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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Success is When Preparation Meets Opportunity!

Gary with his well deserved medal!

At H.E.R.O. our goal is to provide as many opportunities for our children to be successful in a variety of domains.  We are preparing our children to achieve at high levels in academics, athletics, social and emotional well being, art, and much more.  One of the difficulties of living in Haiti is knowing that sometimes preparation doesn’t result in success, simply because there are not many opportunities to use one’s talents.  For example, there are many young adults that have graduated college, and can’t find a job.  Another example is that last year the Track and Field Federation of Haiti had 0 tournaments in the country.  A third example is that this year, if H.E.R.O. hadn’t sponsored the only two tennis tournaments this far, there would not have been any created by the Haitian Tennis Federation.  Finally, there is only 1 chess tournament for kids during the whole year in Haiti.  My point is that at H.E.R.O. we have prepared our children in all of these domains, but often there just aren’t opportunities to display our talent.

Fortunately, this past week, we had the opportunity to participate in the annual Haitian National Scholastic Chess Championship.  And when our preparation met opportunity, we had outstanding success!  Gary, who has been with H.E.R.O. less than six months, and therefore has trained in chess for that length of time, won 3rd place in the Under 15 category!  We prepared, we were given an opportunity, and we were successful!  In fact, 4 of our children won 4 matches and lost only 1 match, but unfortunately fell just shy of placing in the tournament as well.  We are so proud that we were given the opportunity to succeed and put our talents on display.

But, the sad reality is that there is so little opportunity for children here in Haiti to shine.  So far, in the past 9 months, H.E.R.O. has sponsored 10 track and field events, 2 tennis tournaments, more than 6 small chess tournaments, and so much more!  We want to make sure that our children have the opportunity to use their preparation and be successful.  If you want to sponsor a chess, track and field, or tennis tournament in Haiti, please let me know!  Give the children of Haiti a chance to be successful!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

You Aren't Safe Anywhere

The media often portrays Haiti as one of the most violent countries in the world.  In actuality, however, Haiti has fewer violent and non-violent crimes than its Caribbean neighbors including both the Dominican Republic and Jamaica.  However, in today’s world, you aren’t safe anywhere.  Even in the United States, recent events dictate that it isn’t safe going to the movies, cheering on your friends at a marathon, or even going to school.  As the world becomes increasingly unsafe, one must be prudent, and take as many precautions as necessary to avoid violent crimes, whether it is in Haiti, the United States, or any other part of the world.

Just this past week there have been at least two deadly murders in Port-au-Prince.  Last week a Canadian Missionary had withdrawn $1000.00 from a local bank, only to be gunned down by someone on the back of a motorcycle.  The thieves/killers grabbed the Missionary’s backpack and took off.  It was such a waste, even more amplified by the fact that the money was in the man’s wallet, and lay untouched next to his dead body.  The thieves gained nothing, a man was dead, and nothing was better because of it.

A tragedy closer to home, in fact, less than 100 yards from the H.E.R.O. House, took place this past Saturday.  Our kids were involved in their weekly chess lessons, and around 4:00 we heard the distinct sound of 4 gunshots.  I don’t know if it is because he is used to these things, but our chess instructor, Haiti’s national chess champion, acted like nothing happened, didn’t even blink an eye, and continued as normal with the chess lessons!  I thought to myself, “Well, if he isn’t worried, then I’m not worried!”  Come to find out, that a judge was assassinated, in broad daylight, with plenty of witnesses and bystanders nearby.  I was shocked.

Thus, as we continue our journey here in Haiti, there are many rules one must follow to ensure the continuity of life.  This includes not going out after dark, unless absolutely necessary, making sure all gates and doors are locked, even during the day time, and not withdrawing money from banks unless it is a necessity.  Personally, I use ATMs located at various points around the city, always changing the location, day, and time that I withdraw funds.  Fortunately, there are ATMs in most grocery stores, at hotels, etc., so would-be thieves don’t know if I am shopping or withdrawing money.  Every precaution must be taken.

With all this being said, the lesson to take away from this is that our world has become a place where you have to lock your doors at night, arm yourself with guns, always leave 2 car lengths in front of you to prevent being kidnapped, etc.  It is unfortunate that it has become this way, but I urge you to not be blind.  You are not safe wherever you are.  All you can do is take every precautionary measure possible so that you don’t become a target.  And even then, you just never know.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Happy Labor Day!

We had an amazing day at the beach yesterday! The H.E.R.O. kids and their friends enjoyed the warm water, great food, and good friends. We hope to see you there with us next time!


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Chess, Tennis, More Chess, More Tennis!

Here are some pictures of our very busy weekend!  All photos are courtesy of our very own, 15-year-old, Franky Francois!  Enjoy!


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

When You Do It Right

It is so amazing what you can get done when you take the time to do it right!  This past week, ADAH (Association pour le Development de Athletisme Amateur) achieved our goal of sending 9 athletes to the International CARIFTA Track and Field tournament in the Bahamas!  Since July of last year we have worked diligently to start a track and field program in Haiti, hold monthly competitions for clubs and schools, pre-select over 20 athletes to train for the CARIFTA games, and in the end, actually send a competitive delegation of young Haitian athletes to a tournament that didn’t even have one Haitian athlete as a representative last year.  As the Vice-President of ADAH, I couldn’t be more proud!

