Vermont-based Volunteers For Peace has been collaborating with community and grassroots organizations in Haiti for over 15 years! Our focus is on education, clean water, and the environment through the lens of cultural exchange. Our project work to empower local leaders, provide meaningful activities for children, and leave behind sustainable projects in the community.
VFP offers projects around the year ranging from 1 week to 3 months. We also work with community, educational, and family groups in the USA to develop custom projects to meet their goals and skills.
Our Summer Day Camps are offered in four locations in Haiti. In 2014, we provided enrichment activities to more than 800 children.
One of our initiatives for 2015 is to work with community organization to sprout and plant coffee and other trees. This project will increase sustainable revenue streams in rural areas and help reforest Haiti.
Visit our Volunteer Project List for specific project dates and information.
The registration fee is $500 ($650 if you are under 18 years old). If you are not accepted into a project, we will refund the full fee to you! This cost includes the placement process, food, accommodation, leadership and work materials for your program. Volunteers arrange and pay for their own transportation to and from the project.
Projects in Haiti also have an extra fee to help subsidize the cost of the program.
Summer In Haiti04/29/2015How could this program be improved?
I understand the level of precautions that needed to be made because I was in the city, but maybe just some more activities to do each day besides visit the school. I enjoyed going to the Iron Market, the church, the hotel and Wahoo Bay, but there was often not a lot to do except for on the weekends!
VFP, sound choice for new and experienced volunteers!02/10/2015How could this program be improved?
Our ability to communicate with family back home. Though we were well informed that it would be difficult, but in the event of an emergency it could be accomplished with the help of our leaders.
Men anpil, chay pa lou...10/04/2014How could this program be improved?
The language barrier was the biggest challenge for me during my trip but that was to be expected. I would have liked some more language prep to have a basic understanding of Haitian Creole. However, playing charades is always fun!
At home in Haiti: Thanksgiving01/25/2013How could this program be improved?
Given our short stay (one week), it was difficult to get as much accomplished as most of the people in our group would have liked. I think I would change how the goals of the week are laid out. For instance, keep some of the schedule open for flexibility, but also have set, concrete goals scheduled in. That way, at the end of the program everyone can have a clear sense of accomplishment. While everyone in our group seemed to thoroughly enjoy their time and experience, I think most left with a feeling as if they didn't do enough.
Highlights: I have a hard time coming up with an answer when asked what I liked the most about Haiti or what the highlight of this trip was. I can honestly say that I enjoyed every moment from the time I stepped off the plane in Port au Prince to the time I stepped back on the plane nine days later. The entire experience was simply amazing. Every individual I encountered--from our volunteer group, to our hosts, to the locals--were friendly, welcoming, interesting, giving, and good hearted people. During our many walks into neighboring towns it wouldn't take long for others to share a smile, wave a hand, or even walk alongside us and visit. While at the schools the kids lit up their classrooms with their smiles and laughter. The moments spent during meals and group activities were engaging, lighthearted and very seldom dull. Not once during my stay in Haiti did I feel I needed or wanted to be anywhere else but exactly where I was in that moment.
Morning:Any given morning one awakes to a chorus of animals "talking" to each other, including roosters crowing, donkeys hee-hawing, goats blatting, dogs barking, and cows mooing. Mornings began with breakfast that was made up of our volunteer group as well as a few of the locals who would likely be with us for the day. The breakfast was a light and always included homemade hot cocoa, coffee, and ginger tea. It was a time to share our own stories or listen to the stories of the locals who were with us. We also took this time to go over the plans for the day in regards to where we would be going and what everyone would be doing. Generally, most of the mornings were spent together as a group. For example, one morning we all worked together planting coffee plants and plantain trees while another morning we worked together on projects for the schools we would be going to.
