It started out a day like any other. Kims Plantin, '07, a senior case manager at Bowery Resident's Committee, a transitional housing facility for mentally ill and chemically addicted individuals, was at work, a few hours into his 3 p.m. to midnight shift, when a client came into his office and told him the tragic news: a 7.0 magnitude earthquake had struck Haiti near Port-au-Prince, causing severe damage and an untold loss of life. Plantin, who was born in Port-au-Prince, immediately burst into tears.
"I was crying for my country and my family," he says.
Although he came to the United States when he was seven, most of his family remained in his native country, including eight brothers and sisters, four aunts, seven uncles, and many cousins. Fearing for their safety, Plantin began calling them "non-stop" for a week before he finally was able to reach his brother Jean Marc, who told him that his oldest brother, Junior, and Junior's son were killed in the earthquake.
"I could not believe it," Plantin says. "What hurt the most was not being able to even attend his funeral because there were no flights going to Haiti at that time."
Determined to help his family, Plantin arranged a two-week trip to Haiti in February. With the help of his friends and co-workers, he was able to bring money and clothes for his family with him. Although the trip was an emotionally difficult one, Plantin says he plans to return each year to help in whatever way he can, and is optimistic that, with the continued support of people around the world, Haiti can be rebuilt.
"It will take a while, but we will get there!" he says.
Plantin's desire to help others extends to his professional life as well. He chose social work as a career because he "was always passionate about assisting others to better their lives." Recently accepted into a master's program in public administration, Plantin wants to go on to earn master's and doctoral degrees in higher education administration with the goal of working as an adviser to international and immigrant students at a public university.
For now, however, Plantin's role as a counselor to homeless adults suffering from mental illness and substance abuse is a satisfying one. He goal, he says, is to help these individuals become independent so that they can get permanent housing.
"The best part of my job is seeing the glow on a client's face after he/she has completed the program and receives a key to their first apartment," he says.