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Friday, April 30, 2010

Last Day in Haiti: Don’t Want To Leave, Can’t Wait To Come Back

So I sit here in the Miami airport, waiting for my flight back to Nashville, and I wish I was in Haiti. A country has never stolen my heart like Haiti, despite the 6 continents that I have stepped foot on. Reflecting on my 30 days in Haiti, I can’t stop thinking about the street children and orphans of Haiti, knocking on our car windows, begging in the streets, coming to SOPUDEP for afternoon classes, and a sense that every day they don’t have a home and consistent education, is a day we lose them to the streets and to the world. It is imperative that H.E.R.O. builds this orphanage, and provides a chance for the street children and orphans of Haiti to receive an opportunity to succeed in life, to be somebody, to reach adulthood with an education and attitude of excellence. We can do this, and with your support, we can.

On Wednesday night we attended a going away part for the United Sikhs. It was one of the best parties I have ever been to. There was the unusual combination of local Haitian grass roots organizers along with middle sized relief organizations, along with Haitians still living in tents that are now jobless, all celebrating life. With the help of 3 bottles of rum and 2 cases of beer we all danced the night away, to Indian music, Haitian music, Hip Hop, you name it. The food was wonderful, and Rea made sure that in front of me sat a big heaping plate of griot, deep fried pork chunks: Delicious! It was surely a night to remember.

Thursday Michele and I spent packing. We didn’t even emerge from our cave until 2:00 in the afternoon, and only to grab some snacks to eat and, oh yea, get some griot for lunch. It may be fattening, but it is delicious (did I say that already?)

Today, as Michele and I were preparing to head to the airport, Rea came with her husband, daughter, and several other SOPUDEP colleagues to say their goodbyes. Not only that, but they presented me and Michele with beautifully hand carved wooden maps of Haiti, that will immediately go on to my wall to remember the great times we had this month. We accomplished so much in so little time, and I look forward to coming back in August to begin construction on our development.

Word is in ladies and gentlemen. It will cost $64,000 dollars to build the first until of our development in Nippes. I will provide the breakdown of costs to anyone interested in the figures. Our goal is to begin the program in January, with one constructed unit capable of housing up to 12 children. We hope that you will join us in our achieving our goal of helping the most disenfranchised youth in Haiti: the orphans and street children.

Steven Kirby, President

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Haiti Days 27, 28, and 29: Short and Sweet

It has been a long three days! I am going to keep this Blog post short and to the point, in response to a much needed rest.

Hurray! Michele and I, accompanied by Dr. Johnny Calonge, visited a beautiful piece of property in the province of Nippes, 3 hours south of Port-Au-Prince. A three acre oasis, the property is bordered by a river (perfect for agriculture development) and less than a half mile from the ocean! It is the perfect spot for the development of our residence for street children and orphans.

On Monday SOPUDEP restarted their educational program for street children. Michele had the privilege of being the first teacher back to work and taught the children English for almost 2 hours. All of the children were so excited to be back at school. Many of them walk more than a mile each way, just to receive a free education. It is our goal that some of these children will become part of our permanent family at the H.E.R.O. residence for street children and orphans.

Michele and I will head back to the United States on Friday to begin our fundraising for the construction of the development. Please stay tuned either on my blog or on our website at Thank you for all of your support!

Steven Kirby, President

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Days 24, 25, and 26: Immediate Progress

There has been a lot going on in the past three days, all except the ability to connect to the internet! I have managed to find a previously unknown connection just 30 minutes ago, so thankfully, I’m back!
There have been some very important developments in the past 3 days, as well as a very important fact finding field trip. We will start with the most important news.