Afternoon:Each day we would gather again for a simple meal at lunch time. We would enjoy homemade soup, rice, or noodles along with fresh bakery bought breads and rolls. Lunch was another time for sharing with each other, learning about and from each other. On our first day we shared this meal with a local youth group whose focus is on clean water projects and hygiene education. After eating, the afternoons usually found our group split into smaller teams who spread out to work on different projects. Examples include working in the garden, going into the schools, staying with our hosts to help in the kitchen to prepare our evening meal, cleaning up the grounds of where we were staying, traveling to the market, and completing fence repairs and installation. It was great to work alongside the people of Haiti; a chance to learn and teach.
Evening: After spending the afternoons split up from the main group, we would come back together to kick off our evenings with the large meal of the day. Our hosts spent a large part of their day, with the help of a couple of us volunteers, to prepare this meal for our group and whoever else showed up to join us. Typically during this meal we would be joined by at least a half dozen others. These meals had us eating rice, beans, corn, cabbage salad, beet salad, chicken, goat, and plantains. After eating we would simply relax and enjoy each other's company. Some nights included music, such as when a local band came to play as a way to celebrate our group leader's birthday. We would also engage in games, team building activities, and cultural exchanges. We often received impromptu lessons in the local language and reciprocated by giving lessons or our own. It was a pleasure to hear the many stories shared by our hosts, visitors, and fellow volunteers.
Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with VFP in Haiti?
Tasia: It was 3:30am; I was lying awake counting the glow-in-the-dark stars on my ceiling and thinking about what would make an extraordinary life. Earlier that day in a conversation around wellbeing, happiness, and summer plans a friend had said, "Think about your 90th birthday and all the years you've put behind you. What advice would your 90 year-old self give you about how to live life?" After thinking about it less than a second the words came out, "Make it extraordinary." Now, I was laying awake thinking, "what does an extraordinary life look like?" I thought of my sorority, Gamma Phi Beta, and our core values-love, labor, learning, and loyalty. I decided I wanted to fight for a common good, while building relationships, and experiencing a cultural exchange. An international service project fit that criterion.
I Google searched 'international volunteer programs' and Volunteers for Peace was the first organization I came across that was affordable on my student budget. After Googling any combination of Volunteers for Peace with "fraud, scam, disaster, etc." and finding zero results- I decided VFP was the one! I check out their Facebook page and inquired about a post regarding a project in Haiti for a kids' camp. VFP staff member, Chelsea wrote back instantly and I got good vibes from her. That's when I knew- a volunteer trip with VFP going to Haiti to interact with kids couldn't be anything less than extraordinary!
What made volunteering in Haiti a unique and special experience?
Tasia: I'm dividing day to day activities into two categories: the week days at our kids' camp in LaVoutte and the weekends at CODEHA.
On average there were 4 international volunteers, including myself, working at the kids' camp in LaVoute. LaVoute was about 1 hour away from CODEHA (the community center that acted as our home base) and we left around mid-morning on Mondays to get there. Some traveled by car, while I always choose to ride on a motorcycle with a local volunteer. The drive was beautiful and exciting on the back of a bike. Once there, we set up our beds and luggage in an emptied classroom and went to play with the kids.
Our camp was the pilot school for the "Clean Water for LaVallee" project and the teachers were taking a Community Health Promoter training, therefore we had a lot of freedom of what to do with the kids. We enjoyed playing circle dancing/singing games, doing yoga, duck duck goose, painting, and one volunteer even brought recorders for the kids to play music on.
As anyone that's been around kids knows, it takes a lot of energy to play with and entertain just one. Now think about 100 kids ages 4-16 and as you can imagine at times it was a little crazy. I'll paint you one picture: I was the only female at my camp so all the girls like to hangout with me. Personal space is different than the US- everyone is always in your bubble. I didn't speak much Creole and they didn't speak much English so communication was in gestures. Now one day I was making bracelets with the kids. There were 20+ kids in a 10 foot radius from me and we are all sweating in the hot sun. 40+ little hands were all over me and the supplies, pointing and poking while saying my name "Tasia! Tasia! Tasia!" I had my arms full of supplies trying to divvy it all out when one little girl decides she wants to braid my hair so she takes out my pony-tail and begins running her hands all through it. Just then a group of young boys comes around the corner tooting on recorders they'd gotten from Mark, another volunteer. "Toot, squuuuel, Tasia! Sqeuuuuk, Tasia, Tasia squeak!" etc, etc. As you can tell, it was a little hectic, but I wouldn't have traded it for the world. It was clear we're making an impact on them and vice versa.
