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Why I give – Our youngest donor

Posted Dec 18th, 2016

Dear Friends of the What If? Foundation,

I can’t wait to share this letter from one of our most dedicated donors. She’s also one of our youngest! Erin Manuel is 14, and has been raising money for the What If? Foundation and Haitian children for seven years. (You read that correctly: since she was seven.) She is an inspiration to her peers, and to all of us. 

Erin accompanied us to Haiti to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Father Jeri School this last April. I’ve asked her to share her experience there, and what motivates her to keep supporting the What If? Foundation.

Thank you for your continued support this holiday season.

With gratitude,

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Suzanne Alberga

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“Mwen rele Erin” (My name is Erin). “Kijan ou rele?” (What is your name?). I practiced these Creole phrases over and over on the plane this past April, exhilarated to be on the way to Haiti for the very first time.

Erin Fundraising with goodsI am 14 years old and have been raising money for Haiti since the massive earthquake in 2010, when I was seven. It really moved me. I just ran to my room, dumped out my piggy bank, gave it to my mom and said “here’s $3.08 cents, can you give this to Haiti?” Since then, I’ve spent many Saturdays at my local farmers market selling my artwork for this cause. I also speak at schools and universities about the conditions in Haiti and how people can make a difference in the world. So far I’ve raised over ​$16,000.

I was invited to Haiti by the What If? Foundation last April to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony at the new school in the Ti Plas Kazo neighborhood. I couldn’t believe it when I found out I was going! I would finally be able to see the place and meet the people I’d kept in my thoughts for years—I’d get to visit the new school and volunteer at the food program and meet the children served by What If and Na Rive.

The trip was absolutely amazing. I can’t count the number of times I cried—just seeing Haiti and meeting the people there took my breath away. It was wonderful to get to know the staff of Na Rive, who work so hard administering the food and education programs. I kept thinking about what I’d read about Father Jeri—how he always had a plan: “first, we make sure the children are fed, then we educate them”—and that’s exactly what has happened. Together we have done this for the children of Ti Plas Kazo.
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While I was in Haiti, someone said something to me I’ll never forget: “The problem we solve in Haiti may seem like the tip of the iceberg, but it means everything to the children we reach.” I remember it because of its truth. Because the sight of a child’s eyes lighting up when you hand them a bowl of food is the most precious and meaningful thing in the world. Donating money might not seem like a big deal to us, but to the children who receive a meal or go to school, it is everything.

I am from a very small town in the mountains of North Carolina. From my visit to Haiti I learned that I am also an important member of a team. It takes all of us, from the staff of Na Rive who run the food and educational programs, to every donor who does what she or he can to offer support, and the staff at the What If? Foundation who make it all happen — we’re all in this together. Thank you for being a member of this team.

Mwen rele Erin. Kijan ou rele?

By Erin Manuel