WE HAVE BEEN DONATED ADDITIONAL LAND!! Through the generous contributions of a local Haitian colleague and her family we have been provided with land that is 2-3 hours south of Port-Au-Prince in the province of Nippes. We are scheduled to view the property either Monday or Tuesday of this coming week. The distance from Port-Au-Prince brings both positive aspects and challenges to the development of our programs. The greatest asset of this land is that it is fertile, large, and away from the noise and distraction of the big city. In contrast, the logistics of transportation and delivery can become complicated at such a distance. Regardless, H.E.R.O. is extremely grateful for the land. We look forward to developing a 21st century self-sustainable orphanage for the most disenfranchised youth in Haiti: orphans and street children.

We also met with the architect to solidify the design plans of our first complex in the development. It will consist of a 1200 square foot building that has a kitchen, 4 rooms to be used first as a dormitory and eventually as classrooms, and a common space for the children. This will be the first of five buildings that will be constructed. The pace of the planned development is contingent on the speed at which we are able to raise funds. The beauty of creating a development one 1200 square foot unit at a time, is that it allows for piecemeal growth, while still providing a residence for street children and orphans.

Finally, Michele and I went to visit Louverture Cleary, a school in Santo, just outside of Port-Au-Prince that boards and educates 350 middle and high school students. The school has been open for over 22 years, and provides quality instruction to its students. Graduating students are fluent in English, French, Kreyol, and Spanish and most attend University. We spent the day with Patrick Moynihan, the director of the school. You can see them in action on their website at

All in all, it has been a great week. Please take the time to comment on our posts, or visit our website at We hope that you will continue to join us on our journey to provide housing, education, and rehabilitation to orphans and street children in Haiti.

Steven Kirby, President

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Haiti Day 22 and 23: Teaching English and Learning Kreyol

Michele and I keep trying our best to teach English to as many Haitian students as possible in one day! Today I had 50 middle and high school students in my class and yesterday Michele taught 55-60 elementary and middle school students, all in the same class! You have to look at the pictures I am posting, and realize that the only materials we really have are chalk and a chalkboard. To compound the situation the classes are either taught in classrooms with broken down walls, or under large tarps that have been placed outside. This has not stopped the 200 students from coming each day to receive an education. The students dutifully enter the gates at 8:00 every morning. The first class session runs from 8:30-10:00. After a 30 minute break from 10:00-10:30 classes resume from 10:30-12:00 at which point the school dismisses the students. Michele and I like to stay around the school though for about another hour, because there is always a small group of students that want to speak with us. The small group of students speaks only Kreyol, and it forces Michele and me to practice all the words and phrases that we know. The most common phrase heard during these conversations is, “Kirby, ou te mange sourit ye?” Did you eat a mouse yesterday? Ever since I told the kids jokingly that I like to eat mouse soup, it has become their favorite question for me! Additionally, Michele and I have begun to interview the students about their lives and how the earthquake has affected them. It is sad to hear the stories about families that have lost their houses, children that have lost their mother or those that have now become orphans as a result of the earthquake. It is these specific children that H.E.R.O. is committed to helping. Please take moment to visit our website at to learn more about what it is we are trying to do.

Thank you.
Steven Kirby, President

Monday, April 19, 2010

Haiti Day 21: A Ride Along with COHP (Children of Haiti Project)

Today I had the privilege of going on a ride along with another new organization in Haiti called the Children of Haiti Project (COHP). You can visit them on the web at They are providing free education to Haitian children, beginning this year with pre-k and kindergarten students. They have rented a location in Delmas 33, an area of Port-Au-Prince to use as their base facility for 2 years. They have recruited approximately 50 four and five year old students from a nearby tent camp to begin the program. The program is intended to grow from year to year, adding a grade level each year. Thus, the culminating school will have 12 grade levels, whereby the 12th graders have been with COHP for all twelve years of their schooling, securing an effective, efficient, and quality education for their students.

I went on the ride along with Jaqueline and Dominique. Dominique works at Union School in Haiti as well, the school that I worked for prior to the earthquake. We made several stops today, including a meeting at their school site (which I toured), a visit to the camp from which they have recruited the students, and a factory that is making the uniforms for the students. It was great to see them in action because it is a preview of what H.E.R.O. is going to have to do eventually. It is good to see that there are many resources available in Haiti that make clothing for children, make desks and chairs for the school, and even organizations that are interested in publishing materials for schools based on individually designed curricula.

