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North Hills Monthly

Team Tassy Helping Haitians Out of Poverty

Sep 01, 2017 08:28AM ● By Clare Heekin Lynch

One of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti suffers from numerous issues ranging from poor healthcare to a corrupt government. With a population of more than 10 million, the poverty rate is estimated at 58.6 percent, according to the United Nations Development Program. 

The earthquake that hit Haiti in August 2010 left the country even further in ruins. In fact, its capital, Port-Au-Prince, was still recovering from multiple tropical storms and hurricanes that devastated Haiti two years earlier.

Today, three out of four households do not have running water, two out of three Haitians live on less than $2 a day, and approximately 50 percent are unemployed. According to Ian Rosenberger, founder of the local nonprofit Team Tassy, poverty is not a choice—and he made the commitment to do whatever it takes to prepare and place the poor into opportunities where they can pull themselves out of poverty forever. 

But who is Tassy?

While riding in the back of a beat-up truck in Port-Au-Prince, Rosenberger met Tassy after the 2010 earthquake. As the pair talked, Rosenberger noticed a tennis ball-sized tumor on the boy’s face, and he quickly learned that Tassy had cancer. Here was a boy who had survived a 7.0 earthquake, living in the second most dangerous city in the world, yet he was going to succumb to a disease. 

Rosenberger sprang into action, and with the help of friends and donors, he brought Tassy to Pittsburgh for a series of life-saving surgeries. Today, Tassy is a smart, gracious college student in Pittsburgh who is filled with hope for a bright future. He volunteers with Team Tassy and continues to help other families in his Haitian community.

Fast forward three years to a Wexford church on Sunday, where Sean Brennan and his family listened to Rosenberger share this story. They felt an urge to help, and they became involved through monthly donations to the organization. Eventually they joined in a trip to Haiti for the group’s annual ‘Beach Day.’ 

After their first visit to Haiti, Brennan and his family realized that they had found a passion that was to become a part of their family’s legacy.  

“That first trip was such a shock,” said Brennan’s teenaged daughter, Grace. “We all quickly realized how fortunate we were to be living the life we were born into. It really changed us because when you look at the people and they look back at you–you feel what they are going through. It was a true struggle to come home and realize the amount we take for granted here.”

Team Tassy focuses on the Menelas community in Haiti. “It’s a community of about 3,000 people made up of around 500 families,” Brennan explained. “We serve every single family member utilizing a block-by-block approach and offer services that are tailored to meet each family’s unique needs.” 

Team Tassy understands that poverty is not a money issue, and they work to provide sustainable solutions to the problem. “We ensure that every school-aged child and every interested adult has access to education to get the job they want. We address their basic needs, including debt, housing, and even health concerns because an illness can stand in the way of all other goals,” said Brennan.

In 2015, he took part in Run for Haiti, a 230-mile ultra-marathon across the country. “Run for Haiti was created to show that Haiti is not a place to be feared or pitied,” the avid runner said. He has since participated in two more marathons, which go from the northern tip of Haiti to its southern end. The race has included seasoned and professional runners and triathletes, cancer survivors and even a Haitian Olympic hopeful.  

Through several more trips with Team Tassy, the Brennan family has strengthened the bonds they have with the Haitian families they serve. “They have become a second family to us, and we’re proud of how hard they continue to work in order to reach their goals,” said Grace.

In a country racked with everything from natural disasters to government corruption, Team Tassy has remained a stabilizing presence. “There are tens of millions of kids like Tassy out there,” Brennan said. “Many of them hold the keys to their own country’s success but will die of poverty before they get the chance. We want to change that, one family at a time.”

Visit to learn more about other upcoming events, including a Blackjack Spectacular to be held October 19. Last year’s donations were used for job training work, which is critical in ensuring a path to success in the workplace.