What If? Blog
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!
Dec 22nd, 2016
Dear Friends of the What If? Foundation,
We hope this message finds you in good cheer. As Christmas Day approaches, many of us are in prep mode: cooking, baking, and wrapping gifts. The same is true for Na Rive. Every year on Christmas Day, they serve a special meal to over 1,000 children in Ti Plas Kazo.
For most, this meal is their only present and usually the only sustenance for the day. It means the world to them. It means they are loved and have not been forgotten.For children who cannot make it to the meal, Na Rive staff are tying up gifts of rice and beans to take home, so families can share Christmas dinner together.
“The holidays are a moment of sharing. We continue to share and celebrate with our community – our brothers and sisters.”
-Lavarice Gaudin, Na Rive Program Director
Meanwhile, the students and teachers at the Father Jeri School are organizing a special party to celebrate the end of their first term, and the end of testing.
It is a time of much joy, love and gratitude in Ti Plas Kazo. We send our heartfelt thanks to you for bringing so much cheer to the lives of these children, on Christmas Day and every day.If you haven’t yet donated this year, we invite you to share the holiday spirit. Your support means more children can receive the gifts of food, education, and hope.
On behalf of everyone in Ti Plas Kazo, we wish you much health and happiness in 2017.
The What If? Foundation board of directors, staff,
and our Haitian partners, Na Rive
Dec 18th, 2016
Dear Friends of the What If? Foundation,
I can’t wait to share this letter from one of our most dedicated donors. She’s also one of our youngest! Erin Manuel is 14, and has been raising money for the What If? Foundation and Haitian children for seven years. (You read that correctly: since she was seven.) She is an inspiration to her peers, and to all of us.
Erin accompanied us to Haiti to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Father Jeri School this last April. I’ve asked her to share her experience there, and what motivates her to keep supporting the What If? Foundation.
Thank you for your continued support this holiday season.
“Mwen rele Erin” (My name is Erin). “Kijan ou rele?” (What is your name?). I practiced these Creole phrases over and over on the plane this past April, exhilarated to be on the way to Haiti for the very first time.
I am 14 years old and have been raising money for Haiti since the massive earthquake in 2010, when I was seven. It really moved me. I just ran to my room, dumped out my piggy bank, gave it to my mom and said “here’s $3.08 cents, can you give this to Haiti?” Since then, I’ve spent many Saturdays at my local farmers market selling my artwork for this cause. I also speak at schools and universities about the conditions in Haiti and how people can make a difference in the world. So far I’ve raised over $16,000.
I was invited to Haiti by the What If? Foundation last April to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony at the new school in the Ti Plas Kazo neighborhood. I couldn’t believe it when I found out I was going! I would finally be able to see the place and meet the people I’d kept in my thoughts for years—I’d get to visit the new school and volunteer at the food program and meet the children served by What If and Na Rive.
The trip was absolutely amazing. I can’t count the number of times I cried—just seeing Haiti and meeting the people there took my breath away. It was wonderful to get to know the staff of Na Rive, who work so hard administering the food and education programs. I kept thinking about what I’d read about Father Jeri—how he always had a plan: “first, we make sure the children are fed, then we educate them”—and that’s exactly what has happened. Together we have done this for the children of Ti Plas Kazo.
While I was in Haiti, someone said something to me I’ll never forget: “The problem we solve in Haiti may seem like the tip of the iceberg, but it means everything to the children we reach.” I remember it because of its truth. Because the sight of a child’s eyes lighting up when you hand them a bowl of food is the most precious and meaningful thing in the world. Donating money might not seem like a big deal to us, but to the children who receive a meal or go to school, it is everything.
I am from a very small town in the mountains of North Carolina. From my visit to Haiti I learned that I am also an important member of a team. It takes all of us, from the staff of Na Rive who run the food and educational programs, to every donor who does what she or he can to offer support, and the staff at the What If? Foundation who make it all happen — we’re all in this together. Thank you for being a member of this team.
Mwen rele Erin. Kijan ou rele?
By Erin Manuel