For me, partnership and communication are fundamental for Haiti to become a better nation. Even today when we visited the camp that COHP recruited the students from, we found a new organization that had built temporary child friendly spaces, not schools, but areas for children to play games with paid monitors. The students in the COHP program were also signing up for this new organization’s programs as well. The point is that this results in a duplication of services. The more organizations and people are willing to communicate with each other the better off the people of Haiti will be. There will be fewer duplicative resources, which will allow for programs to spread their reach further into the areas of Haiti that still have not received services after the earthquake.

If you choose to continue this dialogue at your workplace or community, the 2 messages I have are these. 1. The government of Haiti must work to provide a free, government funded education, to all children in Haiti. 2. The government and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) in Haiti must partner and communicate effectively in order to reduce duplication of services and maximize the reach of available resources.

Visit us on the web at

Steven Kirby, President

Haiti Day 18, 19, and 20: Slow Days

On Friday the Ministry of Education provided supplies to SOPUDEP including t-shirts, notebooks, pens, pencils, crayons, and erasers. Each child was sent home with a pack of supplies and there were plenty left over in case of new students. There were also supplies for the teachers including pens, pencils, and chalk.

On Saturday we did laundry and on Sunday we had a crepe breakfast with Nadia, a fellow teacher at Union School, and her husband.

There was an important conference call that took place on Sunday at 4:00 PM with the United Sikhs. They are thinking of taking a large role in our project, including the urban design planning and construction of the development. The extent of their participation in our project is yet to be determined, but the hour long conversation was a good start to a partnership that I hope will continue in the years to come. You can find them at
You can view some pictures of the earthquake damage that still remains three months after the earthquake on our Facebook page.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Haiti Day 17: The Return of the Sikhs

Relationships. Haiti has brought about so many opportunities to meet people, all vying to help rebuild the country of Haiti. Michele and I were quite surprised to meet two Sikhs from San Francisco. Dr. G ran a clinic in San Francisco serving primarily low-socioeconomic Hispanic families. Ishmeet came to Haiti one week after the earthquake and with a team of 2 people provided 5000 hot meals a day to a tarp city near the airport in Port-Au-Prince. Just recently they both helped to provide and assemble 500 tents to replace the dilapidated tarps and sheets in the encampment they were helping to feed. They are going to participate in the daily school program at SOPUDEP providing both clinical care and English lessons for the children. It is extremely encouraging to see individuals from all over, regardless of race, ethnicity, or creed, working to better the conditions in Haiti.

Michele and I taught English again today. Michele taught about colors and food items to a group of 55-60 primary school students while I taught the parts of the body and how to communicate with a doctor in English to 40-45 secondary school students. Some of the local SOPUDEP teachers sat in on our lessons to better their English. The regular day session ended at noon. Prior to the earthquake SOPUDEP ran an after school program for street children, of which Michele and I were a part of. They have not yet restarted the afternoon program, but today I saw the most unbelievable sight. One of the street children that had attended previously showed up at the school today at 1:30. He was dressed to impress, wearing his ironed SOPUDEP T-shirt, slacks, and polished shoes. I could tell that he had been waiting for this moment, to return to receiving an education that had been regularly denied to him in Haiti. Rea explained to him that the after school program for street children would begin the first week of May. With only a tinge of disappointment, he returned to where he had just come, the streets of Haiti.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Haiti Day 15 and 16: Retraction and Reaction

As promised, here is the update with my excursion with the American Red Cross today. First of all, I want to say that every member of the American Red Cross that I spoke with and interacted with were extremely gracious, professional, and devoted to their work. They took the time out of their busy schedules to accommodate my desires to find the truth about their work in Haiti, and they were 100% transparent with regard to the disaster relief services they have been providing. I sincerely thank the American Red Cross for their willingness to meet with me and show me their work.

