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Friday, December 30, 2011

Only 1 Day Left!

As 2011 comes to a close, H.E.R.O. would like to thank all of our supporters for their donations and in-kind contributions to better the lives of orphans in Haiti.  H.E.R.O. is a registered tax-exempt 501(c)(3) public charity in the United States and all donations are tax-deductible.  As one of your final acts of 2011 please consider a donation to H.E.R.O. so that we can continue to provide high-quality programs for the orphans of Haiti.  Let’s work together so that everyone may enjoy a Happy New Year!


Steven M. Kirby, Ed.D

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Told Through Pictures: H.E.R.O. In Haiti Christmas 2011

I don't know if the kids were excited or scared!
Billy and Kervens examining the Christmas Tree
Thanks Import Teachers!
Santa Brings Gifts!
Girl Scouts of South Florida Collected Gifts for H.E.R.O.!

Dayanna Displaying Her Gifts!

I placed this at 2 AM, Christmas Morning

Valencia and her bag of goodies!
Kervens Digging In!
Those are some nice shades!
At The Holiday Party
Living the Christmas Spirit!

Christmas Dinner!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Is Coming!

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Christmas is coming!  The official H.E.R.O. tree, courtesy of Dan Kasnick, has been placed and decorated in our house, prepared with gifts under the trees.  Thus far the kids think these are the only gifts they will be receiving!  Santa came by last week and I told the kids that he came early to talk to me about who has been naughty or nice to determine how many gifts they will get for Christmas this year!  They will be quite surprised to see all the gifts that have been sent to them!  It surely will be a Christmas to remember.

Today we were invited by Dora, a volunteer at another residence for orphans, to their Christmas party.  Our kids were super well-behaved.  At one point they didn't think they would be receiving gifts, so they sat quietly together, while Dayanna helped console two crying orphans.  To their relief Dora had arranged for each to receive a gift, but I was so proud of them, rather than complaining, they sat patiently for their turn.  The party included an appearance by MikaBen, a famous and talented musician here in Haiti.  It was fun watching our kids interact with other children in a safe environment.  We continually work on their social integration!

In other news, our House Mother/Chef is going to be getting married on December 24th!  This is a very exciting time for us all as we watch Iloude take the next step in her life.  Iloude has worked with H.E.R.O. for over a year.  She started as the Chef, but after developing great relationships with the children and demonstrating tremendous skills she was hired on as the House Mother as well.  We all wish Iloude the best on her wedding day!

Without Iloude, the weekend cooking is left to me!  Fortunately, this past Tuesday I went to the supermarket we usually go to, and to my surprise they gave us a FREE 14 pound turkey for the holidays!  This Sunday I am going to make a full Christmas dinner with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, macaroni and cheese, and even a pie if I get to it!  It should be an interesting event; I will try to document it on camera!
Sitting here writing this blog, a smile is permanently attached to my face, watching our kids enjoy their presents, sharing them, playing together without worry.  For these children, the real orphans of Haiti, their current lives are filled with joy, health, and happiness.  I look forward to the day when H.E.R.O. can do the same for all the orphans still out there.  If you ever get discouraged by the enormity of the problems in our world, just remember, you really can make a difference, one child at a time.  The children that reside at the H.E.R.O. House are living proof of that.

Merry Christmas!

Steven M. Kirby, Ed.D

Make a Holiday Donation to H.E.R.O. Here!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Haitian Christmas Story of Tragedy, Hope, and Triumph

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     As this holiday season reaches full-swing I often find myself too busy to reflect on the previous twelve months, a year that has been filled with many challenges, but also many achievements.  When H.E.R.O. welcomed our first orphans this past January, none of us imagined the impact we would have on the lives of the children in our care.  As a result of your support, and the hard work of our staff, H.E.R.O. is making a difference in the lives of orphans in Haiti. 

     Let me share with you a story about a child I met last year, and the impact that H.E.R.O. has made in his life.  His successes during the past year at the H.E.R.O. Residence for Orphans continue to inspire my efforts to serve the most disenfranchised youth of Haiti.

                His name is Franky.

     I found Franky in squalid conditions, living in a dirt floor, one room house, covered with a dilapidated tarp that was of no use every time it rained, rendering the floor a flooded, muddy, mess.  It was here that I found Franky, an orphan that had lost both parents and was suffering needlessly.

     Franky’s father died from a medical condition when he was just a toddler, leaving him with his mother and abusive boyfriend.  Tragedy struck Franky’s life again, on January 12th, 2010, when the 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti.  Franky was trapped under the rubble of a concrete wall that collapsed onto him.  Strangers rushed to Franky’s rescue, removing the debris around him, and dragging him to safety.

     Franky wasn’t seriously injured, so he immediately ran to his home, where to his horror, he found his mother dead, a victim of the earthquake.

      Franky has been at the H.E.R.O. Residence for Orphans nearly twelve months, and while he has a long road ahead of him to recover fully from the effects of losing both of his parents and the emotional scars from the earthquake, he is making great progress. 

     For the first time in his life Franky is enrolled in school, receiving quality healthcare, three nutritious meals a day, and rehabilitative services.  Most importantly, he is in a safe, secure, and loving environment, a home where Franky can be a kid again to live out his dreams of being a teacher, to give back to the community he came from.

