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Web-Site: www.haitihero.org                 E-Mail: info@haitihero.org

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Election

I wanted to provide a brief update with regard to the current volatile situation in Haiti. As I prepared to board my flight this morning to Port-au-Prince, the gate agent made an announcement. All American Airlines flights to PAP had been cancelled for the day due to civil unrest. Additionally, I have found out that tomorrow’s (Thursday) flights have also been cancelled.

I have been asked about the children at the H.E.R.O. Residence for Orphans. During this past week we have been completing the process for enrolling the children in our residence. This process includes the completion of the enrollment form, a medical check-up including blood-tests for TB, HIV, Syphilis, and Hepatitis C. The process also includes the procurement of the birth certificate of the child, and death certificates for both parents. Once we have completed the above steps and verified that the child is an orphan and we are capable of handling any medical complications that may exist, the child will enter our residence.

That being said, currently the children we are enrolling reside in areas that are now inaccessible to us due to the civil unrest. The current security situation is not safe, not only because of the reaction to the elections, but also due to the recent release of the report stating that the U.N. was responsible for bringing cholera to Haiti. True or not these findings bring more attention to foreigners in Haiti. We do feel an urgency to enroll the children into our program because we know that every day an orphan is not in our program, is a day they likely go without food, an education, or basic human rights. At the same time we must also take into consideration the safety of our staff when handling the enrollment process.

If you have any questions or comments about the current situation in Haiti and H.E.R.O.’s response, please feel free to contact me. We hope and pray for a brighter day in Haiti, and the lives of the children we serve.

Sincerely,
 
Steve Kirby
steven@haitihero.org

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Please visit http://www.haitihero.org/ to help the street children of Haiti!




Greetings Fellow H.E.R.O. Supporters!

While Haiti waits for the results of the presidential election, the street children in the H.E.R.O. Education Program wait for generous sponsors to help provide them with school uniforms, school supplies, and daily meals. For a monthly sponsorship of $25 you can help to provide all of these basic needs and more to one of the 23 children in our program. Our children come from all over the capital of Haiti, sometimes walking for miles to receive a free education. Our children are often victims of physical, social, and sexual abuse, living on the streets to escape their horrid pasts. They have survived the deaths of their mothers and fathers, earthquakes, hurricanes, and thus far they have managed to evade the recent cholera epidemic. While H.E.R.O. currently funds the salaries of all 5 teachers in the program, we want to do more for the children. Your sponsorship will provide each child with school uniforms, school supplies, and a daily meal. For most of our children, this meal will be the only meal of the day. Together we can make a difference in the life of a street child in Haiti. To learn how you can become a sponsor please CLICK HERE. Thank you for your continued support!

Sincerely,

Steven Kirby

Please visit http://www.haitihero.org/ to help the street children of Haiti!

Monday, November 22, 2010

A New Chapter! Welcome Children!

To learn more about H.E.R.O. In Haiti visit http://www.haitihero.org/

Claudy at the H.E.R.O. Education Program for Street Children

It is 12:11 AM on Monday morning, the 22nd of November. Today is the day that H.E.R.O. will welcome our first two children - - Melissa and Wiseley - - into our Transition Home. I cannot tell a lie, the past 2 months have been filled with extremely hard work. Special thanks goes out to Michele Deardorff our Secretary, Dan Kasnick our Country Director, Brice our driver/Creole teacher/get it done/take care of business/all around great guy, Marlene our Director of Kids, Rea Dol the Director of SOPUDEP, Kathleen Chant our Garden Coordinator, and all the donors, contributors, and supporters of H.E.R.O. I realize that this is just the beginning, but it does start a new chapter in our H.E.R.O. life.



Rea Dol, Director of SOPUDEP

While I am supposed to be finishing up a paper right now due by midnight tonight, I am instead reflecting on the past 2 months in Haiti. We acquired the residence in PAP at a very reasonable rental rate, but there were many repairs to be made. It has taken us 2 solid months to repair the plumbing and electrical, install a gas stove, have bunk beds hand-made and delivered, purchase mattresses that we had to cut to 26 horizontal inches (who knew you could do this and they would still look good!), bring in sheets and clothes from the US, install chlorinators for our water, and repair almost every doorknob in the house (Thanks Dan!). Did I mention the generator we had to buy because city power “trickles” into our house!? This is the reality of Haiti, one where everything takes longer than expected, everyone is patient about the process, and eventually everything gets done. I didn’t move to Haiti expecting anything else, and I am thus truly pleased that it ONLY took us 2 months to get the Transition Home ready!



Education is the Key to Success

And I have to admit, while the paper sits in front of me half finished, it has proven to be helpful for our Education Program for Street Children. We are in the process of taking a loosely developed school program for street children and turning it into a center of academic excellence. Currently H.E.R.O. funds the teacher salaries (read: Dan and Michele pay $200 (total) every month to pay 5 teachers to work 5 days a week from 1:30 PM to 4:30 PM for an entire school year) - - if anyone wants to help fund the teacher salaries, let me know! Dan and Michele have enabled the 5 teachers to continue working with the 25 children that are currently enrolled, and the many more that are yet to come. Because of my assignment I was able to find reading and math assessments in Creole that we will be able to utilize to personalize the education for our students (some are 18 years old and doing schoolwork on a first grade level). We can make a difference! Additionally, we are beginning a sponsorship program for our street children that can be accessed beginning Tuesday at http://www.haitihero.org/.  This will help us to provide daily meals for the children, buy uniforms and school supplies.


