For Kristen Hertzog of Haitian Connection Network, it would seem that there is never a moment where her hands are idle. She is a woman who wears many hats, but she doesn’t seem to be bothered by her busy schedule. Kristen is the co-director/founder of HCN, a non-profit whose goal is to educate and empower Haitians to obtain gainful employment and become self-sustaining. Though she has been active in aid work to Haiti since 1999, it wasn’t until after the earthquake of 2010 that the extreme need for education was realized. Twenty-eight of the 32 universities in Haiti were destroyed in the earthquake, either physically or operationally, and the people there are desperate for education and jobs. HCN provides a student computer center that facilitates a virtual online education program. The center offers three different programs including ESL classes, University programs, and an Info Hub providing internet access for educational purposes.

Assisting a nation of such hardship, one becomes quickly aware of the multitude of other needs these people have. HCN not only provides them with food and information, but also teaches them dignity and self-respect. Kristen talks about training the students to see themselves as equals with their instructors and would-be employers. They learn that they are valuable because they are people and that they are not less deserving simply because of where they were born. Kristen’s commitment to the country has become more personal than ever with the adoption of her daughter who is native to Haiti.

On a lighter note, we discuss the mix of cultural backgrounds that make up Kristen’s immediate- family, and the “side business” she and her husband run from their historic Ephrata farmhouse. The Hertzog Homestead is a B&B that offers a retreat for those who want to get away from it all. It caters to peoples’ need for relaxation and boasts homemade meals straight from an Amish kitchen. In addition to the Bed and Breakfast, the HCN, and raising her two children, Kristen has also spent many years as a performer at Sight and Sound Theaters, helping to develop such plays as “The Miracle of Christmas”. There is no doubt that Kristen is a very organized and talented individual.

With all of the interesting things that Kristen does, I have to say that her work in Haiti is what inspires me the most. She has chosen to look at herself and evaluate how she can make the best use of her time and her resources in order to help those in need. “We all have ways that we can give back,” she says. Her work in Haiti is a good reminder that everyone on this earth has value, and all of us have something to give.

If you would like to contact Kristen or find out more about anything we talked about this episode, you can email her at Kristen@haitianconnectionnetwork.org.

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

Theme music: Invisible Walls by Revolution Void
Break music: An Other Side by Xenyka