What If? Blog
May 5th, 2016
Every trip to Haiti is transformative, but this last one was especially so. After many years of planning, collaboration and hope, we went to Port-au-Prince to witness the naming and ribbon cutting of the new school you helped to build. The Father Jeri School, named in honor of Father Gerry Jean-Juste (Gerry is Jeri in Creole), is not just a long-held dream come true, but a beacon of a brighter future for the entire community of Ti Plas Kazo.
A moving ceremony
Hundreds of people came together on a Saturday afternoon to join in the celebration. Members of What If and Na Rive cut a beautiful ribbon, shared memories of Father Jeri, and spoke of his love and hope for Haiti and his indomitable fight for social justice. The Ti Plas Kazo community lined the halls of the new building and it is hard to describe the energy that connected us around this new symbol of hope. The Father Jeri School will not only provide much-needed education, but intends to raise a new generation of change agents in the community and in Haiti as a whole.
“ We want our students to be examples, to be thinkers, to be leaders. And this will be possible because of the education they will receive in this school. Then, when they graduate, they can be leaders in the community and wherever they go.” Lavarice Gaudin, Na Rive Program Director
Standing tall and proud
The school truly is a sight to behold, beyond compare in the area for its thoughtful design, including climate and earthquake protection and large classrooms filled with natural light. As proud as we are to have contributed to its creation, the families of Ti Plas Kazo are even more so. This building means so much to them: daily nourishment, access to quality education and entrepreneurial development for the next generation, as well as a place to gather, plan and beheard. It represents opportunities that have never existed before and we now have a chance to help those opportunities come to fruition.
Back to school in a big way
Na Rive is now hard at work planning for the biggest back-to-school season they’ve ever had. The new building makes all this possible, yet ensuring the programs have a strong start and are funded for years to come is now our main priority. Na Rive has teachers to hire, curriculum to solidify, supplies to buy, uniforms to sew, and of course, a new cafeteria to stock so that meals can be served to students and other hungry children in the neighborhood.
Your generosity is central to their success. Let’s help Na Rive fill this new building with as much possibility as possible.
For all that you’ve done, and that you continue to do, we say Mesi Anpil! Thank you so much.
P.S. As we near the first day of school in September we’ll have further updates to share. Stay tuned!
Mar 23rd, 2016
Spring has arrived and with it comes our gratitude for another year of your generous support. Thanks to your ongoing donations, our partner Na Rive has been able to serve nutritious meals to the children of Ti Plas Kazo for the last 16 years.
That’s more than four million times that young girls and boys have been nourished, parents have felt a sense of relief, and the community has come together.
And now, more than ever, our resolve to support the food program is crucial to the future of this community. A drought that has hit Haiti over the last three years has driven the country, where more than half of the people depend on agriculture, deeper into poverty and hunger. This coupled with the recent devastating effects of El Niño make your contributions even more important in the lives of these children.
Families count on us. When it’s the only meal a child will eat today, parents will do anything to get here.
– Lavarice Gaudin, Na Rive Program Director
These meals mean so much for families. While in Haiti last month, I met Marie Maudeline Pierre. She has three daughters, the youngest of whom is three months old. With no income to support herself, she walks five kilometers to the Na Rive food program every day so that her girls can get a hot meal and she can stay healthy to nurse her baby. 10 kilometers, on foot, under the blazing sun, with a baby in her arms and two young children by her side.
Reaching children beyond mealtime
Marie’s situation is not unique. Which is why Na Rive has started experimenting with new ways to meet the needs of the community. Children who cannot make it to mealtimes are invited to visit an informal pantry, where they can collect dry goods to be cooked at home. Not only can more children be reached this way, but we’re also helping families eat together, so they can nourish their bond along with their bodies. It’s a great example of Na Rive’s remarkable resourcefulness — and the benefits of working directly with such an effective and entrepreneurial local partner. Every penny is spent wisely, with creativity and kindness at heart.
Feeding the future
Each meal at the food program costs about $0.65. Whether you can help in providing many bags of rice, beans and local produce, or just a few plates of food, know that your contribution makes a vital difference in the life of this vibrant community. Together, we’re helping feed a better future for the children of Ti Plas Kazo.
“Piti piti na rive ” — little by little we will get there. One plate, one smile, one child at a time.
Mar 2nd, 2016
Dear What If Friends and Supporters,
I am deeply honored to share the special letter below from our dear Founder, Margaret Trost. Margaret has been an inspiration, a friend and a sheer force of nature in steering the What If? Foundation into the organization it has become today.
I am writing to share news about an upcoming change in my role at the What If? Foundation. After nearly 16 years of working on the foundation’s fundraising and communications, as well as serving as a member of the What If? Foundation Board of Directors, I have decided it is time for me to step away from these duties and complete my term on the board this spring.
The inspiration for this transition has come from a call I feel deep in my heart to slow down the pace of my life and explore other creative pursuits. This is something I’ve been working towards for several years. I am grateful to be able to make this transition at a time when the programs in Haiti are strong and the construction of the new school building is complete. And because of the What If? Foundation’s devoted staff and board, and your ongoing support, I have no doubt that the organization will continue to thrive.
