What If? Blog
Apr 19th, 2017
Dear Friend of the What If? Foundation,
The end of February marks the start of Carnival in Haiti, a celebration held over several weeks leading up to Mardi Gras. During this time the streets of Port-au-Prince are filled with music, dancing and parades of costumed revelers. Celebrations last through the night and fill the neighborhoods with festivities, making it difficult for children to attend school. Many institutions close their doors for the week.
Teachers of the Father Jeri School decided instead to expand learning beyond the classroom, taking 176 students to see another part of the country, and learn new skills for the future. These intrepid travelers and their teachers went to Port Salut, a beach town in the southeast. For most students, it was their first time touching sand or swimming in the ocean. For others, it was the first time they had ever left Port-au-Prince, to take pride in the beautiful rolling green hills, white sand beaches, and raging waterfalls and rivers of their homeland.
During the trip, students had the chance to attend different workshops like “Population and Our Planet” which gave children the chance to consider the world beyond their neighborhood, and how a growing population increases the demand for food and resources not only in Haiti, but in the wider world.
“This discussion was so exciting, with both students and teachers really engaged. I picked this topic because I liked the intellectual challenge and that all ages could participate in the discussion”
Lavarice Gaudin, Na Rive Program Director
Students also got a chance to think about the future on a personal level. The “Life is Management” program offered a primer on managing academics and finances – the practical life skills so essential to success. And a visit from a public health nurse gave students a chance to meet and interact with a working professional. They heard about the field of nursing while also receiving vital hygiene, nutrition, and physical fitness advice.
And of course, we can’t forget their time at the beach. Play, exploration, friendship, and fun are all vital to learning – and to life. The children had a blast!
Thanks to Na Rive’s connections and resourcefulness, transport was donated and lodging was offered by a local college with spare dorm rooms. To cover the cost of meals, each family was asked to contribute 183 Haitian Dollars, or $2.65 US, yet no one was turned away for a lack of funds. Na Rive believes strongly in the role nutrition plays in education, whether the kids are in school or away from it.
It was an incredible week, as the photos show. And you made it all possible. While you couldn’t touch your toes to the sand, we hope you’ve seen how much joy and possibility you’ve created.
With love and gratitude,
Mar 23rd, 2017
Dear Friend of the What If? Foundation,
I’d like to introduce you to Analisa and Chery. These beautiful sisters are a testament to the power of resilience, hope and your compassion.
Analisa and Chery have been coming to the food program since before they were born. When their mother found out she was pregnant with Analisa, she knew she needed consistent nutrition to support her growing baby. This was not long after the earthquake in 2010 when she lost everything. She was forced to relocate to a tent community in Ti Plas Kazo, where the meals you provided not only saved this mother’s life, but nourished the future of her family.
The situation was much the same when Chery was born two years later. Economic conditions have not improved in Haiti in the years since the earthquake. The country has endured drought, disease, government instability and most recently, Hurricane Mathew. Thankfully, your generosity continues to provide for these girls – as it has done for so many others.
Help us continue to support this vital food program.
Each meal costs $0.65.
This week marks the 17th anniversary of Lamanjay, the Creole name for the food program. Thanks to your belief in our mission and your continued generosity, we have been able to provide a generation of Haitian children the fuel to survive, learn and thrive.
Life changes quickly in Haiti, and because of our partnership with Na Rive, we are able to respond effectively. When the tent community was dismantled last October, Analisa and Chery were among the hundreds of children and families forced to leave. Now the girls and their mother are miles from “home,” without a permanent place to live, and still without enough income to purchase food regularly.
So the food program has adapted, creating a food pantry where these displaced members of the community can pick up rice and beans to cook at home. This keeps nutrition on the table for Analisa and Chery, while saving their family from struggling to find their way to Ti Plas Kazo every day.
As many as 20 mothers come each week to collect meals from our food pantry. It is an important part of our mission — with the raw rice and beans we provide, families can come to their own tables to get nourishment and a sense of hope.”
–Lavarice Gaudin, Director of Na Rive
On this 17th anniversary, we ask for your support to help us ensure that the food pantry is stocked and that meals served each weekday to hundreds of children can continue.
Your support over the years has allowed the food program to grow into something more powerful than we ever imagined. Na Rive tells us that the desperation that can come from hunger has been replaced with a sense of community and shared purpose in Ti Plas Kazo. Children who were part of the first generation served, now volunteer to serve others. The meals provided each week day through Lamanjay are referred to as “meals of love” by the cooking team, and that’s how we see them too.
Thank you for making these “meals of love” possible for Analisa, Chery and countless other Haitian children.
Jan 26th, 2017
Dear Friend of the What If? Foundation,
January is always a time of reflection and purpose. New Year’s resolutions feel particularly poignant to us this year as we remember the 7th anniversary of the earthquake, and the actions it set in motion.
The days, weeks, and months after the earthquake were unspeakably dire. Thanks to the courage and devotion of Na Rive and the generosity of our donors, we were able to serve tens of thousands of people in need. But in the midst of such essential work, the food program faced closing its doors, as it lost its home at St. Claire’s rectory.
