//George turns tragedy into opportunity

George turns tragedy into opportunity

George Sainteus Jr. is a successful businessman and respected community leader, but Sainteus said he would not have any of the opportunities he has now if it wasn’t for a brutal kidnapping in Haiti.

Sainteus was born into a thriving social class in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. His parents were professionals. Sainteus’ father was a police officer, a revered but dangerous career on the island country. The senior Sainteus’ law enforcement ties made his children prime targets for violence.

Sainteus remembers his crib being raided by strangers at a young age. The kidnappers took his brother but left him behind.

“They were successful in kidnapping my brother, but my family stepped in when they were trying to kidnap me,” Sainteus said. “I kind of survived.”

Sainteus never saw his brother again.

Concerned about his remaining son’s well-being, Sainteus’ father left Haiti behind to create a new life for his family in America.

George Sainteus Jr. moved to Virginia in the late 80s.

These days, more than 30 years later, Sainteus owns an insurance and risk management company in two states, curates events and travel experiences and connects people through professional mixers. He also stays active in his hometown of Harlem by serving on various boards, including the neighborhood’s tourism board and several nonprofits. Case in point, Sainteus is currently the vice president of administration for the Metro New York Chapter of the National Black MBA Association.

“Something inside of me loves giving my time to those organizations,” he said.

George Sainteus Jr. takes the helm at the Harlem Jazz and Music Symposium. Sainteus is a community leader in Harlem who owns four companies.

When the pandemic hit Harlem, Sainteus passed out free meals to the community and health care workers and led a series of virtual discussions.

Sainteus credits his love for giving back to being a “product of mentorship.” His mentor Bill “Captain Bill” Anderson, took Sainteus under his wing when he was in middle school. Captain Bill, a retired businessman, showed Sainteus the ropes of the insurance industry and encouraged his parents to enroll him in private school. It grounded him for life.

Sainteus still thinks about his brother every day and the traumatic experience that changed the direction of his life.

“I have a tattoo on my left arm just to acknowledge him, and I always think about him because it could have been me. We were both in the house at the time, and it’s just [that] the kidnappers got to him before they got to me,” Sainteus said. “Because of my brother and the kidnapping of my brother, I got the opportunity to come to America.”

Nyam Daniel
Nyam Daniel

Nyam Daniel is a journalist, a radio host and the founder of Caribbean America Web.