Michele Teaching English in the Afternoons (After her other job!)

OK! I need to wrap this up; I have 5 more pages to write! Thank you everyone for all that you have done! I will surely write more about our first day with Melissa and Wiseley, all of our lives are about to change! God Bless.

To learn more about H.E.R.O. In Haiti visit http://www.haitihero.org/

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cholera Update

To Learn How You Can Help Visit http://www.haitihero.org/

H.E.R.O. Provides A Free Education For Maxo

Haiti continues to carry the burden and suffering of the world. After the magnitude 7.0 earthquake killed over 230,000 people in January, hurricane Tomas killed another 20, and now there have been over 1000 confirmed deaths from cholera. The number of cholera deaths will only continue to rise until every person in Haiti has access to clean drinking water and proper sanitation.



Chloriantors Provide Clean Drinking Water For H.E.R.O.

At H.E.R.O. we were fortunate to have chlorinators installed at our Transition Home in Port-au-Prince last week. All water passing into our showers, toilets, and sinks funnels through a chlorine system installed on our water tanks, resulting in water that is clean enough to drink. Furthermore, we are creating emergency cholera treatment kits in the event that our children or staff should become infected. In Haiti, when one travels to the hospital, most often you are met by a doctor or nurse that then tells you what medicine you will require to be treated. You then must go to the nearest pharmacy to buy the medication, and then return to the hospital to have the IV, or other medicine, professionally dispensed by the doctor. Cholera has the capacity to kill within 4 hours, and thus the time required to get to a hospital, purchase the necessary medication, and have it properly dispensed may simply be too much, resulting in death. We hope that by creating cholera treatment kits we will be able to have immediate access to the necessary medication and medical instruments to provide treatment within one hour. In addition to the chlorinators and treatment kits we continue to advise our children and staff to wash their hands regularly, and we only serve food that has been thoroughly cooked. This is the reality of Haiti.


Going To School Puts A Smile On Laura's Face


I also want to express that the cholera problem in Haiti is not a Haiti problem, it is a world problem. Haiti is a country that is only a 1.5 hour plane ride from the United States, where most DO NOT have access to clean water, and HALF never attend school. It is also OUR problem. While it is true that H.E.R.O. (http://www.haitihero.org/) would be grateful for your donation to help us aid the street children and orphans of Haiti, what is MORE important is that you please help Haiti by selecting and donating to at least one of the many incredible organizations working hard to create a better Haiti, including
Partners In Health (http://www.pih.org/), SOPUDEP (http://www.sopudep.org/), International Action (http://www.haitiwater.org/), and many others that are making great efforts to secure a better life for the people of Haiti. We really can make a difference in this world, but we must work together to get results.

To Learn How You Can Help Visit http://www.haitihero.org/







Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Getting The Job Done

To Learn More About H.E.R.O. Visit Us At http://www.haitihero.org/

Wiseley and Melissa

I returned to the United States last week to begin collecting data for my final doctoral Capstone Project at Vanderbilt University. The project took me to South Bend, Indiana where along with my colleagues we interviewed over 30 teachers, administrators, and district officials. It was an exhausting five days that required an 8 hour drive from Nashville to South Bend. I have to admit, however, that after being on the roads in Haiti it was a pleasure to spend 8 hours on open highways averaging about 75 miles per hour, with no traffic, no delays, no potholes, just the fun of driving. We are truly blessed to live in a country such as the United States where our lives are made easier by even the simplest of things, such as paved roads.


I left South Bend after five days to drive another 8 hours to visit my Haitian Godson, Carl, in Latrobe Pennsylvania. He is currently a sophomore at St. Vincent’s College on an athletic scholarship. The most difficult aspect of the college life for him has been missing his family back home in Miami. I think it was helpful for him to see a familiar face up there for a couple of days, and of course I am sure he enjoyed the perks of getting a nice jacket for the coming winter and eating out at some restaurants rather than the cafeteria. He is on the football team but unfortunately could not play over the weekend due to a hamstring injury. However, this allows him to focus more on his studies and spend more time in the library! I was only able to spend a few days in Latrobe, but it was great seeing the progress Carl has made, from immigrating to the United States from Haiti at the age of 5, to now being a college student. I hope we can provide the same opportunities for our children in the H.E.R.O. program.

Brise Showing Off Our Bunk Beds
I wrapped up my week with a 10 hour drive from Latrobe back to Nashville. I will be here for one more week, attending class this weekend, and buying plenty of materials, clothes, toys, etc. for the children that will arrive at the H.E.R.O. house next week. The two children, Wiseley and Melissa, are having their medical checks this week, and next Tuesday will be officially enrolled in the H.E.R.O. Residence for Orphans and Street Children. The house in Port-au-Prince is 95% ready. We have to fix one little toilet problem, and it will be done. We have purchased 7 bunk beds, 14 mattresses, a generator, an inverter and battery system, 2 large tables, and plenty of educational materials to get started. We are almost ready!

