At Penn State, Katrena Carr–Perou played point guard and shooting guard for the Lady Lion basketball team, including the team’s only appearance in the Final Four in 2000. A decade later, she and her husband are redirecting their lives to help the people of Haiti.
After graduating from Penn State in 2002, Cleveland, Ohio native Carr–Perou went to New York for an internship at the Women’s Sports Foundation. A job as a youth director at Hamilton Madison House, a settlement house on the lower East Side of Manhattan, followed. She met and married Haitian-native Peter Perou, a physician’s assistant, took some time off to have two children, and returned to work as a director at Groundwork, a non–profit community organization. But the life she had worked to build started to change on Jan. 12, when a devastating earthquake hit Haiti.
Carr–Perou’s husband traveled to Haiti with a medical team following the quake to operate on victims. “It was a life–changing experience for him,” Carr–Perou says. “When he returned, we made a decision as a couple to make a difference on a larger scale.”
Carr–Perou quit her job in April to devote her full attention to their goal of building a community school in Haiti, where the January quake destroyed more than 500 schools. As Carr–Perou explained, “A community school not only provides education in traditional academic subjects but also includes an in-school clinic, social and psychiatric services, and an evening trade school for adults.” By building and staffing the school, they hope to improve the lives of everyone in the community. “We also hope the school will be a pilot program for other schools,” she said.
Through their organization, Helping Hands Bring Sunshine, they’re working to recruit sponsors, partners, and funding for their projects. Already involved are organization such as the Children’s Aid Society and the Greater New York Hospital Association. “Architects for Humanity is looking into assisting with construction, and we’ve lined up help from a transportation company in Haiti and an education expert who will help write the curriculum,” Carr–Perou reported from her home in Brooklyn just before departing for Haiti.
For now, Carr–Perou envisions remaining in the United States with frequent trips to Haiti but said that moving there in the future “is a possibility.” More information on Helping Hands Bring Sunshine is at www.helpinghandsbringsunshine.org.