May 21st, 2015
Meet Erin Manuel, an incredible 13-year old from a small town in North Carolina. For the last several months, Erin has been passionately raising money for What If at the farmer’s market and through other fundraising efforts. We are so inspired by Erin’s efforts and huge heart that we want to share her story with you.
Erin was just 7 years old when the earthquake struck Haiti. In her words, “it really moved me. I didn’t really think about it and ran to my room and dumped out my piggy bank, and ran back and gave it to my mom and said here’s $3.08 cents, can you give this to Haiti?” From that point on, Erin became focused on doing all she could to raise more money to help the people of Haiti. She began attending every farmers’ market and craft fair in her community. She sold baked goods and greeting cards she made from her own photography. She sold bookmarks her mother laminated from her drawings and “Love Buddies” – little handmade clay sculptures she created. She played her violin. Over time, as she devoted every Friday and Saturday to this effort, Erin turned $3.08 into substantially more.
For four years, she raised money for Partners In Health, sending more than $12,000 to support their community-based healthcare work. And then one day, her mom returned from the library with the book, “On that Day Everybody Ate,” by What If founder, Margaret Trost. After Erin read it, she decided she wanted to help the What If? Foundation too.
I really loved Mrs. Trost’s description of how she came to create that organization, after seeing all those children coming up to say, “Do you have something to eat? We’re so hungry.” And she got inspired by that. The reader really gets inspired by that as well. So I wanted to help all those children too.
In addition to attending farmers’ markets, Erin gives presentations in colleges, high schools, and elementary schools, raising awareness among audiences of all ages about the need in Haiti. Sometimes fundraising is personally challenging, as Erin relates:
It’s really hard at times, and I’m an introvert. So it was really hard being at the farmer’s market and saying to every single person that came up to my stand, “Hey I’m raising money for Haiti.”
But she pushes through her fears by focusing on the children she is helping. Photos of girls and boys at the food program motivate her, “like on the front cover of Ms. Trost’s book, like that boy eating that food, and just seeing some of the images from the website.” Knowing that she’s helping people in need keeps her going.
Erin shared that her fundraising efforts have inspired others to take action too:
I had one second grade girl come up to me about a week after my presentation to say, “Erin, you inspired me, and now my family and I are volunteering at an animal shelter.” That’s one of the most rewarding things for me, to know that I help kids feel like they can do something to help people. It’s just a chain reaction that I really like to be part of.
Erin envisions a Haiti where kids aren’t hungry, and where they live in safe, strong housing. She believes it’s important for change to come from within Haiti, and through partnerships where Haitians lead and run the programs. “That’s one of the things that the What If? Foundation and Partners In Health really do (well), is really partner with the people there.”
Erin would love to go to Haiti someday, with arms full of stuffed animals to bring to kids in hospitals. She also wants to visit the food and education programs she’s helped fund through What If, and to meet our partners at Na Rive and the children in Ti Plas Kazo.