A First Trip to Haiti

The streets of Port Au Prince are colorful, the people of Gros Morne are bustling, the rivers of Fervil are rushing and the view from Chermatire is breathtaking. Working with the Vassar Haiti Project (VHP) I never thought I would get the chance to go to Haiti. Haitian art was my lens into Haiti. Looking up Haiti on Google images shows destruction and poverty but the paintings show the beauty of the landscapes and the people. I thought my only view of Haiti would be the blue mountains painted by the Haitian artist, Benoit, hanging in the the VHP office. To the great contrary that was just my first taste. After months of stretching paintings of various representations of Haiti, I finally got to step on a Jet Blue direct flight to Port Au Prince. On arrival, I took a breath of the warm air. I was here, I could not believe it, and then I almost lost my breath. Driving through the streets I saw the Haitian paintings come to life, the colorful houses, the crowds, and the exquisite skyline.

I finally got to see how the work that the Vassar Haiti Project does in the United States translates directly to Haiti. I observed silently at first the meeting about placing Solar Panels on the Clinic. My eyes flickered back and forth as I watched Dr. Gueslin translate for us. I was so astonished throughout the whole trip that although there was a language barrier, there was no barrier of respect and care between all the people we met with. As I walked on the side of the river a few days later in Fiervil, I was greeted by smiling children who led us to the medical clinic, a small two-room structure that cares for 3,000 patients a year. Again I sat and observed babies, children, and adults all being cared for. My heart was broken seeing sick and hurt people, but then warmed as I saw them walk out of the clinic with medication or bandages. Something so simple as a vitamin or an advised visit to the hospital has changed the lives of people in surrounding villages.

Pere Wildane speaks at a community meeting

However, the most memorable moment of my experience was entering Chermaitre. The women in our women’s co-operative sang and hugged us, my eyes flooded with tears. I felt so much love with people I had never met. The few days we spent at Chermaitre are the days that replay in my head. We met with teachers about the school, the women of the women’s cooperative, and various other partners that oversee our projects in Haiti. I started speaking more and engaging with the people, realizing I related more to the people in Chermaitre than I thought. For example, I played soccer one morning, just in my socks and I don’t think I have ever been happier.

I got to experience first hand the partnership between the Project and the people of Haiti and it was truly magical. I am incredibly thankful for my experience and now my motivation for the project has only increased. I love Haiti and I love the Vassar Haiti project and I hope my words have given you a small insight on my first trip to Haiti.

Alex Ng ‘19 with Maddie McCall

by Maddie McCall