Suzanne Alberga, our Executive Director, Mia Masia, our Donor Relations Associate, and every member of the board are deeply committed to What If, Na Rive, and the children we serve in Haiti. My dream as founder (and perhaps the dream of every founder) has always been that when I felt ready to step out of the day-to-day activities, that the organization would be solid, full of energy, and not dependent on me or any single individual. This dream has come true and I feel so blessed and grateful.
When I think back to the vision of a food program that Fr. Jean-Juste shared with me at our first meeting 16 years ago, and I asked the question “What if…?”, I never imagined the beautiful nonprofit organization that would emerge, the miracles that would unfold, the people like you who would step forward to join us, and the hope and opportunity that would be created in the midst of the great suffering and challenges in Haiti.
I believe deeply in this organization and treasure being its founder. In the months and years ahead, I look forward to opportunities to continue to serve on the foundation’s behalf as a speaker and member of the What If Advisory Council.
Thank you for being on this journey with us. And thank you for your ongoing support, which makes the work of the What If? Foundation possible.
Piti piti na rive,
Founder, What If? Foundation
We are all forever grateful for Margaret’s vision and hard work and look forward to her continued support and insights as part of our Advisory Council. Please join us in celebrating her transition and an exciting and prosperous future for the What If? Foundation and the community we serve.
Feb 18th, 2016
Dear Friends of What If,
I just came back from Haiti and I am so excited to share that the new school building and kitchen/cafeteria we have been working on for several years is now complete! Thanks to your support, the “Building the Dream” project in Ti Plas Kazo is a reality.
During my visit, I was deeply moved not only because of the building’s beauty, which makes it stand out in the neighborhood, but also because it fills the students and community with pride and hope.
This school has been a long-held dream of the Ti Plaz Kazo community and was built in loving memory of Father Jean-Juste, whose vision of a children’s food program inspired our founder, Margaret Trost, to create the What If? Foundation in 2000. Fr. Jean-Juste was a passionate advocate for the poor and believed that every act of love made a difference. His beliefs continue to live on through the everyday teachings and outreach of our partner on the ground, Na Rive
The school is not just the culmination of Fr. Jean-Juste’s vision, nd a symbol of hope for the community, but a true catalyst for developing a new generation of Haitians. The plans laid out by Na Rive entail a combination of high academic standards with teaching
s of respect, empathy and civic duty among students and the community, aimed at building the next generation of leaders.
The students will be entrusted with maintaining the school and the surrounding yard. In addition, their parents will be encouraged to get involved in their education so they know how best to support their children despite the fact that many of the parents are unable to read and write. This approach will create an environment and space for transformation where the children in Ti Plaz Kazo can thrive and grow to become change agents in the community.
“We want our students to be examples, to be thinkers, to be leaders. And this will be possible because of the education they will receive in this school. Then, when they graduate, they can be leaders in the community and wherever they go.”
Lavarice Gaudin, Na Rive Program Director
The building has three stories and six classrooms, each comfortably fitting 40 students. It is equipped with a kitchen and a spacious cafeteria where nutritious meals will be cooked and served to students. In addition, meals will be prepared for other hungry children who attend the food program.
Now that the construction is complete, Na Rive is hard at work developing plans to relocate the food program kitchen and house the after-school program and the summer camp in the new building.
The What If? Foundation Board and staff, and Na Rive, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your ongoing support which has provided the resources needed for such an important project. Your generosity has opened a brighter future for the children of Haiti.
Jan 14th, 2016
This week marks the 6th anniversary of the earthquake that devastated Haiti. We hold the Haitian people especially close to our hearts at this time.
Yesterday, I spoke with Lavarice Gaudin, Na Rive’s Program Director, and he shared that life is still extremely difficult for an overwhelming majority who struggle to recover from the widespread destruction that occurred in 2010.
“Today it seems like we are living through the same suffering that we endured during the earthquake. Life for so many people has not improved. There are still thousands living in tents with no electricity or running water. They have no food and can’t afford an education.”
Lavarice reflected on how over the last six years, few organizations have managed to successfully channel aid to those in need. And even fewer organizations have supported Haitian-led programs to help them recover. This is what makes the What If? Foundation and its partnership with Na Rive so unique and important.
The food and education programs you support continue to effectively and lovingly bring nourishment, hope, and opportunity to hundreds of children day after day. And now, with the completion of our “Building the Dream”construction project just weeks away, the excitement about the future is growing.
“Despite the widespread suffering, in this community we are able to celebrate our victory over the earthquake with every meal at the food program, with every school scholarship, and with the construction of this new school building. There is great hope for the future. The building’s final inspection is just a few weeks away so soon we will be able to move over the food and after-school programs. And then in the fall, we plan to open the doors to students, offering quality education that will help build a better future for our neighborhood and our country.”
I look forward to sharing more news about the new school in the weeks ahead. It’s a project we’ve been working on for several years and a powerful symbol of the strength and effectiveness of our partnership with Na Rive, the generosity of What If donors, and the love and hope that binds us together.
On behalf of the What If? Foundation Board and staff, and Na Rive, thank you for your ongoing support.