Dan, Country Director, with Wiseley
I hope that you have watched out thermometer grow on our website at www.haitihero.org We have reached $55,765.00 dollars in donations towards the construction of our permanent residence for street children and orphans. Thus far we have received donations ranging from $25.00 to $3,500.00! Every dollar helps us to reach our goal of $100,000 dollars! I thank everyone for their donations, contributions, encouragement, and prayers as we continue to serve the most disenfranchised youth in Haiti. Thank you!

To Learn More About H.E.R.O. Visit Us At http://www.haitihero.org/



Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Always Plan for a Change of Plans in Haiti


Michele, Lui, and I at the Land

This past Saturday marked the arrival of Dan Hildebrand, the individual that will be responsible for constructing the EcoShells for the H.E.R.O. Residence for Street Children and Orphans. We immediately set out on Sunday morning for Petite-Riviere de Nippes. We had received news that the Catholic Church had some additional land they wanted to donate to H.E.R.O. We arranged to stay overnight at the Manolo Inn, meet with some local contractors, and return Monday morning. Well, nothing turned out as planned, it turned out even better!

We drove into the dusty town of Petite-Riviere de Nippes at 2:00 PM, just in time for the axle to disengage from our tire, the car failing us right in front of Manolo Inn. I had been given the contact number for Father Rebecca, the priest of this area, and I informed him of our breakdown. He immediately came to pick us up, told us we were not staying at the Manolo Inn, but instead would be his guest at the church! His protégé, Willy, threw our bags in the back of the car, and away we went! We arrived at the church to a table set for the four of us, Bris, Dan Hildebrand, Michele, and I, with a spread of local chicken, beet salad, rice, and French fries. What a treat! Father Rebecca, who I have never met before, treated us like family. Immediately after lunch we hopped in the car to see the land. Of course, we had to stop by the soccer field first, just for a few minutes to let Father Rebecca kick the soccer ball around with the secondary school kids, and then we were off. We arrived at the land site, confused to see about 20 locals waiting for us! Father Rebecca had arranged for us to meet the community members, to walk around the land, and to have a conversation about the possibility of constructing a residence for orphans on this particular site. There is still much decision making to be had, but we were all in disbelief at the amazing hospitality that was provided to us.

 
A Class of 77 Students

After dinner, and a good sleep, we woke up Monday morning to a wonderful breakfast.  Father Rebecca greeted us and then invited us down to the church where he was hosting the Monday morning assembly for the entire 300 secondary school student body.  He proceeded to invite each one of us up, Bris, Michele, Dan, and I, to give a short speech in English, to everyone’s amusement.  He then asked us to help pass out school supplies including rulers, pens, and pencils.  After the secondary school students were dismissed, we were marched over to the primary school, where we were introduced to each classroom (including a class of 77 first graders), and again we passed out school supplies.  While we could have stayed for the entire week with Father Rebecca and his wonderful hosting skills, alas, we had to return to Port-au-Prince for some additional H.E.R.O. duties. 
Passing Out School Supplies


The lesson to take from this weekend was that despite your best plans in Haiti, they will always change.  None of this weekend was planned, but we enjoyed being hosted by an incredible individual, Father Rebecca, looked at an amazing plot of land, and were grateful for the opportunity to pass out school supplies to the students.  Haiti is wonderful!

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Great Weekend!

Check out the H.E.R.O. Website @ http://www.haitihero.org/                             

Brice and I in Les Cayes
What a weekend!  It started off on Thursday with a drive to the province of Nippes where we have been donated land.  This drive is crazy during the dry season, and is truly incredible during the rainy season!  As my friend Brice and I approached the large river that we had to cross to reach the land, we took a moment to stop and ponder whether we should go across or not.  After making the decision that we could cross this 3-4 foot deep river in our SUV, Brice inched us forward into the shallow part of the river.  The water began to rise slowly on the sides of the vehicle, and then before we knew it, we were in the deep part.  Water began to come through the bottom vents and began slowly filling the car.  Even worse, at that point the car became stuck in a rut, and we were still 10 yards from the other side!  The water rose to cover the entire engine, it began filling the cab, reaching our seats, at which point I escaped through the window!  The engine and exhaust eventually filled with water, cutting off power to the engine.  Along with some locals we managed to push the vehicle back to dry land before the entire cab filled with water.  After allowing the car to dry overnight and a quick trip to the mechanic, Brice and I returned back to Port-au-Prince, safe and sound!


Fetching water from the river
The next day, on Saturday, Michele and I, along with Brice and Kerby headed out to Les Cayes to look at some potential additional land for H.E.R.O.  5 hours later we ran into another river, nowhere near the size of the one in Nippes, but one that still had to be crossed to get to the property located in the town of Maniche, near Les Cayes.  As we crossed the 6 inch deep water, we again became stuck!  The wheels ran down into the rocks of the river, embedding the tires, rendering our vehicle immobile.  After 45 minutes of pushing and pulling the vehicle, we were finally free to continue our journey to Maniche.  We stayed overnight in Maniche, visited the land, and the nearby river.  The countryside of Haiti is truly beautiful.  We enjoyed an amazing fish lunch in Les Cayes, gazing out at the beautiful beach and ocean.  This is the type of living I could get used to!