     Every day I am introduced to orphans in Haiti that desperately need our help.  I need your help to continue providing the housing, education, and rehabilitation that these children deserve.  Your gift, no matter how large or small, helps to provide a safe and secure home, daily meals, quality healthcare, and a great education for a child in need.  With your help, we can turn tragedy into triumph.


Steven M. Kirby, Ed.D

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Christmas Spirit: Helping Haitian Orphans

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Tomorrow I will fly back to Haiti for what will be my first Christmas with our children.  Riding along with me will be more than 100 pounds of toys, clothes, hygiene products, and school supplies that have been generously donated to H.E.R.O., so that our children may share in the joy of Christmas.  There are some very special people here in the United States that have gone out of their way to ensure that our children are able to experience the holidays as they have never before.  I am grateful for the ability to provide for the children residing at the H.E.R.O. House; it is only through the generosity of others that what we do is possible.  I am proud to be the transporter of these goods to Haiti, knowing that each item donated is filled with love, and resolve that the children of Haiti can have the opportunity to live a better, brighter future.

I want to thank my cousin Mia, her colleague Janice, and their amazing group of FCCLA students at Eastview High School in Minnesota who collected toys, clothes, and school supplies for each of our children.  A few weeks ago the children and I Skyped into the FCCLA meeting so that we all could meet each other over the internet; technology is amazing!

I want to thank Toni Burns, a courageous woman that not only volunteered with H.E.R.O. last summer, but also sent us five boxes full of hygiene products, toys, games, and holiday treats for the kids.  Toni has been an avid supporter of H.E.R.O. since her first trip in July of this year.  You can read about her experience HERE working at the H.E.R.O. House.  Toni, I look forward to seeing you in Haiti again real soon!

I want to thank Lili Ferrandi, who recently helped us acquire 35 school supply kits, and just this past week collaborated with Claudia, the leader of Girl Scout troop 322 in South Florida to donate more than 65 wrapped and decorated shoe boxes filled with all sorts of holiday gifts for the children of Haiti.  It is partnerships such as these that can really make a difference!

As I finish packing my bags, I look at each item that will reach Haiti, and think about all the love, hope, and prayers that went into that item, as it prepares to travel across the ocean to reach the hands of an orphan in Haiti.  I can’t wait to see the eyes of our children light up, to realize that there are people in this world that truly care about them and for them.  H.E.R.O. has truly been blessed with supporters and donors that want to make a difference in this world.  When I close my eyes, on the brief 2 hour flight to Haiti, I will rest comfortably knowing that the children in our care have been given the opportunity to live a life filled with love, joy, and happiness.  That, my friends, is the real meaning of the Christmas spirit.


Steven M. Kirby, Ed.D

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Never Satisfied: When We Push Our Kids Too Much

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One of my most vivid high school memories is of returning home, a smile on my face, to show my father how well I had done on a trigonometry test.  I bounded into the house, test in hand, and promptly shoved it into my father’s face.  “Wow!” he said, “A 98%, well done, but why did you miss the other 2%?”  I was raised with the mentality that good wasn’t ever good enough and no matter how well you might think you have done, there was always someone that had done better than you somewhere.  As a result of this upbringing I graduated third out of about four hundred students in my high school class, earning one single A minus the entire four years, the rest were As.  As a result of this upbringing I have continually been motivated to seek more and to do better, which is what enabled me, at the age of 29, to graduate from Vanderbilt University, ranked the #1 school of education in the nation 3 years running.  I wonder, however, is this the same mentality and attitude that I want the children of the H.E.R.O. house to grow up with?  I just don’t know.

Let me delve a little deeper into this dilemma.  I believe that every child, regardless of life circumstances, can achieve great things.  It is no doubt much easier to achieve academically, socially, and emotionally when one has a stable family environment, food on the table, great schools, and the opportunity to pursue anything and everything from sports to instruments and everything in-between (that was my life).  Can one expect the same result from a child that was orphaned, lived in poverty, may or may not have attended school, and surely didn’t have food on the table every day?  The question is, how can we not?  We have to expect that the children we serve are capable of attending the best universities, achieving well-paying careers, if they so choose.  The reality is, however, that you can’t achieve those goals without putting in the due effort!  You can’t wish your way to Harvard or to become an electrical engineer, you have to have the motivation, capacity, and effort to do so!  What then, is the balance between letting a child be a child, and expecting as much or more from an orphan escaping from an at-risk environment? 

The children at the H.E.R.O. house attend school from 7:00 AM to 12:00 PM.  They then attend at-home tutoring from 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM.  Additionally they have a one hour English class every Sunday.  Just recently, however, I was thinking of adding additional French classes for Franky and Valencia.  Franky is 14 in the 2nd grade, and Valencia is 13 in the 3rd grade.  At what point is it too much, and at what point isn’t it enough?  I don’t want to have any regrets four years from now, that I didn’t provide Franky with additional opportunities to increase his academic abilities.  At the same time, I don’t want the children to burnout academically, to be turned off by school.  And keep this in mind, when they go to school for five hours every morning, they aren’t receiving the best possible instruction in a school filled with resources, leveled books, and computers.  They are receiving the standard Haitian education that has a high school graduation rate of less than 5%.  We try as much as possible to provide our children with educational experiences that will help them to develop into intelligent, understanding, and capable individuals.  In the country of Haiti, this is no easy task.

I write this blog as a question to you.  At what point is pushing our children to be the very best too much, and when is it not enough?  I look forward to your comments, ideas, and suggestions.


Steven M. Kirby, Ed.D

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