By Anne Marie Amacher
Haitian native Silentor Esthil-Henderson spoke to members of St. John Vianney Parish and others earlier this month about a campaign to build a school and create employment opportunities in Haiti. He had assisted the Bettendorf parish during a recent medical mission trip in Haiti.
The “180 for Haiti” campaign, a project of Many Hands of Haiti, seeks to raise funds for a school to educate children in Gonaives, Haiti, and also provide employment opportunities.
Tim Brand of Many Hands of Haiti, based in Pella, traveled with Esthil-Henderson during a campaign kick-off in Iowa. Brand and Esthil-Henderson, who are friends, traveled last fall to Gonaives, where Esthil-Henderson’s brother lives.
A nondenominational church has been established there because, “You must have faith first,” Brand said. Next, the community’s members said they would like to build a school to educate their children. Brand and Esthil-Henderson each put down money to purchase land for a school, and the “180 for Haiti” campaign was born. The name refers to the concept of a turn-around and the number of days from campaign launch to the start of the school year.
The project’s first phase envisions construction of a building with classrooms for kindergarten, first, second and third grades. Locals would build the school themselves and families would pay for school uniforms. “It’s their part in the ownership of the school,” Brand said. The project’s second phase would provide a building for fourth grade through high school. The site has an 80-foot well with clean water, a four-stall latrine and 130 “eager to learn” children, Brand said.
Sponsorships to 180 for Haiti would pay for construction costs, a scholarship fund, teachers’ pay and an afterschool scholarship program.
“The Haitians want to help themselves but they have a lack of resources,” Esthil-Henderson says. “They are full of life and if we get them to think positive there will be a brighter future … we want them to see beyond their next meal, a long-term vision.”
For more information about Many Hands for Haiti and this project, visit mh4h.org; the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ManyHandsfor Haiti; or write to Many Hands for Haiti, P.O. Box 204, Pella, Iowa, 50219.
Esthil-Henderson attended Catholic schools
At age 9, Silentor Esthil of LaCroix, Haiti, was given six months to live due to a bone infection. His mother took a leap of faith and placed him on the steps of a Haitian mission where Davenport missionary Tommy Henderson found him. Eventually, Esthil received treatment at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Chicago, after first being examined at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. His birth parents gave permission for Henderson to adopt their son to accommodate treatment and recovery time.
After being adopted in 2004, the youth took the last name Esthil-Henderson, became a U.S. citizen and was treated for his bone infection through several surgeries.
Esthil-Henderson attended St. Alphonsus Catholic School and his freshman year at Assumption High School, both in Davenport. He graduated from Bettendorf High School and later, from Iowa State University with degrees in history and political science. While at ISU he created the Iowa State-Haiti Collaboration to help eliminate poverty. He returned to Haiti to start an after-school outreach program and also led mission trips to Haiti.
Because of the efforts of his birth mother and adoptive father, Esthil-Henderson was motivated to give back to his fellow Haitians, especially those facing trials as he had. The ISU Alumni Association awarded him with the 2012 STATEment Makers Award for contributions to society since receiving his degree. He visits the United States about every three months to maintain relationships and to educate people of 180 for Haiti.