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Monday, May 30, 2011

Making Progress in Haiti, Slowly but Surely

There is no doubt that the process of being a successful organization is a slow and tedious one, but one well worth it. Those of you that have followed H.E.R.O. since the beginning know that in April of 2010 we were donated land in the department of Nippes, south of Port-au-Prince. Unfortunately, a year has gone by, and that land has yet to materialize. We are hopeful, however, that the land in Nippes will still be provided in our efforts to serve the street children and orphans in Haiti. When I first arrived in Haiti nearly 2 years ago I quickly learned from those much more experienced than myself that you always have to have a Plan B, Plan C, Plan D, etc. in this country (Thank you Ma-Luschka). As a result, while waiting for the land in Nippes we also took additional steps to find more land opportunities. This resulted in the donation of a .5 acre piece of land in the small town of Maniche, near the large city of Les Cayes, also in the south of Haiti. Last week I met with our lawyer and the property owner to discuss the transfer of the property into H.E.R.O’s hands. Our current plan is to lease the property for 25 years at a price of $10.00 US per year. I thank God for this opportunity. As always, however, I am waiting patiently to obtain the appropriate paperwork. This process can sometimes take weeks, even months, but we are making progress, slowly, but surely, in Haiti.

We recently faced another obstacle that threatened to derail our program for at least a few weeks, if not months. Our Vice-President had generously allowed us to use her mother’s car here in Haiti for a year, while her mother prepared to retire. As a result of various factors her mother retired early, and we realized that we needed a new car, and only had 2 weeks for this to happen! Without a vehicle, much of what we do would come to a stand-still. I attempted to buy a brand new car, but was told one must have a Haitian identification to do so, something that I do not currently have. So, buying a new car was out of the question. With two days to spare before we had to give up our vehicle, the same person that donated the land in Maniche said, “If you need a car, I will sell you mine. You need a car for the residence for orphans, to keep your program operating at maximum efficiency, to continue making a difference in Haiti.” By the grace of God, Kerby Albert sold his perfectly operational 2007 Hyundai Terracan to us for a truly reasonable price. Our Vice-President’s mother picked up her car on Sunday, and on Monday our newly bought car arrived, ready to keep all H.E.R.O. programs operational without a single hiccup. At H.E.R.O. we have been blessed by individuals that have truly sacrificed what little they have to help us make a difference in the children we serve in Haiti. No doubt we have encountered individuals, both here in Haiti and abroad in the United States, that promise do to this and that, but never do anything. But when someone gives us their land and their car because they believe in our work, it is truly a blessing. Thank you Sandra and Kerby Albert for your support of H.E.R.O., we are truly thankful.

Unfortunately, my ability to drive a manual/stick is not something to be thankful for. While I do have experience with a manual, I have never driven in a city of 2 million people with hills and mountains, thousands of cars, people and potholes on the streets, and everything in-between. As I was exiting one of the super markets, one that has a tire-deflation device at the exit, the kind that if you back over punctures your tires, I failed to give enough gas, rolled backwards over the tire-deflation device, and completed destroyed one of the rear tires. Nothing more to say here, but I was definitely embarrassed!

The children in our residence are doing wonderful! Robenson, Christina, and Dayana are preparing for their end of year exams. Franky has learned how to write his name, identify his colors, count to 100, all huge steps for a 10-year-old entering our home with high-academic needs. Valencia is continuing her daily tutoring to prepare her to enter a formal program next school year. They are happy, healthy, and full of joy; a huge difference from the lives they once knew living under tents or tarps, without food or health care. Thank you for all the support you have given H.E.R.O. You have directly impacted the lives of the children we serve. As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions, comments, or ideas for supporting H.E.R.O. Together, we can be the difference in Haiti.


Steven Kirby, President

Monday, May 16, 2011

Unexpected Recognition: A Graduation Day to Remember

Group Hug
On Friday the 13th of May I had the honor of graduating with my Doctorate in Education from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University. Peabody has been ranked the number 1 school of education in the nation for three consecutive years, an accomplishment that highlights the quality of the program, professors, and students. After three years in this program, two of which I completed by flying back and forth between Haiti and Nashville, I am excited to use my degree and knowledge to further the work of H.E.R.O. and to serve the orphans and street children of Haiti.

