We had the good fortune of connecting with Katia Philippeaux and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Katia, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
The thought process behind starting my non-profit was in honor of my late brother, Robert. He was only 18 years old when he passed away from Epilepsy, a chronic neurological disease which causes unprovoked seizures. One morning, he awoke to multiple seizures which caused his heart to stop. For days we agonized over the hope of his recovery in ICU but unfortunately he did not survive. After his death, I became overwhelmed with so much strength to carry on his story. I began volunteering with several organizations, including Epilepsy Florida. My new purpose in life was to help families just like mine heal from the loss of a loved one from the disorder. During my journey, I discovered the lack of knowledge people in my own community, especially the Haitian-American community, had about Epilepsy. I just knew something had to be done about it. On the 10th year anniversary of his passing, I launched The Robert Philippeaux Epilepsy Organization (RPEO) to provide a platform or forum to address Epilepsy and its devastating impact in the community. Our goal is to lead efforts, advocate and provide the needed resources locally and abroad in hopes of saving lives. I believe that if I am able to educate even just one person about the disorder, than I have made a life-changing impact.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Although I have always wanted to be an attorney, sometimes things do not work out that way. I began a career in Public Service working for a municipality. A few years thereafter, I obtained my Masters degree in Public Administration. The highlight of my career is working alongside some of the best attorneys and assisting them with drafting laws and policies that directly impact the community. Often times you see the conclusion but not everyone gets to witness the hard work, research and sweat put forth to enact those laws. For the past several years, I have also served and volunteered for several organizations. I was elected President of the Haitian-American Leadership Organization (HALO), a prominent community based organization that was founded in 2001 to support and promote the development of future leaders through education and more. During my tenure, the amount of scholarship funds increased per student awarded. I also serve on the board of organizations that work directly in Haiti assisting children such as, Revive Haiti Foundation and Fondation L’infini. One major lesson that I have learned throughout my professional career thus far is to never give up. Although I had a hiccup during my undergraduate studies, I did not give up. I stayed the course until I graduated. It may have taken me a little longer to get to the finish line, but I made it. The same with pursuing my law career. I did not get discouraged, instead I changed my career path. Working in a municipality and volunteering with several non-profit organizations, really opened my eyes (and heart) to public administration, which made it a no-brainer for my graduate studies. I do not know where life may lead me next, as I am still young and evolving, but I am grateful for any opportunity that I may cross and will not hesitate to cease it.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I am all about showcasing my Haitian culture. One of the must see places in Miami is Little Haiti. There you have the Little Haiti Cultural Center, where you can see some of the best work of our Haitian brothers and sisters, while learning about our history. There are local Haitian restaurants and gift shops available for good dining and souvenirs. There is a new up and coming museum, Island Space Caribbean Museum, in Broward that is a great place to learn of the different Caribbean islands. The museum includes different exhibits and features original artifacts. A great learning experience for all.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
A shoutout first and foremost goes to my late brother. Without the strength that I believe he instilled in me, I do no believe I would be able to carry on the way that I have all these years. Not many people know this, but I was the one that discovered him in his room having multiple seizures. I was the last one to see him with his eyes open and held him in my arms. Not many people would be able to bounce back from that experience, but I believe our last moment together gave me all the strength I needed to last me a life-time. My parents deserve a major shoutout as watching them thrive and succeed all while maintaining a family and a business has been truly inspirational. My mom is the epitome of strength. She survived the death of her only son and the death of her mother a short three months later, while taking chemotherapy and finishing her college courses. I always say, if my mom can go through all that and survive, there isn’t anything that I cannot do. My dad is always there to provide wisdom and is often my voice of reason. My stepmom has never taken no for an answer. Their business survived all these years and cultivated great relationships with prominent people because of her determination and perseverance. She is the definition of a go-getter. I do not often share this with them, but I truly admire them. They each play a major role in my success and keep me going. Lastly, my group of cousins (also known as my tribe) and friends love and encourage me infinitely. They each deserve a credit of my success. They keep me motivated and are always there to remind me of my ability. The women who have paved the way for individuals like me to make a difference in this community also deserve recognition. I am able to see the change needed and work towards those changes because of the seeds they planted. Now they get to watch us all grow together.
Instagram: @robertphilippeauxepilepsyorg/ @trukitkat
Facebook: The Robert Philippeaux Epilepsy Organization/ Katia Philippeaux