VHP collaborates with RunVassar in Reforestation Run

Image courtesy of Rebecca Weinstein ’25.

As we see our campus leaves change color and fall arrives, it is easy to forget how fortunate we are for this nature that envelops, rejuvenates and sustains us. In Haiti, the situation is severely different. Since 1990, Haiti has seen over a 17 percent decrease in the country’s total forest cover, according to the Human Development Report in 2019. According to Global Forest Watch, the percentage of forest area in Haiti is 3.5 percent. The main cause of this deforestation is the locals cutting down trees to use as charcoal for heating and cooking their food. Further, as poverty drives rural families to harvest this charcoal to make a short-term profit, the deforestation crisis is exacerbated. Vassar Haiti Project (VHP) aims to plant 2,500 trees in Haiti—not just for the environmental benefits, but also for the families and community in Haiti—through their Reforestation 5K Run with RunVassar.

The Reforestation Initiative is overseen by VHP Co-President Jessica Porras ’24 and Vice President of the Environment Committee Rebecca Weinstein ’25. The Initiative raises funds to buy trees and pay the salaries of laborers and agricultural professionals to plant them. Haitian families can sign up for the tree-growing program where trees are planted and grown on their land for them to benefit from its fruit, either for their own sustenance or to sell. Another aspect of the Initiative is education—a Haitian agronomist teaches the community and local schools how to plant the trees and the benefits of reforestation. In this way, VHP promotes a community-based reforestation model. As Porras added, “We are just trying to bring a little bit of hope to the community after so much struggle.”

To raise the funds to support the Reforestation Initiative, VHP will be collaborating with RunVassar, a running club on campus. RunVassar provides opportunities for runners of all levels to participate in group runs multiple times a week. RunVassar and VHP will put on a 5K on Saturday, Nov. 18, at 11 a.m. around Vassar campus, with a $10 entrance fee. All proceeds will go directly to Haiti. To sign up, VHP is tabling in the College Center. President of RunVassar Pooja Huded ’25 commented in written correspondence, “When VHP approached us about helping them plan the Reforestation Run, we were really excited. In the past, we have put on other events to raise money for meaningful causes, like our 5k to fund abortions last year, so we were excited about doing something similar to raise money to plant food-bearing trees in Haiti. VHP is doing super important work, and it is an honor to be able to help with that—plus, it is always nice to get people outside and involved in running/walking together.”

The Reforestation Run hopes to bring the Vassar community together while raising awareness for Haiti and its call for reforestation. Funds raised by the 5K will be used to plant trees as soon as next year. As Weinstein remarked, “We wanted to do something that would involve the community and make them feel like they are a part of it. We are trying to expand VHP so it is more well known around campus.” A pop-up art sale, reminiscent of the Families Weekend Art Sale in September, will also be available at the 5K to support VHP’s Art Initiative. So, whether you are a seasoned runner, power-walker or leisurely stroller, the Reforestation Run is a way to contribute to a cause easily overlooked on our campus arboretum but nevertheless important in the effort towards a more sustainable future.

Image courtesy of Rebecca Weinstein ’25.

One Comment

  1. Hello, my name is Carla Bluntschli and I and my husband have lived in Haiti for over 38 years now. We first came to Haiti with a reforestation project through the Mennonite Central Committee. Since that time we continue to promote reforestation as well as peasant organizations that work in this area of tree production as we do ourselves, although currently we are taking refuge from the country due to gangs invading the community where our foundation is based and where we have our home. I am just wondering where you send your funds and where your project is as I have several contacts that would be perfect for this kind of project. Let me know and one day when Haiti is free again, come and visit us as we host university student groups, researchers, etc. throughout the year since 2010. Our website is sorely in need of updating but also our YouTube channel (N a Sonje Foundation YouTube) can help you see some of our work as well as our current podcast about the voices of Haiti at “We Will Remember Haiti – In Their Voice” on Spotify, Google and Apple. Thank you for your interest in the amazing country and people of Haiti. Blessings, Carla

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