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Help for Haiti

Nine weeks after a killer storm slammed into Haiti, more than 80 Vassar students shared a traditional Caribbean Christmas dinner in the Villard Room to aid the hurricane relief effort. Members of the Vassar Haiti Project, the Caribbean Students Alliance, and Jewett House hosted the event, which featured jerk turkey, honey-baked ham, and a Caribbean Christmas fruitcake.

Organizers of the Haiti Hurricane Relief dinner (from the left), Stefan Richards ’17, President of the Caribbean Students Alliance; Paarul Sinha ’17, President of the Vassar Haiti Project; and Ankoor Patel ’19, Jewett House President.Photo: Karl Rabe

Proceeds from tickets to the dinner and from the sale of Haitian crafts at the event will benefit various relief organizations in Haiti, says Andrew Meade, assistant dean of campus life and international services and a founder of the Haiti Project. “It’s impressive to see the energy and effort that has gone into this event,” Meade says. “There are a lot of big hearts in this room tonight.” Since the hurricane struck, the Haiti Project has raised more than $20,000 to aid storm victims, he says.

Meade will lead a contingent of students and other VHP supporters on a trip to Haiti in January. He noted the money raised at the dinner, about $1,000, would translate into restoring several Haitian homes. “American dollars go a long way,” he says. “Those assessing the damage say an average of $114 is needed to help each family.”

Devastation in Haiti in the wake of Hurricane Matthew Photo: UN Photo/Logan Abassi

Zoe Walker ’17, a leader of the Vassar Haiti Project, says the Oct. 3 storm, which packed 145-mph winds and killed an estimated 1,000 Haitians, caused considerable damage in Chermaitre, the village where a Vassar-supported school is located. “Farmers lost their livestock, and there was extensive crop damage and damage to roofs of many houses,” Walker says.

Since the hurricane struck, the Haiti Project has raised more than $20,000 to aid storm victims.

Stefan Richards ’17, president of the Caribbean Students Alliance, says he and other members of the group decided about a month ago to find a way to contribute to the Haitian relief effort. Richards says leaders of the Haiti Project and Jewett House stepped up quickly to help. “This dinner was successful because the Vassar Haiti Project is a well-oiled machine, and there were a lot of people in Jewett House willing to help us,” he says.

Jewett House President Ankoor Patel ’19 says he learned from friends in the Caribbean Students Alliance that they were planning the fundraising event, and he quickly decided Jewett should be involved. “It’s an event we are happy to be collaborating in,” Patel says. “In these difficult times, it’s important to get together, eat good food, and support each other.”

Stefan Richards ’17 and Clairiola Etienne ’18Photo: Karl Rabe

The event was particularly meaningful to Clairiola Etienne ’18, a biology and French major whose family home, located about 50 miles from the Haitian capital of Port Au-Prince, was flooded in the storm. Etienne, a member of both the Caribbean Students Alliance and the Haiti Project, says she was worried for her family when she learned the hurricane had struck her homeland. “It was definitely hard to be here and not know exactly what happened,” she says, “but my father was able to let me know everyone was OK shortly afterwards.”

Etienne gazed around the room at the festivities. “I am maybe the happiest person here,” she says, “to see all this support for Haiti.”