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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Trip to the Beach!

Last week, as a reward for good behavior and academic performance, our children had the pleasure of spending a day at the beach!  Here are some pictures of some fun in the sun! 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

When A Child Can't Afford To Go To School

As H.E.R.O. begins to expand the number of orphans that we serve in Haiti, I was directed to a village in the Artibonite valley of Haiti where I was told there were numerous orphans in need.  Brice and I drove the 3 hours to the village where we found 4 amazing children in need of housing, education, and rehabilitation.  After completing our pre-enrollment procedures, we informed the children that they would join the H.E.R.O. family during the first week of March.

While we were in this village I noticed a boy carrying a bucket of water on his head.  It was 10:00 in the morning, and clearly a day that he should have been in school.  I asked him why he wasn’t in school, and his response was truly saddening.  His two brothers joined him in telling their story.  They were students at the local public school and even completed the first trimester of schooling.  Tragedy struck when their aunt, the only working member in the family and the one person helping them pay their tuition, unexpectedly passed away.  Without 4 dollars per child to pay for the next trimester’s tuition, they were informed that they could not attend school any longer.

Given that the Haitian government has allegedly eliminated any school fees for public schools, I decided that we should all take a trip to the school.  The three brothers and their father loaded into the car and we drove about 5 minutes to the school.  As soon as we arrived at the school, I could hear an adult shouting from the hallway.  The next thing I see is the Director of the school, belt in hand, yelling at the students, “Chien, ale la kay w’, vakabond!”  He was calling the students dogs, telling them to go to their homes, and useless individuals.  I thought that perhaps if he noticed me, he would stop this tirade, but he did not, continuing to berate students. 

I quickly got his attention, and asked if he could show us around the school, which he gladly did with the assistance of the 6th grade teacher.  Here are some of the unbelievable conditions that we witnessed.  The 6th grade class had 85 students in one classroom, and 6th grade is the year they take the government exam.  All the locks on the classroom doors had been broken off, and during the night people come and poo and pee in the classrooms.  One teacher who took her father’s place after he died, had not been paid in nearly 2 years, but she kept coming to school every day to teach.  The benches that the students were using to sit on were mostly broken, due to the fact they were the same benches the school had been using since 1972.

What I had failed to realize during my first encounter with the school director, was that he was actually senile!  He had been at the school for 36 years, and it was clear, he was in no shape to be working at the school anymore.  I told him my goal was simply to pay the 4 US dollars per child for the three brothers so that they could return to school.  He acquiesced, I paid the 12 dollars, and we returned to the village from which we had come.

The worst part of this experience, however, was upon returning to the home of the three brothers we asked one to write down Brice’s name and phone number in case they needed anything else.  This poor 15-year-old child first wrote Boare, then Barise, then Brise, and finally, after we said the letters for the 4th time, Brice.  This child, in 6th grade, did not know the letters of the alphabet.  It was truly a sad situation.

I feel so sad for all the children in that school that have to sit 4 to a bench that was made in 1972 in a class with 85 students, with teachers that have not been paid and a senile director.  Those students were so well behaved, so beautiful in their school uniforms, and they were just itching to learn.  And yet, it is apparent, that the system of education in Haiti has failed them, another generation of lost talent.  It is truly a shame.


Steven M. Kirby, Ed.D

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Well Run Orphanage in Haiti

It is quite unusual in Haiti to find educated individuals that make the active choice to return to their hometown to start a residence for orphans instead of trying to climb the career ladder of “success”.  Meet Cenat Esperandieu, a 34-year-old inspirational individual who has done just that.  

Born in the mountains of the famous rice growing region of Artibonite, Cenat lived a 7 hour walk from the nearest town with electricity.  After completing primary school, his family could not afford to send him to secondary school.  If it wasn’t for his aunt, who paid for his secondary schooling, Cenat would not be where he is today.  On January 12th, 2010 Cenat was studying business at a university in Port-au-Prince, when the earthquake struck.  He was on the second floor of his building, which collapsed onto the first floor, killing many of his friends.  Somehow, his life was spared.  During this time of crisis Cenat was offered a scholarship to attend Sienna College in New York.  It was here that he earned his degree in Business Management and started fundraising to build a residence for orphans in his hometown.  

Today Cenat operates a residence for orphans in Petite Riviere de Artibonite, providing for 10 orphans from the region.  Take a moment to read this article from the Times Union about how Cenat went from living in poverty to becoming a savior for the orphans of Haiti.


Steven M. Kirby, Ed.D

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Haitian Volunteers Making a Difference in Haiti

Last week I had the opportunity to visit an afternoon school for children than cannot afford to pay their school tuition to attend school.  The school was formed by a neighborhood committee and is run by Jeffrery Dejean and Jean Robert Rejouis, two spirited and motivated individuals that saw too many children being kept at home or walking the streets, without the opportunity to go to school.

In Haiti over 85% of all schools are private: meaning that they are tuition funded schools.  In addition to paying for tuition, students must also pay for school uniforms, textbooks, transportation, and other associated school costs.  Even for students that attend the supposedly free public schools in Haiti, they have large associated costs that often prevent them from even having one single textbook for the duration of their school-year.  Without a doubt, this makes it very difficult to learn a subject, never mind the inability to take the textbook home to complete homework or study lessons.

Jeffrery and Jean Robert have created an arrangement with a school that operates a morning program to use the school in the afternoons free of charge.  The school currently enrolls children in grades 1-4 with children ranging in age from 6-22.  Jeffrery and Jean Robert rely on fellow volunteers to teach the classes, and pay for school supplies and teacher materials out of their own pockets.  They currently serve 42 children from the neighborhood, providing education for children that for many, is the first time for them to attend a formalized school.

It is a truly amazing program that Jeffrery and Jean Robert have created, but it was evident that despite their hard work there are still problems left to be solved, including providing each child with the necessary school supplies for everyday use.  H.E.R.O. will begin to provide basic school supplies so that at least every child in the program will be able to participate in the daily instruction and homework assignments.  It is our hope that with time we will also be able to provide more for the school and the children that it serves. 


Steven M. Kirby, Ed.D