Steven Kirby and Mike Krause
During the graduation ceremony there was a moment that brought tears to my eyes. The Dean of Peabody had finished her speech and invited Mike Krause, an M.P.P. graduate to take the stage to give the commencement speech. His speech was humorous and intriguing, and I was struck that at one point he began talking about Haiti. He talked about a student that moved to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere where 80 percent of the population live on less than $2.00 a day and a country that had suffered a devastating earthquake. And then he was talking about me, and talking about H.E.R.O. and I quote, “If you remember nothing else from this speech, please remember Steve’s organization.” This individual, Mike Krause, a military veteran that had completed 2 tours of duty in Iraq, a cancer survivor during his time at Peabody, the person chosen to give the commencement speech for our graduation, had chosen Haiti and chosen H.E.R.O. to be the focal point of his speech! Tears of joy and tears of thanks ran down my cheeks as I thought about how Mike was keeping Haiti alive in the hearts and minds of our fellow Peabody graduates, professors, and families, and that he had accomplished the most important task that I ask all of our supporters to do. Don’t forget Haiti!

Now that my degree is complete my time is 100% devoted to H.E.R.O. and providing housing, education, and rehabilitation for the street children and orphans in Haiti. I encourage you to discuss Haiti and its needs with your friends, family, colleagues, and co-workers. Just by keeping the conversation alive about Haiti you are making a difference. Thank you!

Proud Parents

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Bridging The Gap In Haiti - H.E.R.O./Union School Field Day

Angela Having a Great Time
This past Saturday a truly unique event took place in Haiti. From 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM H.E.R.O. and Union School hosted a field day for 70 of our students from the H.E.R.O. Education Program for Street Children and their elementary school student sponsors from Union School. This event was unique in that it brought individuals from the highest socioeconomic level in Haiti together with the lowest. As if to bring His blessing to this day, at 1:00 PM a circular rainbow formed directly above the Union School campus, a halo, a sign, that when we come together as a community, we can truly make an impact on the children and people of Haiti.

Dan and the Dunk tank
A bit of background information and lot of thanks are in order here. I originally came to Haiti as a Union School teacher in August of 2009. One can only describe Union School as prestigious: the best school in all of Haiti. It was during this same time that I began volunteering at SOPUDEP, our partner in the Education Program for Street Children. As a result of the earthquake in January of 2010, I was rendered unemployed due to lack of enrollment, with a choice to return for the 2010-2011 school year. Instead I worked with our Board of Directors to found H.E.R.O. Michele, our H.E.R.O. Secretary, stayed with Union School and our Country Director, Dan Kasnick joined Union this past year. As H.E.R.O. began to grow a relationship was built between H.E.R.O. and Union School, a partnership that has helped H.E.R.O. acquire student sponsors for our street children, receive donated supplies including benches, art materials, and games, and most recently it has allowed for the Field Day, an event that was truly out of this world. Thank you to Dan for coordinating this entire event, well done. Thank you to the Union School PTA for providing lunch, snacks, water, and plenty of parent volunteers. Thank you to the Handal family for providing free t-shirts for our students. Thank you to Director Marie Baptiste who allowed the field day to take place on the Union School campus with her full support. Thank you to all the import teachers (Michele, Michelle, Bruno, David, Kathleen, Fareed, Meaghan) for your support as well. Truly amazing things can happen when we all work together!

Robenson Showing Off His Skills
You can see for yourself the amazing time the children from both our Education Program and Union School enjoyed. The day started early with 70 street children arriving at SOPUDEP at 9:30 for a morning snack and t-shirt distribution. At 10:00 we began shuttling the children to Union School in a rented van; this took three trips to get everyone there. Field day started on time at 11:00 AM. Events included the obstacle course, basketball shoot, football throw, dance station, ping pong, and best of all, the dunk tank with Meaghan and Dan inside! Snacks, water, and juice were available continuously throughout the day with lunch at 1:00. The day continued with the art station, ring toss, playground, and more! Finally, as we prepared to wrap up the day each child was provided with a cupcake, juice, and a party bag filled with fun toys and school supplies. It was a blast for everyone!

Meaghan and Kervens
It is important to understand the significance of the convergence of these two worlds, both that exist in the same Haiti. The reality is that to succeed in this country as an individual, an NGO, or as a missionary, you must be able to connect with every part of Haiti, from the wealthy to the poor and everything in-between. If, instead, a decision is made to only mingle with the elite, or only inhabit the NGO world, or reside in the confines of the church, then opportunity is being limited. If relationships can be built across these communities so that they can work together, rather than against each other, harmony and synergy will be created: necessary elements to help Haiti become a country that no longer needs the presence of thousands of NGOs, that no longer needs imported rice, that makes the work of H.E.R.O. obsolete. By working together, we can make this happen. I never hesitate to end a blog by asking, “What role will you play?” Visit to become part of the movement for a better Haiti.

H.E.R.O. Girls: Christina, Dayana, and Valencia