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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 We hope that this video will inspire you to go out and make a difference in the lives of others. Happy Independence Day!