Mission Starfish Haiti was started by Silentor Thomas Esthil-Henderson. Silentor was born and raised in Lacroix, Haiti, 10 miles outside of Gonaives and grew up there for the first nine years of his life. It was when Silentor became very ill with a bone infection and unable to walk that his mother took him to a clinic to receive medical attention. In order to save Silentor’s life he needed several surgeries and specialized care. A nurse, Tommy Henderson, who was working at the clinic offered to take Silentor back to the United States in order for him to get the care he needed. After several years and 30 operations, Silentor was able to walk again. Since Silentor had attended American schools while he was getting his medical treatment, he decided to stay and finish his education. Tommy eventually adopted Silentor and provided him a permanent home in the United States.
Silentor graduated from Bettendorf High School in 2006 and went on to attend and graduate from Iowa State University. After graduating college in 2010, Silentor joined “Teach for America” and taught 7th and 8th grade history in a high poverty community located in Miami.
Silentor had the privilege to access and benefit from a quality educational system. His vision is to bring quality education to his home country and community and to those children who otherwise would not have access to education. Silentor knew Haitian children led a “wandering” life with little structure, leadership and direction and very little education. Silentor saw the opportunity to change this way of life for Haitian children by creating Mission Starfish Haiti to provide children a high quality Christian education. Silentor now resides in Haiti, living in the community he serves, managing the ministry, conducting teacher training, hosting volunteer groups and fund-raising for the Mission Starfish Haiti. Silentor has received several recognitions for this work and impact on Haitian children. In 2012 he was a recipient of the Iowa ‘STATEment Makers’ award which recognizes the early personal and professional accomplishments and contributions to society of Iowa State University’s young alumni.
On October 1st, 2012 Mission Starfish Haiti opened its doors to 172 students. When MSH opened, it provided education to children from kindergarten to third grade. Each year since, MSH has added a grade level in order for those students to continue their education and hopes to add a grade level each year until the school can offer kindergarten through 13th grade.
Mission Starfish Haiti is located in Gonaives, Haiti. Gonaives is a city of 400,000 people and is located about 80 miles north of Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. In the past few years, Gonaives has been affected by many disasters including hurricanes and cholera out-breaks. As many as 300,000 out 400,000 residents lack food, housing and education.