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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Education Is A Right, Not A Privilege

Well, aside from the 30 page research paper that I must complete by Tuesday, summer classes are over! This means that I have only 9 months left in my doctoral program at Vanderbilt University, a short time considering that I started this program nearly 3 years ago; it really seems like yesterday! I thank God for the opportunity that has been presented to me, and I am truly thankful for my colleagues and professors that I have met. I am blessed to be born in a country, the United States, where K-12 education is both free and compulsory. There are millions of children around the world that because of their life circumstances never even have the opportunity to enter a formal classroom. These are the children that H.E.R.O. will serve, to provide housing, education, and rehabilitation to those born into circumstances of neglect and despair. There is no doubt, however, that if we come together, we can help to shape the future of the youth in Haiti, one child at a time.

I don’t think I have ever published the following story on my blog. If I have, it is worth hearing a second time. 4 days after the earthquake, Bruno Allard (a fellow teacher giving first aid) and I came upon a field of victims of the earthquake near General Hospital (the largest public hospital in Haiti). This field was overrun with men, women, and children, most of whom did not have the physical capability to walk to the hospital. They had been dropped off after the earthquake, left to fend for themselves, often without family. To add to their misery, no doctors, nurses, or international relief organizations had come to their aid. Bruno and I decided that we had to move them from the field to the actual hospital, where they at least had a chance to be seen by a doctor. We found two rusted out, blood stained gurneys without mattresses, and one by one we began to move each person from the field to the hospital. The gurneys’ weighed beyond our individual moving capacities, and we were shortly joined by local Haitian volunteers looking for any way to help the injured. Bruno, myself, and our helpful volunteers worked for hours, painstakingly lifting each man, woman, and child onto the gurney, rolling them 200 yards to General Hospital, finding an open space to lay them down, and repeating the process many times over. I haven’t even touched upon the most depressing moment of that day.

During the moving process, Bruno and I noticed a young boy, about ten years old, that had been watching us stumble back and forth with the gurneys. During one of my returns to the field, I sat next to this boy, and asked who he was with. He wasn’t with anybody. I asked Bruno (he is fluent in French) to ask him and the other adults around who this child was with. Each one dutifully reported that the child was by himself, and he had in fact been by himself for over 24 hours, sitting in this field, scared and injured, unsure of what to do. We decided that something had to be done, so Bruno picked him up and took him to our small first aid station at the General Hospital. We gave him crackers to eat and water to drink. His story was this: At 10 years old, this young boy had never been to school. On the morning of January 12th, 2010 his father and mother had finally earned enough money to enroll him for the first time ever in an elementary school. His father had taken him to register for classes, and he was all set to begin school the following day, his first time in a class full of children, his first time to learn in a formal school setting. His dreams were shattered by the earthquake. His mother, dead. His father, dead. His school, destroyed. Now here sat an orphan, a child that had never been to school, ready to attend on January 13th, and yet he now found himself with no parents, no education, no future.

Education is the vehicle for human freedom. H.E.R.O. is going to provide housing for the street children and orphans, education for those that have never attended school, and rehabilitation for those affected by years of physical, mental, and emotional abuse. We took that young boy to Nos Petit Frères et Soeurs Saint Damien Pediatric Hospital that evening. I pray for his healing.

Please join H.E.R.O. in our mission to serve the most disenfranchised youth in Haiti. We need your help to make our vision a reality; together we can make a difference.

Steven Kirby,


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