Yes, the American Red Cross is doing disaster relief services in Haiti, and yes, they are providing services on multiple fronts including shelter, non food item distribution, sanitation, and disease prevention. Today I visited an area that the American Red Cross served prior to the earthquake, but has turned into 12 tent/tarp camps for families that lost their homes. The American Red Cross has provided the tarps for the camps, and through a partnership with other NGOs provides the latrines, water, and medical care. What they do not provide is food. They have given 30 million dollars to the World Food Program to distribute food, and despite this, only one food distribution has taken place in 3 months for the camps that I visited today. Furthermore, there is currently no plan for the camps to begin education programs for the children. Overall, they are doing what they can with the limited staff and resources they have on the ground to help the people of Haiti.

After visiting both World Vision and American Red Cross camps, my complaint is this. Why can’t all the relief organizations put aside their pride, and work together for the people of Haiti? Please answer that question for me if you can.

Moving on to something on the other end of the spectrum, Michele and I have continued to teach English to the students returning to SOPUDEP. Today after arriving back from my American Red Cross excursion Michele explained to me about teaching two different classes today, none of which was comprised of students she had taught before. Like a true educator Michele displayed her teaching skills by inventing lessons on the spot and engaging both elementary and high school students in academics. After, Michele and I spent about 3 hours with a small group of kids that had not gone to school that day. It was the best Kreyol practice we have ever had. We talked about sports, telling time, animals (they had all eaten cat), and a variety of other random items. It was nice being able to spend time with some local Haitian children and build bonds in the community that will help us to continue our work in Haiti.

Thank you for all the support, contributions, and encouragement you have given us during our time in Haiti. We will continue to do our best to provide for the most disenfranchised youth in Haiti, the orphans and street children.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Haiti Day 13 and 14: The Ups and Downs of Progress

This post is divided into three sections. The first section is devoted to the work Michele and I began with SOPUDEP on Monday, April 12th. The second section is devoted to the Red Cross. The third section is devoted to news about the donated land to H.E.R.O. Please support our cause as we continue to secure basic human rights for orphans and street children in Haiti.

Today Michele and I began volunteering at SOPUDEP, teaching English. The SOPUDEP School, which had been damaged during the earthquake, has reopened to some 100 students from grades Pre-K to 12. Being short on staff, Rea asked us if we would be willing to teach English, and we obliged. As a result, Michele taught approximately 50 middle school students and I taught roughly 30 high school students. For 2 hours we conversed with our students in broken English and broken Kreyol, and were pleasantly surprised at the amount of English they knew. The students were extremely happy to be back in school after 3 months. In fact, today was the 3 month anniversary of the earthquake. For the students, a return to education is a return to normalcy in their lives. I only wish that we were able to accommodate more students, considering that 100 students is only one fifth of the student population that attended SOPUDEP before the earthquake. Attached is a video of my high school English class, as the Director of SOPUDEP, Rea Dol, ensures that the students are doing their work.

Who knew that my Blog Post about the American Red Cross in Haiti would reach the eyes and ears of the Senior Press Officer for the American Red Cross or the Head of Office of the American Red Cross in Haiti? As a result of my post, my Aunt Carolyn wrote to the Senior Press Officer, referring him to my Blog and comments. Today I talked with the Head of Office of the American Red Cross in Haiti and he has arranged for me to ride along with a mobile medical unit this coming Wednesday and to attend an aid distribution later this week. I want to make it clear, that I will give a fair analysis to any organization that is doing relief work in Haiti. Just the fact that they have taken the time to listen to my concerns and invite me into the field is, to me, impressive. I will keep you updated with the results of my excursions into the field with the American Red Cross.

