Q&A With Author, Toussaint, Ulysse by Jenna Montgomery.
Growing up in a small village in Northern Haiti, Ulysse Toussaint never envisioned that one day he'd become a magazine/wedding/fashion photographer, documentary filmmaker and wardrobe stylist, and now author. At the age of 18 his family gave him the opportunity to move to America and pursue higher education. Toussaint also studied Les Beaux Arts and Photography in France. Toussaint’s passion is to use his varied talents to create and show beauty while raising global and civic awareness, which includes co-founding the non-profit Professionals for Higher Education, Entrepreneurship & Leadership, Inc (PHEEL). He is currently producing and directing a documentary film that was commissioned by Edward G. Rendell, former governor of Pennsylvania. The upcoming film, titled Ayiti, the 12th Hour, focuses on the educational system in his homeland of Haiti. Toussaint is also working on his first children's book titled SuperHeroes of Service, (SHS) to be released soon.
What inspired you to write SuperHeroes of Service, an Immigrant Story?
SuperHeroes of Service, an Immigrant Story just took a life of its own; it was not planned. While attending Messiah College, I had the privilege to work with a great friend, Dr. Chad Fry, who ended up on the cover of the book as well. He is a fanatic of Service Learning. I have to add, growing up in Haiti, serving others is embedded in us because we believe it takes a village to raise a child. SHS was sparked because of all the overwhelming love, kindness, compassion and support that poured out on behalf of my native country, Haiti, after the devastating 2010 earthquake. This book, based on a true story, is about seven real-life “SuperHeroes of Service” with distinctly different lifestyles all united to serve. The main characters, Katie and Sarah, are two average 10 year old girls from Montgomery Country with the determination to serve those they have yet to meet. Kayla Laviolette, another 12 year old girl from Haiti with a big dream to become a doctor and an engineer after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake turned her school to rubble.
What makes SuperHeroes of Service so distinctive from other children's books?
I have been working on this book for about three years now. The timing could not be any more important as promoting diversity and differences is key to the advancement of any society. Only 15% of children's books promote diversity yet the world is more than 15% diverse. Supporting this book is your vote that diversity matters, diversity is crucial to your community, my community. It will be an interactive book. All the images will be provided in gray version to enable our readers to use for coloring and take the place of each SuperHero in the book. My hope is this book encourages parents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, grandparents and friends to explore service learning and civic engagement as a vehicle to connect with their loved ones. Doing good is contagious; doing good is inspiring, it gets better once it becomes a lifestyle. Join the movement, join the village of SuperHeroes of Service. Because there is a SuperHero in all of us!
What makes a person a SuperHero?
One word “serving” to me, a superhero is a person who sets a strong example in their family and community with their kind and generous acts to serve others. Being a SuperHero is all about saving the day and oftentimes the act going unrecognized. Doing good is a lifestyle when you are a SuperHero. It is never about who is right or who is wrong, rather how far one goes to keep the peace and make a difference. This book is about answering some of the challenges of life by using good deeds as a vehicle to surface our SuperHero self.
Being a SuperHero of Service (SHS) is the act of unmasking and unleashing the shield of power inside us all. The beauty is we all have ONE inside and our heART is waiting to be unmasked and unleashed, regardless of our appearance, physical limitations, social class, color, background, sexual orientation, or faith.
How can the reader engage with the book's subject?
I want more men, women and children to engage with their community through a school, church, or neighborhood group and read this book to them. Please ask your company to purchase and donate copies to a local school or for employees to read to the children in their life. As mentioned, a section of the book can be used by children, adults, and seniors to color the images. Research shows that coloring is actually great for seniors. Take the book to go visit grandpa or grandma and let their grandchildren share the story inside the book and do some coloring together.
50% of our proceeds will be used to fund micro- and macro- grant programs in Haiti for single parents who cannot pay for the education for their children. Why is this important to me? My Grandma, Mme. Toussaint raised all five of my siblings and I through agriculture and as a hat designer in Haiti. I am a blueprint of what can happen when we invest in parents. It worked for my family and I am confident it will work again. The other 50% of the proceeds will be used to provide scholarship for minority students in the United States.
What is your goal for this book?
The ultimate goal for this book/movement is for readers to be exposed and presented the opportunity to do good beyond their limits. SuperHeroes of Service will encourage children and parents to engage in more acts of altruism. The more we serve one another, the smaller our world becomes. Service learning and civic engagement are great tools to fight bullying, and find our voices in this noisy world. The beauty is we can all serve one way or another. We all have it. While serving, we find out who we are or who we ought to be and this results in being less self-centered, according to a Harvard Business school survey. Being a good citizen does not start when we turn 18, but it begins right at birth, at the first scream, right when we come out of our mother’s womb. The fact of the matter is children will do as we do, not as they are told. Today Katie and her whole family continues to be deeply involved in serving others, not just in Haiti, but also in various projects dear to their hearts. Katie finally went to Haiti for the first time on a mission trip with her friend Sarah, a dream she held for over five years. I am proud of them, their stories, and how they use serving others as a call to action to build a village of superheroes to save the world. What kind of civic superhero do you want to be in this global village ? Join the movement! Join the village. This is what being a SuperHero of Service is all about!