A moment I'll never forget- I'm a yoga instructor and did several yoga activities with the children. One evening after camp we were walking around the town and a little girl, Liz, came up and "Tasia! Warrior I (went into Warrior I pose), Warrior II (pose), Triangle (pose), Mountain! (pose)." It was so beautiful. Moments like that, make all the craziness worthwhile.
The camp concluded around 4pm when the children went home. Local volunteers stayed with us at the school. The evenings we went on walks around the community and to a river nearby, we shared stories with the locals, played cards, and talked amongst each other.
CODEHA was mostly leisure activities, experience the community, and helping with gardening. I got up fairly early- 6am and practiced yoga. It gave me time to reflect on all I'd seen and experienced. We all had breakfast together in the morning and had opportunities to go to the market, a hotel that was close by, or stay and prepare dinner or work in the garden. There was a never ending supply of corn that needed to be sorted so we'd sit for hours, sort corn and share stories. A couple weekends we went on trips to the beach and a beautiful waterfall-I've never seen water so blue! We did a lot of exploring together and connecting with the local community members. Evenings consisted of typical camp "get-to-know-ya" games and we all became VERY close! Another volunteer brought a guitar so we often listened to music, drank homemade hot chocolate, and took in the simple beauties.
How has this experience impacted your future?
Tasia: When I returned from Haiti, I was at home and my sister poured both of us a glass of cold water. As she passed me the glass, it really hit me on how much privilege I have in this world. A simple glass of water was so precious to some and expendable to others. My experience in Haiti has drastically reframed how I see the world. I feel as if I "get it" now. By that, I simply mean I see that there is so much more to this life than finding a job, a spouse, getting a raise, etc. I've seen how the acts of one person can change the world of many. As written in the Charter of Compassion, "Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and to put another there, and to honor the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equality, and respect." I feel a duty to live my life more compassionately.
Part of that, I've changed my concept of what a "career" looked like. I had the idea that a job consisted of waking up each morning to a "BUZZ... BUZZ.... BUZZ" alarm clock, commuting to a 9-5, coming home and relaxing from a stressful day etc, etc. Yet, it most certainly does not have to look like that. This realization has changed my career trajectory as I finish up my Masters in Clinical Psychology and begin thinking of life after grad school. While I originally planned to be a therapist, my eyes are now open to less orthodox professions. For example, since I love traveling, my education is focused around helping others process experiences, and I'm very active as an alumnae in advising Greek Fraternities & Sororities- I'm looking into jobs taking Greek Student leaders on international service trips. It's entirely possible to have a job doing something that you love, something you find meaning in, and still be able to pay off student loans!
About the provider
Volunteers For Peace is a non-profit organization, founded in 1982, that offers placement in over 3000 voluntary service projects in more than 90 countries. Each year we provide almost 1,000 volunteers with invaluable opportunities to strengthen their ability to communicate in diverse groups, explore grassroots leadership opportunities, and build cultural understanding and connections around the world.
Our affordable registration fee of $500 ($650 for under 18) includes leadership, food, accommodation, and work materials. Each project incorporates volunteer work with cultural exchange among a group of international volunteers. Work types include work with children, environmental, agriculture, renovation, construction, disaster relief work, festivals and more!
Volunteers can serve for 2-3 weeks in an international group up to 1 year independently. We also arrange custom projects for families, student and community groups and other unique situations. Contact us today!