An AHRC Nassau staff member, Hens Eustace, shared his talent by singing “Songs of Haiti” in his native language — Kreyòl — at the Wheatley Farms’ Farmhouse. People supported by day services in Freeport, Wantagh, Bethpage, and Hicksville traveled to Brookville to see Hens perform. Many hummed along to the melodies, clapped their hands, or tapped their feet to the beat. All the songs from Hens’ performance are original works
Just before noon on a bright and crisp spring day, Hens Eustache took out his guitar and treated the AHRC community to a cultural concert. With his calm and raspy voice, Hens transported his audience into a serene space.
Hens sang “Songs of Haiti” in his native language — Kreyòl — at the Wheatley Farms’ Farmhouse. People supported by day services in Freeport, Wantagh, Bethpage, and Hicksville traveled to Brookville to see Hens perform. Many hummed along to the melodies, clapped their hands, or tapped their feet to the beat.
All the songs from Hens’ performance are original works. He declared his love for his hometown in a song called “Berthé,” a District of Pétionville. Another is named “Jacmel” in remembrance of a friend. “He would always talk about Jacmel. He wanted to write a poem about his home but passed before he could, so I wrote this song in his memory.”
After the concert, the audience members flooded him with questions inquiring where he was from, where he got his guitar, and how he learned to play.
Samantha, who attends day services and volunteered with Hens in the past, treated him like a local celebrity saying, “Let’s take a selfie together so I can show my family.”
“Of course,” responded Hens. “Make sure to tell them I said hello.”
Hens has been with the AHRC Nassau for 14 years. He’s worked in several departments and is currently the Assistant Manager of the St. Andrews Residence.
While working in residential services, he formed a bond with Joanne Antonelli, a woman supported by AHRC. His experience with Joanne prompted his volunteering journey at the AHRC.
It started because Hens and Joanne shared similar interests. Through volunteering, Hens saw opportunities for Joanne to experience more of the world. Together, they went to church, shared time at the park, and he even helped her get some exercise every week. Joanne primarily uses a wheelchair, but Hens knew the importance of getting her up and walking periodically.
Joanne is elderly and has begun a cognitive decline. After years of working together, Joanne failed to recognize Hens, which was a painful experience for him.
“I came in one day and she asked me who I was. I felt terrible and it has been difficult for me to go back. I asked about her all the time, but it was hard seeing my friend that way,” said Hens.
“The population we support deals with a lot of inconsistency and it’s not good for them. I try to show up for the people I work with so they know they can count on me to be there.”
Hens is an experienced DSP, having worked in many homes. Often, when leaving a residence, he is asked, “when are you coming back!” These connections led Hens to volunteer, so that he can keep up these relationships.
With the help of Jerri Walker, AHRC Volunteer and Project Coordinator, Hens found plenty of projects to get involved with. Throughout the years, Hens has dedicated one day a week to volunteering with the men and women supported by AHRC Nassau.
Hens is involved in walkathons, recycling projects, community cleanups, as well as AHRC’s MLK Dream Project, an inclusive volunteer initiative inspired by Dr. King’s dedication to community action and focused on neighbors supporting neighbors in need. AHRC’s Dream Project is funded, in part, by a grant from The Arc of the United States.
“I’ve worked with Hens for years and can always count on him to lend a helping hand. Whenever I’m working on an initiative, I know I can call him up and he’ll be there,” said Jerri.