Thanks to your support, we were able to fund Na Rive’s purchase of their own land in Ti Plas Kazo. Seven years later, we can look back and see this moment as a turning point. Because that property is now the home of an extraordinary dream we have realized together: the Father Jeri School.
At a time when the path forward was unclear, you made it possible to believe and invest in the future of Haiti. We are so grateful for your love and trust, which is bringing hope and opportunity to hundreds of children every day.
Some missions have no end. There are big challenges ahead, but we keep doing the work: providing nutrition and education, and helping people around us however we can. We will see what 2017 will bring. No matter what, we continue to move forward!
–Lavarice Gaudin, Na Rive Program Director
In addition to sustaining the food program, which continues to play a vital role in the community, Na Rive and the Father Jeri School have important plans for the year ahead. One major ambition is to expand the student body to include 9th grade by next fall. Another is to establish a dedicated source of electricity for the school. Public electricity in Haiti is intermittent at best so having a generator would create a more reliable learning environment for students and teachers to flourish.
As always, there is much to do, much to be thankful for, and much to look forward to. Thank you for investing in hope and for continuing to support the Father Jeri School, the food program and the children of Ti Plas Kazo.
Lespwa fè viv — Hope makes life!
Jan 18th, 2017
Hurricane Mathew Relief
The What If? Foundation received more than $90,000 in contributions for Hurricane Mathew relief efforts. The funds were distributed October through December 2016 to support a food program and mobile clinics in the south of Haiti. The response team traveled to different communities to help give a boost to residents during this incredibly difficult time.
Hurricane Mathew was a category 4 storm that landed in Haiti on October 4, 2016. The impact of the storm was felt most dramatically in the southwest of the country where the majority of the population lives in tin roof shacks and many neighborhoods are situated at sea level. Two of the biggest cities hit were Les Cayes and Jeremie. Some estimates say that Jeremie lost more than 80% of its housing as a result of the storm, and several hundred lives were lost. (There has been some dispute over the official numbers of dead.)
Les Cayes is a seaside town, which endured extreme winds, large wave surges from the ocean and terrible flooding after the storm. Communities situated next to the beach were decimated. Most houses are made of cement but the roofs are tin and were torn off by the high winds. There was so much rain after the hurricane that families had to move to shelters in schools and government buildings, and many lost all of the contents of their homes and have no possessions left.
Lavarice Gaudin, Na Rive’s Program Director, has an extensive network throughout the country, especially in the south. His strong leadership skills created an amazing team of volunteers to help those most in need. Since the need was so great, they focused their efforts on the Les Cayes Region, which included the towns of Les Cayes, Camp Perrin, Cavaillon and Torbek.
The roads were impassable immediately following the storm. But, thankfully, after about 10 days, our partners were able to make their way to Les Cayes where they saw the damage and responded by creating a central kitchen to prepare hot meals that were distributed to different communities. The food was purchased in Port-au-Prince from wholesale distributors that have been supplying food to the regular Na Rive/What If? Foundation food program for more than 16 years, and transported by truck to Les Cayes, where there was a team preparing and deliver the meals to designated communities.
From October to December 2016 more, than 5,263 meals were provided to residents in the Les Cayes region.
In addition to food, it was clear that there were urgent medical needs. Lavarice worked with Dr. Piard, who created a team of medical professionals to staff a mobile medical clinic. Dr. Piard was educated in Canada and moved back to Haiti several years ago. He currently has a thriving medical practice in Port-au-Prince. He led a medical team on weekly trips to the south to attend to the sick and injured. Each mobile clinic took place at a community center or shelter and lasted between 3 and 5 hours, or until the medicine ran out. After the clinic, the meals would be distributed to the community.
During the months of October, November and December, the team held 10 mobile clinics and treated 1, 232 people.
People were so grateful to have an opportunity to see a doctor and receive medical assistance. Most of the ailments that doctors saw were dehydration, cholera, flu and infections. But what became clear is that the majority of people treated have no access to primary health care. The hurricane brought the team to respond to the urgent situation, but discovered many ailments that had nothing to do with the after effects of the storm. These illnesses are perpetuated by poverty and the lack of access to primary health care. Although our emergency support response to the hurricane is complete, the medical team is still looking for ways to continue to support these underserved communities.
We are so deeply grateful for the generosity of our donors which made the emergency food program and mobile medical clinic possible. You have made such a meaningful difference in the lives of hundreds of people during this crisis.
Dec 30th, 2016
Dear Friends of the What If? Foundation,
Bòn Ane! (“Happy New Year!” in Creole.)
2016 has surprised us all with some difficult challenges, but it has also brought its fair share of wonder and joy. With your generous support, the long-held dream of the Father Jeri School became a reality.
And with your continued support, we can offer food, education, and hope to generations of Haitian children to come. Thank you for remembering the What If? Foundation in your year-end giving. Every time we look at these faces, we are reminded of what a critical difference your donations make for the families of Ti Plas Kazo.
To make a year-end tax-deductible donation, click here:
If you have already sent a gift to support the food and education programs, know how deeply grateful we are for your support.
On behalf of the What If? Foundation, our Haitian partner, Na Rive, and the children we seek to lovingly serve, we thank you for your generosity and wish you a peaceful, happy and healthy New Year!