There has been an unfortunate development with the land donated to H.E.R.O. After visiting the land and finding out that it was possible that the Haitian government would claim eminent domain in all of La Plaine, we found out it is true. The 3000 square meters of flat land has been taken by the Haitian government, and is no longer available for our use. We are not deterred, however. We know that when one door closes, another door opens, and it was not meant to be to build on that land. We are still pursuing options to acquire land for free or for little charge, and if necessary, will purchase land outright for our project. We will not let a barrier or obstacle come in our way to successfully create a program that houses, educates, and rehabilitates orphans and street children in Haiti. We will keep you updated with our progress, and hope that you will continue to support our efforts to serve the most disenfranchised youth in Haiti, the orphans and street children.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Haiti Day 11 and 12: It’s Worse Than I Thought

We visited several tent camps to witness first hand the effects of disaster relief organizations and whether they are providing adequate resources for displaced families.  While we did find some evidence of progress, including camps with permanent medical tents, toilets, and water tanks, there is still much to be desired.

The majority of the camps we visited did not have tents, but instead had shelters that the displaced families had made themselves, covered with various tarps provided by aid organizations.  The real problem though, was the lack of access to clean drinking water and a steady supply of food.  It became apparent that rather than working together, the majority of NGO’s in the area were fighting with each other, trying to take credit for what little improvements they were making in the camps.

There is no lead organization taking charge of the relief efforts in Haiti.  The government has not taken charge either.  So instead of assigning camps to organizations, or assigning specific services to each organization (food, water, medical, education) there is either the duplicity of services in camps, or no services at all in certain camps.  The only presence I have seen of the Red Cross is the Haitian Red Cross which can be seen doing a variety of tasks around Port-Au-Prince.  What I have NOT seen is the presence of the American Red Cross.  If there is anybody out there who can tell me where to find them, and what disaster relief they are providing, I will be more than happy to visit them.  Until then, however, I can say that the Red Cross is NOT doing a good job of disaster relief in Haiti, despite the millions of dollars that have been donated.  Please pass this message along because next time there is a disaster, we must donate to relief organizations that actually make a difference, not those that fail to provide basic disaster relief services.

Steven Kirby, President

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Haiti Day 10: The Land

Today was exhausting. It was exhausting because of the constant traffic jams, stalled cars, trucks blocking the roads, etc. that make travelling Port-Au-Prince a nightmare. It was well worth it though. Today we finally viewed the donated land and solidified the architectural design for the community for orphans and street children.

Of interest is the apparent application of eminent domain that the Haiti government is set to pursue on large tracts of land in Port-Au-Prince. In fact, the donated land is possibly within this application of imminent domain. We therefore had to trace down the original surveyor of the property (surveyed in 1986), and after calling friends of friends of friends, we finally found his home, only to learn that we had just missed him by a few minutes. So tomorrow we will be off again, early in the morning, to ascertain the state of the land. We truly hope that the land is free and clear, and we can begin building in the immediate future.

We ended our day with a stop by our usual haunt, the chicken stand on Pan American Rd. For 3 dollars you get half a chicken, four boiled plantains, and 2 pieces of cassava (yucca), all drizzled in a spicy barbeque sauce. There is no better way to finish a day in Haiti than dining on the local street food.

FYI: All of these pictures are courtesy of Lars Skroder, photographer extraordinaire. We give him his thanks, especially after some people yelled at him for taking pictures, and cars almost destroyed his camera (and hand) driving so close to the window!

