Contact Us

Web-Site:                 E-Mail:

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Lot To Be Thankful For

Several weeks ago we added three of our orphans (Robenson, Franky, Valencia) to our orphan sponsorship page on our website. Thanks to the overwhelming generosity of three individuals Robenson, Franky, and Valencia have been fully sponsored! Full sponsorship for our children includes a safe, secure residence to live, a free education that includes attending school, personalized home instruction, and rehabilitative activities such as karate, piano lessons, and dance instruction. Additionally each child receives three healthy meals a day plus snacks, new clothes, school books and materials, and school uniforms. Most importantly, the sponsorship of our children allows H.E.R.O. to continue our work in Haiti, to help each of the children in our care to become successful and productive citizens of Haiti.

I am also excited about our continued partnership with Union School in Haiti. On April 30th we will take 60 of our students from the Education Program for Street Children to Union School for a fun-filled field day! Students at Union School currently sponsor several of our children in the education program and all will be present to interact, meet each other, and best of all, have fun! The Union School PTA has graciously donated food for the event, and we even have t-shirts for the event being donated by a Union School parent! On this day, April 30th, we hope to bridge the gap between the wealthy and the poor in a collaborative event that will highlight the possibilities in Haiti. In past blogs I have constantly talked about the division between NGOs, church organizations, private schools, etc. This event held jointly between Union School and H.E.R.O. proves that when organizations work together for the benefit of the children, anything is possible. Thank you Union School!

Our accomplishments, unfortunately, are not always without difficulties. Most recently we have had a problem with electricity at our Transition Home for Orphans. In the past week we have only received about an hour of city power. As a result we must rely on our generator, which as many know, eats a lot of gas. Add to this that the price of gas in Haiti has soared; it becomes a constant battle of running the generator enough to power us through the night versus spending too much on gas. Additionally, one of our sliding glass doors at the house has broken leaving us with a continuously half-open door. We have been working for 2 weeks to find someone to fix this, to no avail. It is also an added expense that we just don’t need. These are just two examples of the constant challenges that we face. They are miniscule to the plight of the majority of Haitians, but unfortunately they cost money, money that I would rather spend on the education and rehabilitation of our children.

Despite these challenges, we continue to move forward. May and June are the last two months of the school year in Haiti. We are in the stages of developing a summer program for the street children in an effort to provide continuous education and nutritional meals through the summer. We are also trying to procure laptops to implement a technology program at both our Transition Home and Education Program. I hope that you will join us in these efforts. The sponsors, partners, and donors that have partnered with H.E.R.O. are evidence that together, we truly can make a difference in the life of a child in Haiti.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Achieving the American Dream

9 years ago I met a young kid named Carl Jeune. You may not know this, but it was in fact this 12 year old Haitian child that was the catalyst for my decision to travel to Haiti. Today Carl turns 21. I want to take this opportunity to tell you the story of a child that came from nothing and turned his life around to make it into everything. Happy Birthday Carl!

I was a senior at the University of Miami. The year was 2003. I found a position as a mentor for 10 inner-city youth in the heart of Miami. Carl was one of my mentees. Over the course of that year I learned a lot about Carl. He left Haiti for the United States when he was 4 years old, living in several other states before ending up in Florida. He was one of 5 siblings, three older and one younger. He had just begun his 7th grade year, and was a child eager to learn, to engage the world, to experience life outside the streets of his neighborhood. Unfortunately, life was not always kind to Carl. There were times in elementary school that he had one school uniform, which he wore five days in a row, waiting until Saturday to have it washed. Even during the time I knew Carl from middle school and high school there were days that he and his family would go without food, sometimes relying on acquiring goods from the local food bank, when there was transportation to get there. These situations were not due to lack of trying or effort on his parents’ part. His mom and dad, immigrants from Haiti to the United States, often worked two jobs each, trying to make ends meet for their children. Here they had sacrificed their lives in Haiti to bring their children to the United States, only to be floundering in a country that was supposed to be the land of opportunity.

After one year of mentoring Carl I moved to Cambridge for a year to attend Harvard. We didn’t talk much that year. When I returned to Miami in 2005, we reconnected, only for me to find that he was struggling during his freshman year of high school. That is when I presented him and his family with an option. In order to improve his grades, and to attend a better high school, he could live with me in Miami Springs and attend a high school that would hopefully provide him with a substantially better education than his current environment. Over the next 4 years Carl lived with me, working on academics, playing sports, and trying to find a foothold to become successful. You are sadly mistaken if you think this process was easy. In fact, it was a tough 4 years for me, and definitely a difficult time for Carl. There were times when he became fed up with me, and I became fed up with him, so he would return to his house in Little Haiti. I learned that raising a teenager is extremely difficult, and he learned that just because you live in a nice house and have food every day, life still isn’t easy. I remember the time he was continually late home for school, and I smashed his cell phone to the ground, causing it to explode into my pool (thanks Ms. Gonzalez for this parenting tip): yea, I regret it. And I remember the time he lied to me about having friends over to swim in my pool without telling me (thanks neighbors for letting me know!). Through this process though, we worked it out. He graduated with a good GPA, played on the football and track team, had a good set of friends. And I learned a heck of a lot about life.

