Students help alum create school in Haiti

Silentor Thomas Esthil-Henderson, an alum, has made a difference in the lives of many Haitian children with the help of student council.

Esthil-Henderson grew up in Haiti before he contracted a bone infection at age nine. In order to save Esthil-Henderson’s life, he moved to the United States with one of his nurses to receive multiple surgeries.

While in America, Esthil-Henderson graduated from Iowa State University in 2010. He joined Teach for America and middle school students in a high poverty community in Miami, Florida.

Esthil-Henderson knew how privileged he was to receive a quality education, unlike many children in his home country of Haiti. He has now dedicated countless hours of hard work, determination, and love to provide the opportunity for an education is his village in Haiti.

Mission Starfish Haiti provided 172 students a school on Oct. 1, 2012. Back then, Mission Starfish Haiti offered a kindergarten through third grade education. Now, Mission Starfish Haiti is much larger, and in need of many more resources to continue providing students with hope for the future.

Student council recognized this need for help, and after a personal visit from Esthil-Henderson himself, decided to create a committee specifically aimed to raise funds to donate to Esthil-Henderson and Mission Starfish Haiti.

“He gave council a presentation about Mission Starfish Haiti, and it immediately got my attention,” sophomore Luke Soko said.

Soko quickly gained a passion for Esthil-Henderson’s cause, and that passion still burned within him months after Esthil-Henderson’s visit, when the Mission Starfish Haiti committee was created.

The committee, aimed to help Esthil-Henderson raise money to expand and renovate areas of his school in Haiti, ran two fundraisers. The first, a change collector in which students brought change to their second block classes, and teachers had to count all change before class began, was immediately successful, raising over $1,700 in two days. The second fundraiser, in which students filled out a matchmaker quiz and paid for their matchmaker matches, raised over $300 in a few days.

“I enjoyed this committee. Silentor is an inspirational man, and I am happy I got the opportunity to help out such a great cause,” said Joe Martens, the committee chair.

What really impacted Martens the most about Mission Starfish Haiti was the source of the organization's name, Mission Starfish Haiti.

“When Silentor visited council, he told us a story of how he came up with the name for Mission Starfish Haiti. Silentor told a story of a young boy who had been walking along the beach. A storm has washed up hundreds of starfish onto the shore. The boy, to the amusement of people around him, saved the lives of starfish he stumbled upon by throwing them back in the water. A man came up to the boy and asked why he had been saving starfish. The man told the boy he could not possibly save every starfish, and that his efforts barely made a difference to the starfish-infested shore. The boy replied by picking up another starfish, throwing it back into the water, and telling the man that he had made a difference to that one starfish,” Martens said.

Through the work of student council, the Mission Starfish Committee, Esthil-Henderson, and everyone who donated to both fundraisers, a difference, the opportunity for an education, has been made to hundreds of Haitian children.


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