Brice, Kerby, and I at the local public school
Returning to Port-au-Prince one realizes what a congested city it really is.  On both the trips to Nippes and to Les Cayes, once out of the city, there are very few cars on the road.  Back into PAP though, traffic is a nightmare.  After taking a break on Sunday, it was back to work at the Delmas house on Monday.  The bunk beds for the children arrived!  They have been placed into the rooms waiting for their mattresses and sheets.  The two toilets are almost ready for operation and the dining room and outdoor tables have been completed.  We will begin registering children this week!  As soon as the house is completed and the registration process finished the first 12 children will be welcomed!  We are truly excited to make a difference in the lives of Haitian youth!

Check out the H.E.R.O. Website @ http://www.haitihero.org/ 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Brief Update


As I prepare to return to Nashville this week I want to provide just a brief update of what has been happening these past few weeks for H.E.R.O. In Haiti. As previously mentioned we rented a house in Port-au-Prince that will serve as our temporary residence for children until our permanent development is built. While we have already identified 9 potential children to welcome into our temporary residence, there has been a delay with regard to completing the appropriate paperwork to become a registered residence for street children and orphans in Haiti. While our lawyer has assured us that this is only a minor delay, it is difficult knowing that there are children out there that need our services. However, this extra time will ensure that we have made the necessary preparations for the children, procured the needed supplies, and truly worked with our staff here to create a program that will effectively and efficiently house, educate, and rehabilitate the children of Haiti.



I would like to thank all of those that have donated towards our goal of raising $100,000 Dollars in 100 Days. We are half way to our goal! We have a team from the United States coming at the end of October to complete a survey of the donated land and to begin putting together the site plan for the development. Additionally, the Airform for construction of the EcoShells has been ordered and is in Miami awaiting transport to Haiti. If all goes well, we will begin the construction of the H.E.R.O. Residence for Street Children and Orphans in November. We are counting on all of you, our supporters, to help us reach our goal of raising $100,000 dollars to make this happen!


As always, if you have any questions or comments about our work in Haiti or have ideas for fundraisers or other ways you would like to help, please don’t hesitate to contact me at steven@haitihero.org We hope that you will join us in our efforts to serve the most disenfranchised youth in Haiti.


Sincerely,


Steven Kirby
H.E.R.O., President




Sunday, September 26, 2010

Preparing For Our Children

Kervons showing off some soccer skills

Frankie showing off the stitched together ball

There is a lot of exciting news to share with all of you this week! I was successfully able to rent a house in Port-au-Prince! Located in the area of Delmas, the house is divided into 2 floors. The upstairs will be reserved for the on-site staff including the Director of Children. The down stairs will house 10 orphans and street children and also includes the kitchen, dining room, living room, bathrooms, and H.E.R.O. office. Children will begin living in the house the weekend of October 22nd.

I want to provide a deeper explanation of the purpose of our residence in Delmas. The reality is that there are currently thousands of street children and orphans in Haiti that do not live in conditions that are safe, secure, sanitary, or sufficient. As we make preparations to open our Residence for Street Children and Orphans in the province of Nippes, we must take steps to begin the process of properly documenting the children that will be in our care, provide appropriate medical services, and prepare the children for living in a structured and stable environment. As a result, the residence in Delmas is designed to provide many important services to our children prior to their arrival in Nippes. Furthermore, we will be able to provide housing, education, and rehabilitation for 10 children, a starting point in our efforts to serve as many street children and orphans in the most effective manner possible. As we transition our children from Delmas to Nippes, the residence in Delmas will take on additional roles. It will house volunteer groups, be our Port-au-Prince office, serve as our intake center for new orphans and children, and also act as a transition home for our older youth entering the workforce. We are working diligently to prepare this residence to be fully operational.

Unfortunately, last Friday Haiti suffered some more when an unexpected storm came through with gale force winds and massive rain. Five people were killed, more injured, and there was extensive damage to the tent and tarp cities that exist. Not nearly as devastating, two large trees fell in our new property on Delmas. We spent Saturday using machetes to clear the debris. I was also saddened to find out that at SOPUDEP, a school that was damaged by the earthquake but still usable, had the entire roof blown off. Rea Dol visited us at Delmas to break the news that the reopening of SOPUDEP School would be delayed for several weeks due to the numerous repairs that now have to be made. In Rea’s words, “There are still more problems in Haiti.”

H.E.R.O. is nearly half way to our goal of raising $100,000 in 100 days. I hope that you will join us to serve the country and people of Haiti. Even 25 dollars can make a tremendous impact in our efforts to aid the most disenfranchised youth in Haiti. Thank you for your continued support, encouragement, and contributions to H.E.R.O. In Haiti.



Sincerely,

Steven Kirby



Bris and I clearing the debris

Relieving stress with a game of hoops.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Becoming an Auto Mechanic

I never knew that it would be so difficult to get a used car into perfect running condition. Lesson learned.


It all started 1 year and 3 months ago when Natacha Constant, the H.E.R.O. Vice President moved to Haiti. In June of 2009 she shipped her car from the United States to Haiti with the hope that the car would arrive in August of 2009 for the beginning of the 2009-2010 school year. The car arrived in Port-au-Prince but was held up in customs for various reasons. After the earthquake in January 2010, Natacha moved back to the U.S. to seek employment. Unfortunately, the car had yet to clear customs in Haiti, and continued to sit on the docks. 3 weeks ago, 1 year and 3 months after Natacha sent the car, it finally cleared customs! Since Natacha is currently not in Haiti, she has graciously allowed me to use the car for H.E.R.O.’s benefit, a true blessing in a country that relies on transportation to accomplish almost any task.