Haiti Day 8 and 9: A New Perspective

Lars Skroder and Natacha Constant arrived on April 6th: it was such a blessing to see both of them in Haiti. Michele and I met Lars at the airport, and immediately we began taking photographs of the current situation in Haiti. After settling in at the apartment, we took Lars on a visit to the old SOPUDEP School and the new SOPUDEP land site that has already begun construction. For Lars it was an opportunity to see the earthquake damage and reconstruction first hand. For us it was an opportunity to see the situation in a new light, through the lens of a camera. As a result, H.E.R.O. will be able to display lasting memories and the current restoration of Haiti.
We spent hours today taking in the destruction that is still visible in downtown Port-Au-Prince. In the same breath, we were able to spend some time with local kids, as they played and jumped around, trying to strike a pose for the camera. As a result we were able to experience the dichotomy that exists in Haiti: The struggle to survive, yet the joy that exists to simply be alive.
Natacha and Lars both brought in supplies for the children and teachers of SOPUDEP: 4 tents, school supplies, clothes for the teachers, and numerous supplies for the children to play with. SOPUDEP will begin running a small school program on Monday for the children. The school supplies will provide a respite for the children from the daily challenges that they face. Thank you to all that have supported H.E.R.O. in our goal to provide for the most underserved population in Haiti, the children. Your words of encouragement are support enough to get us through the day, and remind us of what is truly important in this world, the opportunity for basic human rights for all children, especially the children of Haiti. Thank you.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Haiti Day 7: Reality Check

After being in the United States for 2 months, it often becomes easy to forget the events that unfolded on January 12th, 2010. Out of sight, out of mind they say. I was brought back to reality today when one of the SOPUDEP teachers, Chener, informed me that one of the street children I was teaching in the afternoons had died during the earthquake. Lucio was a child of the streets. A child that would walk every afternoon into the SOPUDEP School and like all the other children, try to make up for lost time in an educational environment. Truth be told, I didn’t know Lucio any better than the other 35 street children, but I do remember his smiling face. It didn’t matter that Lucio didn’t recognize the words coming out of my mouth, or the fact that he could barely write his first name. Lucio was in school! He was off of the streets of Haiti for a few hours each day, aspiring to what we take for granted in the United States, a free education. Today the value of SOPUDEP hit home even harder. Driving through the streets of Petion-Ville I was stopped twice by former SOPUDEP students, children that live on Haiti’s streets. The one thing they had to cling on to, going to school at SOPUDEP, knowing they were going to receive a meal that day, going to learn something new: that one joy was taken away by the earthquake.
Today Michele and I were at the new SOPUDEP school site. Construction has begun, and we helped a little, loading and carrying rocks down the wall that will surround the property. It will be at least 6 months before a permanent school can be built, maybe longer depending on funding. Once again, however, the school will stand strong to provide a free education to the most underserved population in Haiti, the orphans and street children. H.E.R.O. wants to provide housing for these children, providing them with a secure home, so that when they go to SOPUDEP next time, they can return to a home where support is continuous and abundant. Please support our cause, whether it is through encouragement, comments, Facebook, Twitter, or donations. Most importantly, carry this conversation to your workplace, community, and educational institutions. No child deserves to live on the street fighting for a daily meal. Together, we can make it stop.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Haiti Day 5 and 6: Easter

Happy Easter! Even after a 7.0 earthquake, the mighty country of Haiti acknowledges Easter with a true holiday celebration. Most businesses were closed on Saturday and Sunday, and for many of the disaster relief workers it was their first official weekend off after diligently providing services for 2 and a half months. As a result, Michele and I were able to visit with some of the former Union School teachers that we worked with including Sabrina and Betty. It was good to see old friends, and to see their efforts and contribution to the relief efforts in Haiti.
I discovered a website that broadcasts immediate emergency needs in Haiti via text messages. Go to and witness the continuing need of those affected by the earthquake. It is apparent that some of the temporary camps set up after the disaster have not been seen by any large relief organizations.
Tomorrow morning we will meet again with Rea Dol at what used to be the old SOPUDEP school. It is no longer usable, and thus she will be taking us to the new land site to help with construction. Michele and I look forward to helping in any way that we can to support the relief efforts in Haiti. Please continue to follow our efforts on this blog, and our website Your comments, support, and encouragement help us to make it through each day.
Steven K.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Haiti Day 4: Design Success

I want to begin by telling a short story that illustrates the beauty of the Haitian people. Today, Michele (H.E.R.O. Secretary) and I were standing outside the gate of our house, having a discussion with the Director of SOPUDEP, Rea Dol. Across from us, a young Haitian boy of about 10 years old is walking down the street, presumably on his way home. Suddenly he sees us, and comes to a stop. Traversing the dirt road he comes to me, places out his hand, and we shake. He then turns to Michele, now leaning towards the boy, and he gives her a kiss on the cheek. His mission accomplished, he turns, and continues walking down the road, towards his final destination. Welcome to Haiti.