Where is Carl now, as he turns 21? On his own (literally, I had no idea), Carl earned a football scholarship to attend St. Vincents College in Latrobe, PA. He is currently in the spring semester of his sophomore year. He has a full load of classes, plays for the football team, and holds down 1-2 jobs a semester. Add on top of that just last year he earned his citizenship in the United States. A poor immigrant arriving in the United States at the age of 4 is now a college student and American Citizen at 21. If that isn’t the definition of the American Dream, then I don’t know what is.

My goal has always been for Carl to return to Haiti so that he can help other children in his home country obtain the same opportunity that he had. Thus, I went first in 2008, to model for him that Haiti is a safe country to visit, and that despite people telling him not to go, that he actually has a responsibility to return. It is for that reason that I first came to Haiti, and the rest is history. One final thought I want to make clear. While it may seem that I was the one that helped Carl to have these opportunities in life, it is in fact the opposite. I learned more from Carl, from his motivation and determination in life, from his positive attitude and never-give up mentality, than I ever taught or gave to him. Thank you Carl for teaching me life lessons that will help me continue to shape the lives of children in Haiti, to give them a chance to succeed in life. And of course, Happy Birthday!

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Day In My Life

Greetings H.E.R.O. Supporters!

After 3 weeks in Haiti I have arrived back in Nashville for 3 weeks in the U.S. This trip includes class at Vanderbilt, moving to Miami, and a final doctoral presentation on the 16th of April before heading back down to Haiti for an additional month. I am looking forward to graduating in May, as it will enable me to spend even more time in Haiti!
I often have friends ask me what exactly it is I do when I am in Haiti. Being the President of H.E.R.O. is my full time job (even though it pays exactly $0.00), and is truly an all-consuming experience. To be honest, I don’t want to become one of those crazy non-profit people (you know who I am talking about) that eat, drink, breathe, live, and die by their non-profit. First of all, it isn’t healthy, and second of all you aren’t good to anybody when you are dead. So, for those that are curious, here is a typical Monday in the day of the life of Steven Kirby.

It starts by waking up at the H.E.R.O. Transition Home for Orphans at 6:00 AM. Children attending the morning school program must shower, dress, and eat before their morning departure at 7:15 for school. Fortunately, our Director of Children Marlene is always on hand to assist in this process and together we efficiently get the children ready for school. At exactly 7:15 (not earlier, not later) I head out with Robenson and Kervens (soon to be adding Dayana and Christina) on our 20 minute commute to school. We travel the dusty roads of Port-au-Prince in our donated 2000 Mitsubishi Montero (Thanks Natacha!) with the windows down and music up. By 7:45 the kids are at school in time to have their shoes shined, put their books away, and line up for morning assembly. The children safely at school, the rest of my day continues.

Between 8:00 and 12:00 my morning is consumed with errands. Here is a brief list of what often gets accomplished in 4 hours: buy chicken and shoes at the outdoor market, meet with the lawyer, head to the depot to purchase rice and other goods, 1.5 hours at the bank, hit the supermarket for groceries, meeting with the karate instructor, get stuff fixed (sliding glass door, screens on windows, indoor and outdoor plumbing, electrical, reservoir), coordinate pest-control, buy school books for the kids, and much more! These 4 hours are dedicated to doing whatever must be done to keep H.E.R.O. successful. For a more detailed list, send me an e-mail!

12:00 (exactly) is lunch time. Iloude, our in-house chef, prepares delicious local cuisine that always includes a meat, a starch, and vegetables. At 12:30 Francky and I go back to school where he attends the H.E.R.O. Education Program for Street Children, and Robenson and Kervens are picked up to head back for afternoon tutoring at the Transition Home. As I have taken the role of Director at the Education Program I am most often found there from 1:00 – 4:30 PM Monday – Friday. My role as Director includes monitoring student discipline, student attendance, uniform tailoring and delivery, teacher attendance, teacher instruction, meal preparation and delivery, and any other situations that might occur.

At 4:30 Francky and I head back to the Transition Home for an hour of recreation from 5:00-6:00 PM. We are in the process of implementing Karate instruction Mon, Wed., and Fri. and are looking for a hip-hop dance instructor for Tues., Thurs. Other than that, this time is filled with jumping rope, playing soccer, shooting hoops, playing Uno or Chutes and Ladders, running around, and being loud!

6:00 (exactly) we eat dinner. This usually includes 3 adults (me, Marlene, Brice) and 6 children. From 6:30 to 7:30, after we help clean up the table and dishes, it is another hour of play time. This is followed by bath time at 7:30-8:15. My final task of the day is our English lessons that I try to teach Monday-Friday for 45 minutes. I am continuously impressed with how fast our children are picking up English, and the classes can only help. At 8:50, the children head to bed for a final story (in French or English) before lights out at 9:00 PM. Depending on what needs to be done, it is often lights out for me too, or an evening staying up till midnight completing paperwork, composing and responding to e-mails, or planning upcoming events. Regardless, it is always satisfying, laying my head to rest at night, knowing that there are 6 children in our Transition Home and 68 children in our Education program benefiting from the work that we do.

In a nutshell, that is my daily schedule. Of course, there are always situations that occur, such as having to get the car repaired, or school being cancelled due to political tension. But, we deal with those as they come, and continue to work towards providing the best possible living situation for our children. Thank you for all the support that you continue to provide H.E.R.O., it is truly making a difference in the lives of the children in Haiti.