The car was not treated well in customs. For more than 5 whole days I have spent time in various garage shops (this is an overstatement) fixing various parts of the car, including damage caused to it while it was in customs. Each day is filled with driving the car to a new garage, sitting for up to 8 hours watching and making sure repairs are appropriately made, and trying to find patience. There are positive aspects, however. I have learned how to say “spark plugs” in Kreyol, found the best place to buy a chicken patty in Port-au-Prince, and built some great relationships. The car is just about in tip-top shape. A few more days at the garage this week, and all will be done. I can’t thank Natacha enough for providing this vehicle for H.E.R.O.’s use, it truly is a blessing.


Sincerely,

Steven Kirby

Friday, September 10, 2010

Presenting the H.E.R.O. Residence for Street Children and Orphans in Haiti


The H.E.R.O. Residence for Street Children and Orphans is designed to provide housing, education, and rehabilitation for 50 boys and girls in Haiti. We will use EcoShells constructed from locally available materials to create a development that includes four dormitories, kitchen and multi-purpose facilities, staff and guest houses, a sports activity field, and vegetable gardens. This Preliminary Site Plan developed by Jamie Schmidt brings us one step closer to turning our vision into reality. H.E.R.O. has set a $100,000 dollar fundraising goal to complete the construction of the H.E.R.O. Residence for Street Children and Orphans. We only have 3 months to raise this amount in order to begin construction. Our Grand Opening is scheduled for January 12th, 2011, the one-year anniversary of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that rocked Haiti. With your help, we will be able to equip the youth of Haiti with the skills and knowledge necessary to become healthy, educated, and productive citizens. We want to thank you in advance for your support and contribution in our efforts to serve the most disenfranchised youth in Haiti.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My Cousin The Tennis Player - Adapted From The Star Ledger


Brian Battistone walked over to the fence as a group of six children piled against the other side waiting for a picture.

Before they all got into frame, he asked them what they’d all secretly hoped he would. The reason they’d stuck around twenty minutes after his unseeded doubles team lost in straight sets.

“Should I get my racket?”

“YEAH! YEAH! YEAH!”

They were like he was just a few years ago. Their curiosity was apparent as their eyes followed the red-and-black racket with two handles and the man who learned how to utilize its unusual contour. They clamored to the center of the photo to grab hold of it.

They were like him because he was just as curious when he first heard about it back on a court in California. As a player trying to become ambidextrous with a single-handled racket, he was turned onto the design from a man who’s father made the original patent back in 1973, he also had it legalized by the International Tennis Federation.

Ever since, he’s been that guy with the two handles.

Battistone, who played with Ryler DeHeart, fell to Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, 3-6, 6-7.

“I like the idea of having reach on all sides,” Battistone, a 31-year-old from Las Vegas, said. “I like playing with two forehands. After a while it started making sense to me and I could visualize doing a lot of different things.”

The why, to him, is simple. With a two-handled racket, everything becomes easier. The swinging motion operates by the push-pull concept. The racket cuts through the wind faster as the front handle slices out in front of the back one, where his hand is.

The grips, he says, give him at least 30 different kinds of swings. Throughout a match, he plays with hands on each handle and both, when he plants his feet to deliver a two-handed forehand, or backhand.

Then there is its intended benefit. Lionel Burt, the inventor, created it in part to reduce tennis-related injuries. With more grip options, it took the body’s focus away from using one hand predominantly. It allowed players to evenly distribute the stress on both arms.

His training partner, Trent Aaron, said he learned to use it in less than two weeks.

“It’s like, I’d say a 10-day process,” Aaron said. "It’s a different contact point but after like three days with it added so much power, speed and reach.”

Rafael Nadal was curious, too. Ten minutes before Battistone came out for his match, the No. 1 player in the world began staring at it, asking questions. Before long, he’d picked it up and began swinging it around the locker room.

“He was grabbing at it and looking at it,” Battistone said. “He’d never seen it before. He’s a natural righthander and I told him he could play with two forehands, a lefty forehand and a righty forehand and he was laughing.”

It wasn’t always that way. Curiosity started with ire from the tour regulars who harangued Battistone and his brother, Dann, who began using them professionally a few years back.

It took time for them to see Battistone darting from baseline to baseline, flipping the racket from his left hand to his right, and then planting to fire a two-handed forehand.

“Some people, it honestly angers them,” Aaron said. “It’s been radically opposed. They literally think it’s the ugliest thing.”

And it all started because he was like the kids. Just wanted to see what that weird thing could do.

It was probably why, now 30 minutes after his match, he’d invited them onto the court to hit some balls with the racket. That, and the fact that he manufactures them now with his brother and the original inventor. He is a walking salesman.

He watched as they blasted shots all over the vacant court, playing with the racket he named “the natural.”

“It’s about adapting,” he said, “just trying out a new strategy.”

