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What If? Blog

Nov 19th, 2015

With gratitude and hope for children like Marie

Dear Friends,

As we enter the season of sharing and giving thanks, I want to express how grateful we are for you and your continued support of the food and education programs operated by our partner Na Rive in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.DSC_1950

The food program remains packed with hundreds of hungry girls and boys sitting shoulder-to-shoulder as they eat the nutritious meals your donations make possible. Lavarice Gaudin, Na Rive Program Director, recently shared a story about one of these children, an 8-year-old named Marie.



Marie lost both of her parents in the 2010 earthquake.  A family in the Ti Plas Kazo neighborhood took her in and provides a loving home, but daily hunger is a constant struggle.  Over the years, Marie has relied on the meals served by the Na Rive cooking team to nourish and sustain her.

Marie brings a small container or bag with her each day and like so many other children, she carefully spoons half her meal into it to take home.  Every time I visit the food program, I am struck by how many girls and boys, despite how hungry they are, save food for a sibling, parent or grandparent.  Even with so little, these children understand the power of sharing.


This Thanksgiving, we invite you to make a donation to the What If? Foundation.  Your gift will help us to continue providing life-saving meals and educational opportunities to children like Marie in 2016.

Meals cost as little as $0.65 each and school scholarships average $350 for elementary school and $500 for high school, so gifts of all sizes have a great impact in these vital community-based programs.DSC_1980

We’ve been in partnership with Na Rive for nearly 16 years.  The effectiveness and success of our partnership and these programs comes out of years of collaboration and trust, a locally empowered approach, and Na Rive’s deep knowledge of the needs and practicalities on the ground.

The members of Na Rive tell us that the difference donors like you have made over the years is immeasurable.  You have helped empower, bring hope, and brighten the smiles of every child who is touched by the meals, scholarships, and other educational opportunities that would not exist without your help.

On behalf of the What If? Foundation board and staff, our founder Margaret Trost, and Na Rive, thank you for your generosity and compassion.

With gratitude and hope,




Suzanne Alberga
Executive Director

Sep 16th, 2015

I’ve made it to my 6th year of school–thanks to you!

Dear Friends,

It’s back-to-school time in Haiti and we’d like to share a message from student Edouard Ralph Jonathan, age 12:

“It is with a heart full of joy that I write to you today to express my gratitude.  Thanks to you, I have made it to my 6th year of school.  I don’t know how to thank you… you help so many students who don’t have money to go to school.”
P1020695Thanks to What If? Foundation donors, the invaluable experience of education is available to Edouard and many other children who would otherwise not be able to attend school. Because of the programs we fund and the educational support provided by our Haitian partner, Na Rive, 154 students will receive scholarships, put on their uniforms and attend school in Port-au-Prince this year.

What does it take to send a child to school? It costs about $350 at the elementary level and $500 for high school.

Please help us continue to fund these life-changing scholarships by making a donation today.

The Na Rive education team supports each scholarship recipient by providing one-on-one mentoring, academic enrichment, and a wide range of after-school classes throughout the year.  These programs result in remarkable student success:

 Over 95% of the students we sponsor each year advance to the next grade or graduate.

P1020697Your support makes a profound impact on a child’s future.  Only ten percent of schools in Haiti are public and the cost of private schooling is unattainable for most families.  The What If? Foundation and Na Rive are committed to helping educate as many children as possible, dramatically changing their lives for the better.

Mesi anpil! (Thank you very much!) for your generosity and support of Edouard and so many other children in the Ti Plas Kazo community.


With gratitude,

Suzanne Alberga
Executive Director

P.S. Please note that our mailing address has changed:
1569 Solano Avenue #192
Berkeley, CA 94707

Jul 8th, 2015

We reached our matching goal and other good news!

Dear Friends,

We‘ve done it! Thanks to your generosity we have met, and surpassed the $15,000 matching grant we received in honor of our 15th anniversary.

P1020888 (1) 2Together, you have helped us take advantage of an incredible opportunity to have every dollar given doubled and this has resulted in more than $35,000, which will be used to provide crucial support to the food program this summer. Mesi Anpil! (“Thank you so much!” in Creole.)

I just returned from visiting the programs in Haiti where I watched hundreds of hungry children receiving meals ­with great enthusiasm and often a smile, or two – the meals you’ve made possible.

And I saw the exciting progress being made on the construction of the kitchen/cafeteria and school building. The dream we‘ve shared with our partner Na Rive to build a permanent structure to house the programs we fund as well as a new school is becoming a reality. (Stay tuned for more updates on the building project in the months to come.)

The Na Rive staff is busy preparing for the 13th Annual Summer Camp, which starts in a couple of weeks and brings so much joy to the children.  Over 600 girls and boys, ages 5 – 18, will participate in this 7-week program. They will have many classes to choose from including music, arts and crafts, cooking, and English. One child told me:

Viland_FoodProgram 2“I am so grateful for the summer camp and was very happy to learn macrame last year.  I can’t wait until I’m old enough for one of the Latin dance classes, but this year I want to learn some English. But the best thing about the summer camp is that it is free!”    Viland, Age 11

All this is possible thanks to your donations and the dedication and expertise of Na Rive.

On behalf of the What If? Foundation board, the Na Rive staff and the entire Ti Plas Kazo community, thank you for being a part of this “great sharing.”

With gratitude,

Suzanne Alberga
Executive Director

Jun 10th, 2015

Important Update on Our Matching Gift

Dear Friends of What If,
sister and brother June 2015
With just three weeks left to go in our $15,000 matching gift campaign honoring the 15th anniversary of the What If? Foundation and the food program, we are making good progress towards our goal.

Thank you to everyone who has donated so far!  Your gifts are being matched dollar for dollar and will make twice as many meals at the food program possible.

If you have not yet sent in a donation, there is still time to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to double your gift.

Make a Donation

Liz and Lauren 2

I am particularly inspired by this matching gift campaign because I recently returned from my first trip to Port-au-Prince.  As the new chair of the What If? Foundation board, I am so glad to have met members of Na Rive, What If’s Haitian partner, and to have seen the food and education programs first hand.  My 13-year-old daughter traveled with me and we were both deeply moved by the experience, especially our time with the children at the food program.

We were struck by the depth of hunger among the hundreds of girls and boys who came to eat, many of them living close by in a post-earthquake tent community.  I realized as I passed out the meals, how true it is that every donation matters.

I will always remember the smiles and Smiling kids June 2015 3laughter of the children as they played with each other at “the pink house” where the meals are served. I saw that the members of Na Rive not only provide desperately needed nutrition, but also a safe refuge and a loving community that the children look forward to every day.

Thank you for your support of the What If? Foundation and for helping us reach our goal of $15,000 by June 30th.  When this is matched by our special donor group (which includes all the What If? Foundation board members) we will have raised $30,000 for the food program this summer!

Liz Owens
What If? Foundation, Board Chair

May 21st, 2015

Donor Feature: Erin Manuel, 13-year-old Donor Extraordinaire

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 age 8 at farmer's marketErin 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.
Erin talking to kidsIn 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 with her Love BuddiesLove Buddies collectionClose up of a Love Buddy

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 with bookmarksErin age 9 at farmers marketErin at farmers market

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.

With heaps of gratitude for not only your fundraising efforts, but for what you galvanize, everyone here at What If thanks you — Erin — for all that you do and inspire us to do!Erin raises $10,000 in 2014