Many Hands for Haiti is thrilled to announce the employment of Silentor Esthil-Henderson, a 24-year-old Haitian born, American citizen. Silentor (the “r” is silent) will lead the new projects starting in Gonaives, Haiti, which initially will include a program similar to the Boys and Girls Club with hopes to eventually launch and build a Christian school.
Silentor Esthil-Henderson was one of seven children born in La Croix, Haiti, living with his family in a mud hut. He started getting sick when he was 6 years old, as his left leg kept getting bigger and bigger. At 9 years old, he weighed 36 pounds, his hair was orange from malnutrition, and his leg was badly mangled from a bone infection treated with voodoo medicine. One treatment involved tying a live disemboweled cat to his wound. His mother, out of desperation, brought him to a nearby Christian mission. It was there he was found by a 54-year-old man from Davenport, Iowa, named Tommy Henderson. Tommy was serving as a medical nurse at the mission, when he saw this child. Doctors said Silentor only had 3-6 months to live. Tommy didn’t accept this diagnosis.
Tommy flew back to Iowa and convinced doctors at the University of Iowa to donate their time to do surgery on Silentor’s leg. He convinced friends to donate money for the operating room costs. He even got Silentor to Iowa on a medical visa. After the first surgery in Iowa, doctors encouraged Tommy to amputate Silentor’s leg. He declined, as in his mind a Haitian with only one leg is destined to be a beggar. The Shriners heard of the story and accepted Silentor at the Shiners Hospital for Children in Chicago. Nine surgeries later, Silentor was able to keep his leg.
Tommy believed that Silentor’s only chance to survive, as his bone infection could recur at anytime, was for him to stay in the US. At 13 years old, with no formal education and no ability to speak English, Silentor started fourth grade in the Quad-Cities. Though school was difficult, especially at first, Silentor graded from Bettendorf High School. He then was accepted at Iowa State University and graduated in 2010, majoring in American history and minoring in Political Science. He got a job with Teach for America and moved to Miami so he could teach Haitian students. But, he didn’t feel he was doing enough for his country and had dreams to move back. A motto he was taught by Tommy and one he repeats often is “My father took me out of Haiti to be healed, but never meant to take Haiti out of me.”
Silentor moved back to his home village full-time in May of 2011 and started various programs in the area. But, he believes his true calling is to develop his after-school program, Mission Etoile(Mission Starfish in Creole), and ultimately, a school in the inner city of Gonaives, which is a city of 300,000 people.
“I cannot leave them behind and I have never forgotten where I came from. I’m a starfish that was saved by one man, and now it is my obligation to give back to others what has been done for me. I have been given a new life through Christ and I hope to help the next generation know Him and give them opportunities to change their future,” says Silentor.