ADAH started in July of last year with a simple message I posted on Facebook about wanting to start a youth track and field program in Haiti.  I was immediately contacted by Samyr Laine, a Haitian Olympic Triple Jumper (made the finals in London!), and from there he provided me with contacts here on the ground of Haiti of some coaches that might be interested.  I met with Coach Rochy and Coach Maxime, both amazing individuals, and with help from additional committee members we began holding monthly tournaments for the youth of Haiti.  

On the first tournament day, the judges showed up late, the teams showed up late, we started more than 1 hour behind schedule, it was disorganized, and there was a lot of head shaking on my end.  Our last tournament was so different!  Judges were on time, teams came early, we started right on time, and ran the event in a much more professional manner! I was so pleased at the progress of our athletes, our judges, coaches, and all involved.  I look forward to an even more productive year next year!

To me, ADAH is a great example of what can happen when foreigners and Haitian nationals work together to accomplish a given goal.  I could not have started ADAH without Coach Maxime and Coach Rochy, they have been instrumental in finding judges, organizing events, calling teams, etc.  My role has been to bring a group of individuals together, find the needed funds, and help administrate our programs in an effective manner.  Together we have worked diligently, and succeeded, in creating an organization in Haiti that is making a difference in the lives of youth.  I look forward to our continued programming during the summer, and the start of our 2013-2014 season in August.  It’s going to be another great year!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

I'm Tired

Working in Haiti can be exhausting.  Contrary to what you may think, it is not the work with the children in our care that is exhausting.  It isn’t the waking up early every morning to make breakfast and get them ready for school, it’s not the managing of staff or buying of groceries and cleaning supplies.  It isn’t the running from one activity to another, whether it’s chess, tennis, church, or soccer.  It’s none of those things.  I’m tired of:

  1. Other missionaries, NGO workers, aid-workers, and the like, judging the activities of others, as if somehow your project is better than someone else, or you are doing it right and that other person is doing it wrong
  2. The disdain many people have in this country, almost all foreigners (not Haitian), who hold orphanages in contempt, as if every single one of them is taking children from their families and doing nothing more than providing one meal a day and a shredded mattress to sleep on
  3. The media, that constantly, and only, promotes Haiti as a country full of violence and poverty, that will never rise from the pit it is in to become a successfully operating country

It is no more dangerous to live in Haiti, than it is to live in New York City.  It is no more dangerous to live in Haiti, than it is to live in Chicago.  It is no more dangerous to live in Haiti, than it is to live in Miami.  It’s so easy to see Haiti as a violent country, and not even think about Chicago, New York, and Miami that have some of the highest murder, armed assault, and violent acts rates in the world.  

I always said this as a teacher.  When you find that you don’t enjoy what you do anymore, then it is time to leave.  If you don’t enjoy working with kids, imparting valuable knowledge, or collaborating with staff for the benefit of others, it is time to go.  I feel the same way about any NGO worker, Missionary, aid-worker, etc. that works in Haiti.  Can’t stand the traffic?  Does the difficulty of navigating every government entity get to you?  Do you feel that you are living compound to compound and not really living at all?  If you aren’t in your right mind, there is no way that you can help anyone, man, woman, or child, reach their capability.  Fix yourself, before you try to fix others, stick to what you know, and if you haven’t done it before, you probably don’t understand it, so stop judging.

And if you tell me, that after 10 years, 20 years, 30 years of working here in Haiti, you have finally figured out how to make everything wrong into a right; you’ve been blinded.  All you can do is march forward, doing the best you can, providing what help you can to others, and hoping, in the end, that it all made a difference.  And guess what, sometimes it didn’t.  That’s called life.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

What an Amazing Weekend!

What an amazing weekend!  We packed a lot into just 2 days, and our kids were definitely tired by Sunday evening.  This weekend is best told in pictures, so I will keep the sentences short!

On Saturday Jude and Robenson participated in a tennis tournament for kids between the ages of 10 and 12.  There were more than 10 different clubs from around Haiti present, with over 60 athletes participating.  In partnership with the St. Louis Tennis Foundation, I sponsored the event, the first Junior Tennis Tournament in Haiti of the year.  Jude lost both of his matches and did not make it to the final bracket, while Robenson won both of his qualifying matches, but lost in the quarterfinals.  They did a great job, and I look forward to the next event I am sponsoring in April, for Juniors between 14-18 years old.  

On Sunday we loaded the cars with 8 kids and 6 adults!  My friend Carl flew in from Pennsylvania, and we were joined by Haiti’s national chess champion, Mr. Mondoly, as well as one of our good friends from the Haiti National Police, and our host, Kathleen Chant that lives in St. Marc!  Not only did we have an amazing time at the beach, but we also were able to compete in a mini-chess tournament against a team from St. Marc.  St. Marc is approximately 2 hours north of Port-au-Prince, and is home to some of the most beautiful beaches around.  Michele made a beautiful spread of sandwiches with all the fixings and homemade cookies!  We got back into Port-au-Prince around 7:00 PM, ate a light dinner, and went to sleep!