How The What If? Foundation Started
In January 2000, Margaret Trost visited Port-au-Prince, Haiti for the first time. While there, she volunteered at an orphanage and hospice founded by Mother Teresa. She was inspired by the faith and dedication of the sisters, but overwhelmed by the suffering she saw throughout the city, especially among children. Having a young son of her own, she identified with the children, many of whom experience daily hunger and face disease related to acute malnutrition and the absence of clean drinking water.
During her visit, Father Gerard Jean-Juste, a Haitian priest who served the Ti Plas Kazo neighborhood on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, spoke to her about life in Haiti. Despite all the challenges, he had great hope for the future. When he was asked about hunger, he shared his vision for a food program that would feed the children in his community. He said the children came up to him every day, their stomach’s aching from hunger, asking if he had any food they could eat.
When she returned to California a few days later, Margaret could not get Fr. Jean-Juste’s vision out of her mind. She thought: “What if there was a way to help his vision become a reality?” She shared her experience in Haiti with family and friends. Seed money began to arrive. Within three months, the food program started. It took place at the St. Clare’s rectory on Sundays and served 500 children. Father Jean-Juste organized the cooking and serving team and Margaret focused on fundraising. Shortly after the program began, Margaret created the What If? Foundation.
Over the years, as What If grew, the food program grew. Then school scholarships were added and other educational opportunities for the children. Today, the What If? Foundation provides funding for 6,000 meals each week, nearly 200 school scholarships/year, an after-school program, and a summer camp. The programs have always been run by members of the Ti Plas Kazo community and this is why they have been so effective at providing support and nourishment to children who are suffering from hunger and who do not have the opportunity to receive an education.
“Piti piti na rive” is Margaret’s favorite Creole saying. Fr. Jean-Juste taught it to her. It means “little by little we will arrive.” The What If? Foundation believes that every act of love makes a difference. Every prayer. Every gift. The Foundation is built in trust that all things are possible and that step by step, caring people can make a difference.
We invite you to join us in this heart-centered outreach. Together we can make a difference in the lives of some of our hemisphere’s most vulnerable children.
The What If? Foundation Board of Directors
Pat Stevens, Chair of the Board