Southlake resident Dumas Siméus is the chairman and founder of Siméus Foods International, Inc., one of the largest African-American-owned food processing companies in the United States. But before he was an entrepreneur, he was the eldest of 12 children born to poor, illiterate, subsistence farmers in the Artibonite Valley of Haiti.
With a lot of hard work and a little luck, he made his way to the United States and worked his way through college, receiving a degree in electrical engineering from Howard University and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Chicago.
After working his way up the corporate ladder and into his own American dream, he established the Siméus Foundation in 1999 to help the less fortunate in the United States and in Haiti.
The foundation is dedicated to providing medical care, food, clean water, education and clothing to the less fortunate. The foundation runs a full-time nonprofit medical clinic in the village where Siméus was born; it treats approximately 700 patients a month.
Now Siméus is taking his motto of giving back one step further by helping one little Haitian boy named Ritchy to reach his dream — of walking, running and playing like any other adolescent boy.
Siméus discovered Ritchy in the street market in Saint-Mark, Haiti, three years ago. He was traveling with Vanessa Dickey, executive director for the Siméus Foundation and a group of American doctors there to visit Siméus’clinic.
“We looked up and saw this group of boys running through the market and trailing along behind them was a boy using a crutch,” Dickey said. “What struck me was that he was running as best he could, propped up on a crutch. He did it with so much spirit.”
Dickey said the group called to Ritchy, and he turned to speak to the group of doctors. During this initial meeting, the doctors discovered that Ritchy’s leg, a childhood injury, caused him great pain. Dickey was struck by how brave the boy was.
“He was very intimidated by these white doctors who were all speaking English,” said Dickey. “One of the doctors spoke to him in Creole and touched his leg. Ritchy winced but he was so brave about this. His leg obviously hurt, but he was running and playing.”
The group was determined to help the child and so they stayed in touch with him and his family after they returned home. Dickey and her church group took on the responsibility of Ritchy. They sent clothes, food and made sure he had medical attention. The Siméus Foundation worked for three years searching for a hospital that would accept Ritchy as a patient. Finally, Scottish Rite accepted Ritchy’s case.
“We feel very fortunate to have found Scottish Rite,” said Dickey. “With the kind of surgery and therapy Ritchy needs, we would have never been able to afford this without them.”Dickey said that it is very rare that the hospital goes against its charter to accept foreign patients. Scottish Rite will perform the surgery free of charge.
During his recovery period, that is expected to last between six months to a year, Ritchy will live with Dickey, the Siméus family, and with other Haitian families in the Metroplex who have volunteered to help with his recovery. The traveling expenses and his living and rehabilitation expenses after the surgery will be paid by The Siméus Foundation.
Recently Siméus spoke with Ritchy about his trip to the United States. Siméus said that before he even told Ritchy they had found a way for him to come to the United States for surgery, Ritchy told him of a dream he had recently.
“He told me that he’d had a dream that Madam Vanessa [Dickey] had come to take him to the United States,” said Siméus. “When I told him that he was coming he got very teary eyed and spoke about the blessings of the Lord. He is looking very forward to the opportunity to walk normally for the first time without crutches.”
This is the first time that the foundation has taken on an individual case like Ritchy’s, and Siméus believes that they decided to do so because of the unusual way that Ritchy came to them.
“Ritchy just seemed to show up in front of us,” said Siméus. “We all felt that our souls were moved by him at the same time. He just looked like such a loving boy looking for help that we believe God sent him to us. At least in my mind, there is no question about that.”
Dickey and Siméus both hope that after his surgery and long recovery, Ritchy will be able to get a good education in order to help his country. Siméus said that though they are taking Ritchy’s case one day at a time it is his hope that he will have the opportunity to go to schools in the United States as he once did.
Siméus says that like Ritchy, without help he would have never been able to achieve his goals and dreams.
“I consider my life to be an unusual life of blessing,” said Siméus. “I got things and I achieved things I didn’t deserve. Despite my personal efforts I believe without the help of my parents and many other people I would never have achieved my dream.”
Siméus says that he often likes to use the cliché that to whom much is given, much is required. He believes that it goes one step further.
“To whom anything is given, however small, something is required,” said Siméus. “I don’t think we have to be given a lot to give back.”
When Ritchy arrives in Texas in January for his life-changing surgery, Siméus will be doing more than giving back to his home country. He’ll be giving one little boy a new path in life and new legs to walk down it.