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Getting Back Into The Swing Of Haiti

Read talking about life in Haiti

It has been just over a week since I arrived back into Haiti, and it has been wonderful! I have to admit that I have to make some life adjustments when I come here to Haiti, especially when it comes to waiting for things to get done. This would include the 2 hour wait in line at the bank to make a deposit, the one hour wait to print off a couple of pages at the print shop, and the multiple hour wait on a daily basis in traffic. If anything, it allows me to practice being patient. I fully admit that in the United States I am the first person to ask for a manager when service isn’t up to standard, or employees are being rude to customers, or if I have to wait for over 5 minutes for a teller at Bank of America. In Haiti however, I truly have learned to be patient. You are going to get to wherever you are going eventually, and whatever services you need are going to get accomplished, it just takes a little bit longer – Lesson Learned!

Upon my return I was also struck with what has been a recurring theme in my life: the importance of relationships. All the friends and acquaintances that I first made here in Haiti have been so welcoming and warm upon my return. From SOPUDEP to Union School, everyone has truly reached out to me and told me to not hesitate to ask for help and that they are more than willing to provide assistance with the construction and implementation of the residence for street children and orphans. It is a great feeling to know that the relationships I built during my first five months are continuing to grow into lifelong friendships.

I met with Rea Dol and her husband to discuss plans for SOPUDEP. They are working hard to rebuild their school so that it can again serve over 600 students. You can keep updated about their progress on their website at www.sopudep.org

I also visited Union School where every administrator, faculty, and staff member are hard at work preparing for their September 7th opening. I am very impressed at what they have accomplished in such a short time frame. Although they will be only using the secondary building for the entire school population, they are still expecting an enrollment of 200 students. It is going to be an exciting year for them.

It has also been a great week for H.E.R.O. The land is scheduled to be placed into the H.E.R.O. name on the week of September 12th, just a few days from now. Furthermore, I have been traversing Port-au-Prince to find prices for construction materials, transportation, and a work crew. Design plans for the residence are expected to be completed this week! So make sure you keep an eye out for those! I am so excited about this project, and can’t wait for the opening day! Thank you for your continued support, encouragement, and contributions, they are truly appreciated.




Saturday, August 21, 2010

Becoming Educated in Ghana

video


A young 10 year old Ghanaian boy darts through traffic, carefully balancing a basket of dried fish on his head, contorting his hands and face to gain the attention of the passengers in each passing car. As the sun settles on the dry, red, ground of Sogakope, the boy returns to a barren shack he calls home, to an aunt who, disappointed by the boy’s failure to sell an appropriate amount of fish, refuses to feed him dinner. His stomach rumbling, a single tear gingerly winds down his smooth cheek. The boy wishes for a different life, different circumstances: a chance to become educated. Meet Louis.


I first met Louis in Akatsi, a rural city in Ghana, West Africa. He was 14 years old then and living with his abusive cousin, while also managing the life of his 8 year old brother Gershon. They were living in a two-room dirt floor dilapidated concrete structure, with both parents absent. I spent a day in the life of Louis at one point, which began at 5:30 AM with a half-mile trek to the nearest well, where he proceeded to drop a bucket down to fetch water, only to watch half of its contents drain out from the quarter size hole in the bottom. This wasn’t what struck me about Louis’ life, however. What caught my attention was his morning dedication to studying his notes from class, his rapt attention during my English courses at his middle school, and his continual thirst for knowledge, arriving immediately after school at our volunteer premises to engage in conversation with the volunteers, to sop up every word, every grain of knowledge.

Louis’ story is no different than hundreds of thousands of youth across our world, that because of the circumstances they are born into, do not have access to education, health care, or even basic food supplies. Louis’ story is one of success, however, a testament to the power of education and to what happens when a young boy decides that in order to become successful in this world, and to rise out of poverty, one must become educated.

I spent the entire past week with Louis, his father, his mother, his brother Gershon, and his younger sister. He has overcome such great obstacles in his life including being kicked out of secondary school for lack of school fees, going without food for several days in a row, and living in conditions not suitable for any human being. Despite these struggles, and because of his commitment to education, he recently graduated from a 3 year Polytechnic program in Marketing, having been the Marketing President in his final year, charged with overseeing the 3,000 plus student body. Now, as a 23 year old that has never seen a washing machine, and only tried pizza for the first time last week, he has aspirations of earning his Bachelor Degree in Marketing and travelling abroad to earn his Masters.

Louis attributes his success in life to one sole factor, the pursuit of education. It has given him opportunities to speak impeccable English, dabble in French, lead thousands of students, and earn a National Diploma in a very challenging field. The 10 year old boy that sold fish is now a 23 year old success story for all of Ghana. I say to you Louis, Well Done!
Me and Louis at the Kwame Nkrumah Museum

Me and Louis at a soccer match in Accra
Me, Louis' Brother Gershon, and his father Fred

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Remembering Fiji, Heading To Ghana, Project Haiti


Niu, father to Kama, at Kama's burial site


I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to travel the world.  In this year alone I have survived an earthquake in Haiti, returned to Fiji to attend the funeral of my friend's 15 year old son, and tomorrow I am leaving for Accra, Ghana for a reunion with a young man I met 10 years ago; a Ghanaian that has beaten the odds and recently earned his Associates Degree in Finance and Marketing (more on the back-story in a later edition).  Each of my experiences in Haiti, Fiji, and Ghana have taught me life lessons that I could not have received by staying in the United States.  Each time I travel abroad, especially to third world countries, I am always humbled by the knowledge and life lessons that are passed down to me.  It truly is an honor.




