The What If Foundation was created in 2000 by Margaret Trost, a young mother and business owner, and Father Gerard Jean-Juste, a celebrated Haitian human rights activist. Margaret met Father Jeri during an unexpected trip to Haiti and was deeply inspired by his commitment to social justice. Margaret later wrote the book On That Day, Everybody Ate which describes her remarkable journey and the birth of the What If Foundation.
Father Jeri had a vision to create a children’s food program that could eventually become a stepping stone to a better future for his local community, and beyond. He told Margaret “First we feed the children, we keep them alive. Then we focus on education.” We have been working with the Ti Plas Kazo community to fulfill Father Jeri’s vision ever since.
“Piti piti na rive” is Margaret’s favorite Creole saying, something Fr. Jean-Juste taught her on that first visit to Haiti. It means “little by little, we will arrive.” The What If Foundation was founded on the shared beliefs that food security and education are critical to breaking the cycle of poverty and that every act of service, every act of love, makes a difference. Over the last two decades, we have been humbled to witness how the power of small steps can transform the lives of the children and families we serve.
The What If Foundation raises awareness and resources to support critically-needed food, education, and community support programs in the Ti Plas Kazo neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, and beyond. We work in close partnership with the Haitian grassroots organization Na Rive, which has deep roots in the community as well as the know-how and local relationships to have a significant impact on the ground. Together, we have joined forces to bring hope and opportunity to children and their families for nearly 20 years.
The programs we support include: food, education, disaster relief, and pilot projects. You can learn more about these programs here.
The What If Foundation is the primary source of funding for these programs. We are a small but mighty organization, deeply commited to supporting Na Rive’s transformational work. We passionately fundraise, raise awareness, advise, collaborate, and create connections to help build lasting change.
Haiti has a long history of foreign occupation and exploitation of people and resources, which has resulted in wide-spread material poverty. The majority of Haitians live on less than US $2.5 per day, which makes reliable access to food and education extremely difficult.
One in five children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition and related health issues. The meals at the food program are often the only meal of the day for these children. And most of the students we support are the very first in their families to be able to attend school.
In spite of this history and related injustices, Haitians continue to respond with resourcefulness, vision, and an indomitable spirit. The What If Foundation supports that spirit and stands in solidarity with the Haitian people as we assist Na Rive with the resources needed to build lasting change.
The What If Foundation allows your compassion to cross borders, so you can make a direct and immediate impact on the lives of Haitian children and families in extreme poverty.
We work in close partnership with the grassroots organization Na Rive to fund programs that are Haitian-led and Haitian-run, which is why they are so effective. We believe sustainable change happens from the ground up, and our work with Na Rive has proven this true over and over again. Na Rive’s leadership, know-how, resourcefulness, local connections, and deep dedication to serve those most in need, together with our commitment and support, combine to make a powerful partnership. We have an immense amount of respect, understanding and trust for each other. Na Rive truly achieves miracles with the funds our donors provide.
Our focus in the Ti Plas Kazo community has also allowed us to witness how individual lives are being transformed over the years. We’ve seen children arrive at the food program, gain strength and receive the support needed to attend school, learn income generating skills, pursue their goals, and give back to their community. It is a rare privilege to have such a sense of personal impact and connection to this community, and a joy to be able to create that connection for our donors and supporters.