Several of you have written this week asking how our friends in Haiti are doing. I finally was able to reach Father Jean-Juste, the coordinator of our programs, by phone today and am relieved to tell you that he and the children we serve in Port-au-Prince are safe.
Hurricane Jeanne pounded the north of Haiti for 30 hours earlier this week, killing over 2000 people in Gonaives. Over 300,000 people are homeless and without food and water. Relief agencies are having a terrible time distributing supplies because of destroyed roads.
Father Jean-Juste said Port-au-Prince is about 100 miles south of Gonaives, so they didn't get the torrential rains and floods, but they will soon feel other consequences of Jeanne. Today the San Francisco Chronicle quoted a representative from the Word Food Program who said the floods were "a real disaster because all of the harvest of rice and fruit was destroyed in the Artibonite", Haiti's breadbasket. "So now the country can't even feed itself without outside help."
I can't imagine what the months ahead hold for the people of Haiti. First, the political hurricane of February's coup d'etat. Now this hurricane. As one of you wrote to me this week, "How much more can these people bear?"
During my conversation with Father Jean-Juste, he told me again what a difference the Feed My Lambs food program is making for the children.
"The children cannot wait for Sundays and Wednesdays.They smell the food as it's being prepared and they get crazy with excitement. They are so hungry. The meal is packed! Overflowing! You should see the children - so happy to be able to eat! Life is extremely difficult right now."
He also told me the food program is having an important "calming influence" on the neighborhood. With life so unstable and people unsure of whether they'll find enough food to eat from day to day, it's a desperate, panicky situation. But with over 500 children receiving meals each Sunday and Wednesday and another 100 of the hungriest children receiving a daily meal, there's "a growing sense of calm" among the children.
The checks you've sent in recent months to support the food program have made this possible. We'd never have been able to expand without your gifts. Individual donations are our main source of income. This year we're serving three times as many meals as we did last year (from 500/week to 1500) in response to the deepening humanitarian crisis. We've also paid the tuition of 14 children who started school earlier this month.
As you can imagine, our resources are stretched thin, so whatever you can do to spread the word about our work, please do.The What If? Foundation has been built on word-of-mouth sharing and the generosity of people giving what they can.
Please direct your friends to our website. On it there are pictures and brief descriptions of our programs. The 2003 Annual Report is also there and shows our commitment to spend only a fraction on administrative expenses ($854 in all of '03). Perhaps the grass-roots nature of our programs and the ability to directly impact the life of a child with donations of any size, would appeal to them.
Thanks again for your interest and support. I'll keep you posted as I hear more.
To donate, make checks out to the What If? Foundation and mail them to: 1563 Solano Ave., #192, Berkeley, CA 94707.
Margaret Trost, President
What If? Foundation
1563 Solano Ave., #192
Berkeley, CA 94707
Providing Hope and Opportunity to Impoverished Children in Haiti
You can read more about Margaret's work with Fr. Jean-Juste in the What If? Foundation Archive at Satya Center.