Daniel Smith & Scott Hertzog

For Daniel Smith, coming to America was a dream so far out of reach, he never thought it possible. And yet, here he was sitting across the table from us, telling his story. Daniel is here because of a miraculous opportunity orchestrated by the Haitian Connection Network to have a tumor surgically removed from his jaw. He will stay a total of six months, enough time for him to receive two surgeries and heal a bit before returning to his country of Haiti. He originally crossed paths with HCN as a student, looking for an opportunity to finish his schooling so he could find work. When executive director Kristen Hertzog met Daniel, she noticed the elongated shape of his face and knew he needed help. That started the journey of making connections with the right people here in the US who could ensure that Daniel’s surgery could become a reality.

He talked with us about how many people in Haiti go all day without eating anything, and the ones who are fortunate get one meal of rice a day. Imagine his surprise coming here where there are more options for kinds of toilet paper than there are for things to eat in Haiti. It has all been a bit overwhelming, he says. Daniel is not the only young student being helped by the HCN. Scott Hertzog, who is on the board, told us a little bit of the vision and how the organization has grown from it’s original mission to now include a more holistic approach to helping the Haitian people. They started out focusing on education to enable students to get jobs to support their families and communities. HCN has broadened their focus to include a feeding program, eye clinics, and spiritual support.

Even though Daniel’s surgeries will be completely paid for, there are still a lot of other costs involved with his travel and care while he’s here, and there is the ongoing need in Haiti. There are a number of ways you can get involved. The most obvious, of course is to contribute financially. You can donate electronically to HCN or to Daniel specifically here. You can also get involved by volunteering. Thirdly, you can attend a fundraising event for HCN on Thursday, July 26, at 7:30pm at the Ware Center. The show is Glee: The Musical. All ticket sales from the show that evening will go to benefit Haitian Connection Network. So consider stepping outside of yourself and giving of your time or money to this great organization. Invest in the future of Haiti.

Support for this episode provided by Pennsylvania College of Art & Design.

Theme music: Invisible Walls by Revolution Void