to support our various local initiatives, the Vassar and Poughkeepsie communities become engaged, and the Vassar students learn to run the whole thing, gaining empathy, competence and confidence along the way. The project is big enough to make a difference and small enough to create a real community."
David has made his career in business, finance and investing. Other interests include local history, historic preservation and ecosystem and habitat sustainability. In addition to VHP, David currently serves on the Boards of the Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie and the Hudson chapter of Mensa International. He is also very handsome.
"I joined VHP in my early months at Vassar, and held several positions over the years, including that of Co-President. I had the privilege of experiencing the beauty and energy of Chermaitre on two occasions - my first visit took place shortly after the devastating earthquake in 2010. Although we had questioned whether our presence would be a burden on the country so soon after the disaster, we went ahead with the trip, and our understanding of the community's needs - as well as our impact - was the better for it. We implemented several changes to our internal structure as a result of the trip learnings, to empower students to flourish in their roles, and to collaborate more effectively. Working with VHP taught me invaluable skills that I still depend on today. I graduated from Vassar in 2012, and worked for several nonprofits in the US and Ireland, before completing my Masters in Media and Communications in London, where I now work as a freelance communications consultant in the social innovation sector. I am honored to serve on this Board of inspiring changemakers."
Debbie Pham grew up in Hanoi, Vietnam. Her mom, who always worked extremely hard and later became the CEO of the largest life insurance company in Vietnam, is her role model. Debbie earned a full scholarship to pursue her study in Singapore at 14 and she’s been living away from home since. Debbie is an experienced business development and corporate development professional in the media sector. She spent 5 years in M&A Investment Banking and Private Equity in the Media and Technology space prior to joining Verizon’s Media Growth Strategy team, tasked with identifying and executing inorganic growth opportunities for Verizon. She led Verizon’s investment in original content through the creation of the Joint Venture between Hearst and Verizon. She is also on the Advisory Board for Verizon’s Open Innovation Entrepreneurs in Residence program, advising the team on commercialization of their AI, VR/AR innovative ideas.
Debbie loves Haitian art. She joined VHP in her freshman year in 2005 and has remained a committed member since.
Debbie graduated from Yale with a degree in Economics and Mathematics and from Harvard Business School MBA program. She is an okay athlete, dabbling in cross country running and varsity fencing.