There have been many times in my life where I questioned my career, my location, my destiny. I remember the days as an elementary school teacher in Miami, always wishing that I was on a journey to a foreign land, exploring adventurous places in Africa or Asia. But, I also remember working at an international school in Haiti, wishing to return to the excitement filled days as a teacher in the inner city, never truly knowing what was going to happen each and every day. I suppose that I am not alone in these thoughts; we are all familiar with the saying “The grass is greener on the other side.” Keeping these past experiences in mind, and knowing that there have been moments in my life where I definitely did not want to be wherever I was, today I can truly say that I love where I am, I love what I am doing, and there is no other place on earth that I would rather be than in Haiti.
Without delving too deeply into the history of my life, my previous years had always left me unfulfilled. As a teacher in the inner city I knew that I was making a difference in the lives of the youth I served, but at the same time, I also knew that I was only able to provide assistance for a short 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 186 days out of the year. Too often I saw my positive impact become negated by the negative surroundings and conditions of the child, resulting in a net gain of 0 in terms of life impact. Additionally, all of my journeys abroad were short stints, ranging between 3 weeks – 6 months. While I learned a ton from the culture, values, and traditions of other cultures, it was evident that I was not impacting them in any meaningful way.
As the President of H.E.R.O. I am able to make a positive impact in the life of a child, on a daily basis, without fear that the negative impact of factors such as poverty, homelessness, or starvation, will continue to play a role in their lives. Through the efforts of our board and staff, we have eliminated many of the at-risk factors for the children we serve, replacing them with positive and impactful opportunities that will result in a well-adjusted citizen of Haiti. As a career educator I am constantly able to use my skills to elevate the academic abilities of our children, while also using my acquired knowledge to create an environment that will create sustainable growth in the lives of our children. Everything that I have ever learned in life I am able to apply at the H.E.R.O. House, something that has been rare during my lifetime.
However, I am keenly aware of the possibility of burnout. I have witnessed first-hand individuals in similar positions as mine arrive at their wits end, because along the way they failed to implement activities for themselves. I absolutely agree that one must be devoted to the cause, however, if you don’t take care of yourself - - physically, socially, emotionally - - then you render yourself useless to anyone else. To alleviate the possibility of burnout I play tennis 3 times a week for 2 hours at a court that is a 4 minute walk from our house. Additionally, Michele and I will eat dinner out on occasion, just to experience more of what Port-au-Prince has to offer, and I am also fortunate that about every 2 months I fly to the United States for a week to handle H.E.R.O. administrative tasks including processing monetary donations and donated supplies. These extra-curricular activities allow me to enjoy my life 100%, knowing that when I am there to serve the children, I am serving them at the highest level possible.
I am truly thankful for the opportunity God has given me to achieve balance in my life. Life is not always about achieving the next step, the next goal, the next promotion. It is often better lived when one enjoys the moment, and realizes that their current place in the world is where they are meant to be, to bloom, and rise to their full potential. I am enjoying every second of my life right now, and at the same time, making a positive impact in the lives of others. I am truly blessed.
Steven M. Kirby, Ed.D