Louis (right), his brother Gerson (middle), and his father (left) as we travel through the rural areas of Ghana




Children in a Tent City in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Education Is A Right, Not A Privilege

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Well, aside from the 30 page research paper that I must complete by Tuesday, summer classes are over! This means that I have only 9 months left in my doctoral program at Vanderbilt University, a short time considering that I started this program nearly 3 years ago; it really seems like yesterday! I thank God for the opportunity that has been presented to me, and I am truly thankful for my colleagues and professors that I have met. I am blessed to be born in a country, the United States, where K-12 education is both free and compulsory. There are millions of children around the world that because of their life circumstances never even have the opportunity to enter a formal classroom. These are the children that H.E.R.O. will serve, to provide housing, education, and rehabilitation to those born into circumstances of neglect and despair. There is no doubt, however, that if we come together, we can help to shape the future of the youth in Haiti, one child at a time.

I don’t think I have ever published the following story on my blog. If I have, it is worth hearing a second time. 4 days after the earthquake, Bruno Allard (a fellow teacher giving first aid) and I came upon a field of victims of the earthquake near General Hospital (the largest public hospital in Haiti). This field was overrun with men, women, and children, most of whom did not have the physical capability to walk to the hospital. They had been dropped off after the earthquake, left to fend for themselves, often without family. To add to their misery, no doctors, nurses, or international relief organizations had come to their aid. Bruno and I decided that we had to move them from the field to the actual hospital, where they at least had a chance to be seen by a doctor. We found two rusted out, blood stained gurneys without mattresses, and one by one we began to move each person from the field to the hospital. The gurneys’ weighed beyond our individual moving capacities, and we were shortly joined by local Haitian volunteers looking for any way to help the injured. Bruno, myself, and our helpful volunteers worked for hours, painstakingly lifting each man, woman, and child onto the gurney, rolling them 200 yards to General Hospital, finding an open space to lay them down, and repeating the process many times over. I haven’t even touched upon the most depressing moment of that day.

During the moving process, Bruno and I noticed a young boy, about ten years old, that had been watching us stumble back and forth with the gurneys. During one of my returns to the field, I sat next to this boy, and asked who he was with. He wasn’t with anybody. I asked Bruno (he is fluent in French) to ask him and the other adults around who this child was with. Each one dutifully reported that the child was by himself, and he had in fact been by himself for over 24 hours, sitting in this field, scared and injured, unsure of what to do. We decided that something had to be done, so Bruno picked him up and took him to our small first aid station at the General Hospital. We gave him crackers to eat and water to drink. His story was this: At 10 years old, this young boy had never been to school. On the morning of January 12th, 2010 his father and mother had finally earned enough money to enroll him for the first time ever in an elementary school. His father had taken him to register for classes, and he was all set to begin school the following day, his first time in a class full of children, his first time to learn in a formal school setting. His dreams were shattered by the earthquake. His mother, dead. His father, dead. His school, destroyed. Now here sat an orphan, a child that had never been to school, ready to attend on January 13th, and yet he now found himself with no parents, no education, no future.

Education is the vehicle for human freedom. H.E.R.O. is going to provide housing for the street children and orphans, education for those that have never attended school, and rehabilitation for those affected by years of physical, mental, and emotional abuse. We took that young boy to Nos Petit Frères et Soeurs Saint Damien Pediatric Hospital that evening. I pray for his healing.

Please join H.E.R.O. in our mission to serve the most disenfranchised youth in Haiti. We need your help to make our vision a reality; together we can make a difference.

Steven Kirby,

President

Monday, July 12, 2010

6 Months After "The Quake" - Staying Positive



It feels like it happened yesterday. The building shaking for what seemed like an eternity, running to a doorframe and holding on for my life: not knowing whether I would live or I would die. And then, rushing outside to ensure that all my fellow teachers were unhurt, I clearly remember the screams that came from the poverty stricken neighborhood below, and the dust rising, filling the air. After staying up for 24 hours after the earthquake with my Union School comrades at my side, providing first aid and emergency care to hundreds of people, I remember the aftershocks that came every 4-6 hours, causing the local community to raise their hands to the heavens, and pray for life. I will never forget January 12th, 2010 and the 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti - - I hope you don’t either.

I thank God everyday for the life I have. I am not just talking about surviving the earthquake, but I am talking about the daily aspects of my life that I take for granted. While I did return to Haiti in April with the Board of Directors from H.E.R.O. to provide disaster relief services and acquire land for the orphanage, it has now been 2 months since I have been back, and I have to be honest, sometimes I really don’t understand how my life can be so blessed with all that comes with living in the United States of America, versus those such as the orphans and street children in Haiti that may or may not eat today, will not go to school today, and most definitely won’t walk into a 24 hour Wal-Mart or McDonalds. I cannot tell a lie, every time I walk into Wal-Mart or McDonalds, or any other business that caters to my needs, I thank God, because there are billions of others in this world that don’t have the luxury - - yes, it is a luxury.

And so I get frustrated sometimes when I meet a fellow American for the first time. At some point during our interactions I say that I am building an orphanage in Haiti and that I was there in January during the earthquake, and along with my colleagues helped to provide first aid and disaster relief to hundreds of victims, waiting for 5 days until international aid finally arrived. What hurts, however, is the reaction I get. Usually, it is a simple acknowledgement of where I was and what I did, and then a continued conversation about their lives, and what they are doing, and how they know what Haitians must be thinking and feeling. Even to the point the other day, one person said, “Well, over there (Haiti) they don’t have the motivation to want better things, like a nice house, and a car.” This said from someone that had never travelled outside of the United States. So, for all of us that were there for the earthquake, and helped during the time of crisis, and have returned to give even more support, do me a favor and simply listen to our stories. Ask important questions about what happened, how it affected our lives, and how you can help.