This morning H.E.R.O. took a giant leap forward in our progress to design housing for orphans and street children. Rea Dol, the Director of SOPUDEP, the local organization here in Haiti that we have partnered with was able to find (at a moment’s notice) an architect to make our vision a reality for a minimal cost. After 2 hours of discussion we developed a solid plan that would encompass building five separate 1000 square foot units that would house 2 dormitories (boys and girls), multipurpose room, clinic, and staff/guest quarters. I have attached with this post the potential design that would be modified to meet our needs. We will travel on April 6th to the property that has been donated to better understand the size and potential of the land. Our goal is to begin construction by January, 2011.

Happy Easter! Being a largely Catholic population, Haiti celebrates Easter with gusto! On Friday and Sunday most shops have closed, and banks and government institutions are on Holiday. We have been invited to celebrate Easter with a local family, and partake in Easter supper. We hope that you enjoy your holidays, and may God bless you.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Haiti Day 3: Design Challenges

There exist numerous challenges to building in Haiti. Haiti began using concrete and cement blocks as the base building material to withstand the yearly hurricanes that sweep through the country. Floor upon floor, level upon level, buildings were constructed using a very heavy and non malleable material, concrete. The usage of concrete as the main building material only compounded the effects of the earthquake on January 12th. The result was 230,000 people dead, and many more injured. I personally saw for myself the devastation that a lone cement block can cause.

Immediately after the earthquake I joined a group of 6 teachers providing first aid just minutes after the disaster. The injuries we saw rivaled and surpassed any one might see in the emergency room. We saw 6 inch long deep gashes on heads, arms that had been almost cut off, and legs disfigured, all from one falling cement block. Now imagine an entire floor of concrete falling on you, survival was not possible.

As a result, many in Haiti are talking about alternative building methods. Yes, if built correctly concrete structures can be earthquake proof, but it is expensive. What about wood buildings? Haiti has been largely deforested and only 20% of the original trees remain. Imported wood as an alternative would also be costly. The question I present to you tonight, then, is what are suggestions for building low-cost earthquake and hurricane proof homes? If the people of Haiti are to rebuild their homes they must be safe, sound, and low-cost. The modern world must have a solution for this country, please help us find it.

Haiti Day 2: What About Education?

Today I had the opportunity of meeting several people that are initiating various projects, all related to bettering the lives of children. Some focus on the day to day care of orphans, while others are planning to provide long-term education opportunities with goals of getting kids to college. I was so amazed at the many groups coming together for Haiti and the education of its children. BUT . . . .
There is NO REAL conversation in Haiti about providing a FREE education to ALL CHILDREN. In Haiti 90% of the schools are private, and the public schools that do operate face inadequate schools and classrooms, and a teaching force – very professional I must say – that does not get paid on a regular basis by the government. Why isn’t USAID touting educational initiatives? Why aren’t Bill and Hillary Clinton saying that Education is the future? What are the UN and Red Cross doing, except putting band aids on a century old problem?
Yes, I have the perspective of an educator. But THE ONLY true means of lifting a country out of poverty is through an educated populace. Only 70% of the population attends school, and of those, LESS THAN HALF finish primary school! At some point, the Haitian Government, USAID, UNICEF, Save the Children, the Red Cross, Bill and Hillary, and ALL the other stakeholders MUST put education first. We are all in this for the LONG RUN, not a short term solution that will only wreak more havoc.
So today I want to start a conversation. I want you in your dialogues and actions to reach out to our leaders, to our friends, and our colleagues and discuss the importance of Haiti having a system of education that will provide the opportunity for ALL children to learn. Please support our cause as we continue on this mission to help the most disenfranchised population in the world, our children.