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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Education is the Future of Haiti

Robenson and Valencia
The sound of drums beating in the distance combined with the smell of burning trash on the streets set the background for this Saturday evening. 10 year old Robenson and his 13 year old sister Valencia have just fallen asleep after a long day that included studying, chores, and a full afternoon birthday party. Tomorrow they will rise early in the morning to attend church, and begin another week in the H.E.R.O. Transition Home for Orphans. In one week Robenson and Valencia have gone from living in a tent in Cite Soleil, one of the worst slums in Haiti, to living in a house with 24/7 electricity, running water, and 3 nutritious meals a day. We are just at the beginning of the process of helping them become healthy, educated, self-reliant, and socially conscious citizens of Haiti. The best is yet to come.

Robeson Playing Dominoes
This past week I had the opportunity to visit two additional programs in Port-au-Prince. One was an orphanage that had 36 children between the ages of infant to 9 years old. 2 of the children had amputated legs. It is difficult for me to weigh the positive and negatives of this orphanage, as on one hand all the children had at least one living parent, and the education they were providing was limited to one teacher teaching all 36 children at the same time, without any consideration for different academic levels. On the other hand, these children came from families that did need help that perhaps could not even provide a meal a day, or a secure place to sleep. What do you think? Is this what an orphanage should look like, or is it acceptable for them to be provided some level of comfort and consistency, even if they have parents and are given little to no education. If you have thoughts, I would like to hear them.

A second program that I visited was a school started by a high school teacher at SOPUDEP after the earthquake. The school is located in a half-built house that is no bigger than 400 square feet. In this small space there are over 60 children ranging in age from 3-16 and 9 teachers. Almost none of the children had been to school previously. It is unfortunate that such a school must exist in a Haiti, but it is all too common as Haiti has a dysfunctional system of elementary public schools. I truly don’t understand why the international community is not pushing for universal primary education in Haiti. Education is the key to escaping poverty, yet the international community is focused on job creation and other temporary solutions. It breaks my heart to see another generation of Haiti’s children being provided a substandard education, if they are being provided an education at all.

13 Year Old Valencia

It is this dilemma that makes what we do at H.E.R.O. so important. Robenson has been enrolled in a morning school program and is provided academic tutoring every afternoon for 2-4 hours. Valencia is provided one-on-one academic instruction daily in the morning and afternoon to prepare her for reentry into school next August. We are fully investing in the academic potential of our children, because we know that without a doubt, education is the key to their future success.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

First Day of School

The past 2 days have been a real whirlwind! On Monday we enrolled Robenson into school. He is enrolled in second grade at SOPUDEP, a local school/charity that we have partnered with on many occasions. The next step was running around town trying to match the small uniform samples to the material in different shops. After walking through seas of people selling everything including the kitchen sink (literally) we found the material for both pants and shirts. Monday is also the day that Daniel and Michele teach English at SOUPDEP so we stopped in to see how it was going. Can you picture 25 street children correctly saying and pronouncing words for school supplies in English! Well, if you can’t, then you should come down and take a look! My only regret from watching the amazing work of Daniel and Michele as they worked with the children of Haiti was, “I wish we could do more!”

Today Robenson went to his first day of school at SOPUDEP. Fortunately, one of his classmates is Kevons, a child that used to be in the afternoon program at SOPUDEP but has progressed to the morning program. Kevons helped Robenson line up for morning assembly and then helped him find a seat amongst the crowd of second graders in the tiny classroom. Tomorrow is another exciting day for H.E.R.O. as we are scheduled to enroll Robenson’s 13 year old sister. We are excited that they will be reunited under one roof! More information to come as soon as get a better internet connection! God Bless!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Our First Child Arrives

Yesterday, January 22, 2010 we officially welcomed our first orphan into the Port-au-Prince Transition Home.  Meet Robenson Nacisse, a 10 year old boy who has lost both his mother and his father.  He comes from the neighborhood of Cite Soleil, one of the most dangerous and poorest neighborhoods of Haiti.  Over the past two days Robenson has integrated quickly into the H.E.R.O. family: playing basketball, learning photography, and going to church.  We are delighted to welcome Robenson into the H.E.R.O. family and are looking forward to welcoming many more in the near future!

Playing Basketball

First time with Legos

He wants to be a Journalist!

A bedtime story from our Country Director

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

One Year Anniversary

Today, January 12th, 2011 we mark the one-year anniversary of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that rocked Haiti, killing more than 230,000 people and leaving more than one million homeless. As someone that experienced the earthquake and its aftermath personally, this day brings back memories of tragedy and death that I wish not to remember. The unfortunate reality is that for many of the surviving victims of the earthquake, after one year, the situation is no better. Less than 15 percent of the rubble in Port-au-Prince has been removed, approximately 10,000 of the needed 100,000 temporary shelters have been built, and there still remain upwards of 850,000 people living in tents on the streets, sidewalks, and parks of Haiti.

There has been a lot of negative publicity recently about the efforts of the government and the charities in Haiti trying to help the victims of the earthquakes. I ask that you look at this negativity with a critical-eye, and try to see through the politics. Haiti is not an easy country to navigate. There is no doubt that we all wish the situation would get better more rapidly, but Haiti is a country of extreme poverty, with little infrastructure, and a fractured government that often creates red tape that is difficult to overcome. There is hope for change, however, even despite the recent controversy over the election results. Positive change in Haiti will not come quickly, but will take years, if not decades to accomplish. To that end, I ask that you keep Haiti in your mind, as it is your neighbor, and is a country of nearly 10 million people with the same hopes and dreams as every other person on this planet, a country that still needs our help.

Even at H.E.R.O., despite our accomplishments over the past year, we are not satisfied with the pace of our progress. We take on these challenges, however, with the understanding that we will not be in Haiti for one or two years, but we will be in Haiti for decades, trying to provide the basic human rights to the street children and orphans so that they too can live out their hopes and dreams. On this day, I ask that you take a moment and pray for the people of Haiti: pray that positive change will come out from this tragedy. If we collectively make an effort to make Haiti a country of success and prosperity, positive change will happen. Thank you for all your support, donations, and contributions to H.E.R.O. to help our work in Haiti.  Together we can be the change for Haiti.