I digress. Despite the claims that the Red Cross, the UN and USAID aren’t providing sufficient aid in Haiti, there is progress. November 28th has been set as the date for the Presidential Election, a moment that will have a significant impact on the future direction of Haiti. Haiti is still in crisis, however. Access to housing, food, water, medical care, and education are still extremely limited. This country, only a 1.5 hour plane ride from the United States still needs our help. So, on this 6 month anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti, I ask you to pray, I ask you to encourage, and I ask you to support the efforts to help serve the country and people of Haiti. Together, we can make a difference, one small step at a time.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Independence Day!

On this day, July 4th, 2010, I think it is important to remember why we celebrate. We celebrate our Independence from the British, a largely tyrannical government that once spread its colonialist wings across the world. I will be the first to admit, however, that I am so thankful for everything that I have in America, everything the United States stands for, and how blessed I have been to be born in this country.


That said, there is so much more that we can do as a country and a people. While we are considered the wealthiest country in the world, it still shocks me at the conditions of our public school systems, lack of concern for the welfare of the impoverished, and often greedy and imperialistic actions that we take. There is no doubt a segment of society that fully understands the dichotomy in the United States between the wealthy and the poor: and take action to rectify the situation. From the likes of Bill Gates who has donated billions of dollars to charity, to the high school volunteer at the local food bank, we do have people in this country that care about the societal good of all people in our country, and the world.

In this time of thanks and celebration, it is also a time of remembrance. A time to remember all those that have fought and died for our country: to allow us to enjoy our everyday freedoms. It is also a call, however, as those that are of privilege to help those that are not. Whether it is helping your neighbor, your community, this nation, or a foreign country, we have a duty and responsibility to help.

Today I present to you the first of an installment of H.E.R.O. videos created by our Secretary, Michele Deardorff. This first video is a call to action to help the orphans and street children in Haiti. The videos can be accessed on our website along with a variety of photograph galleries at www.haitihero.org We hope that this video will inspire you to go out and make a difference in the lives of others. Happy Independence Day!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Tragedy No Doubt: What Are The Lessons?


3 weeks ago I received a phone call -- a phone call that I hope will not be replicated during my lifetime. The call came from the Fiji Islands, a country that I consider to be my second home, my second place of birth, a spiritual birth, not physical. I first went to Fiji at the age of 13, and for the past 15 years I have come to know this country, its people, and its culture as my own. The phone call was from my father, and he broke the news to me; my best friend’s 15 year old son, Onisivoro Kamanalagi, had passed away.

The year was 2000. I was on another of my excursions to Fiji, taking in the breathtaking beaches, superb scuba diving, and trying to gain understanding of the Fijian people and culture. It was during this trip that Niumaia Nayasa, a local Fijian from Gau Island, invited me to his village, an 8 hour boat ride away through some of the wildest seas and jutting coral reefs that exist. Niu and I became instant best friends, and over the past 10 years we have developed a friendship, a bond, a brotherhood, the like I have never experienced before.

Words cannot do VadraVadra justice. This village is the birthplace of Niu, and it is where I first really learned to speak Fijian, went spear fishing during the day and night for the first time, experienced the wild effects of Kava, taught English for 2 weeks at the local school, and truly became indoctrinated and incorporated into the life and culture of a Fijian village. Through all of this Niu was by my side, helping me to understand the complexities of the Fijian family, navigating me through the taboos of the local culture, and most importantly, being an amazing friend. I spent much time with both of his sons, Kama and Save, helping them with their homework, swimming in the ocean, and teaching them English. The result was an invitation from the village to build my own house. In 2007, this mission was accomplished, and today my parents and I visit VadraVadra regularly, making it our second home.

I met Kama when he was 5 years old. During his youth it became apparent that Kama was a child dedicated to studying heard, working to his fullest potential, and devoted to his faith. He never hesitated to complete any chore that was asked of him, spent countless hours studying before and after school, and even became choirmaster of the youth choir at his church. In January of this year, 2010, Kama had just begun his first year of secondary school. He enrolled into one of the most prestigious government high schools in Fiji, and enjoyed the academic competition, rigorous instruction, and strict discipline required of the students. He was already successful in my eyes, but a child that had not yet reached his potential on earth.

Apparently, I am wrong, for God has taken Kama to be with Him, and called Kama to serve the Lord in Heaven. We shall all perish, and it is not for us to determine when our potential has been reached on earth. So I reflect on Kama’s short life, but understand that there are lessons to be learned from the way he lived his life, his devotion to academics, work, and faith, and that even if I can’t fully understand the lessons I am supposed to learn, I have faith that they will come into full view as I continue my life, and continually reflect on the life of Kama.

I have spent the past 3 weeks in the Fiji Islands with my friend Niu, his family, and my parents, helping each other cope through the loss of Kama. I just hope that I never have to receive another similar phone call during my lifetime, one was enough.

Steven Kirby, President
H.E.R.O.