f rom th e Poor Gifts of Hope, Faith & Love
Acknowledgments Photographs by Benjamin Rusnak, Gina Fontana, Hilda Perez, Edward Linsmier, Cindy Karp and Andy Jacobsohn Written by Bonnie Vanak, Michael Hutchinson and Debi Springer Edited by Donna Purre and Robby Brumberg Designed by Aimee Sauer Creative Director: Mary Carroll A special thanks goes to Quadriga Art, Inc., for their support by donating the time, materials and costs of production to make this book possible. Thank you to all the donors who make our work possible, the dedicated staff of Food For The Poor, and the missionaries and laypeople who work tirelessly on behalf of the destitute.
Copyright © 2011 by Food For The Poor, Inc. All rights reserved. Published 2012. First edition. No part of this book, including the images contained herein, may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without written permission of Food For The Poor, Inc.
6401 Lyons Road Coconut Creek, FL 33073 954-427-2222 www.FoodForThePoor.org Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible with Revised New Testament and Revised Psalms © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked (niv) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. Most statistical data as of October 2011
Table of Contents Dedication INTRODUCTION
3O Years 3O Stories 8
Working Hard 88
Highlights 148 Results of Compassion 151
Inspired by the poor who have taught us the true meaning of following in Christâ€™s footsteps. Dedicated to our compassionate donors, who like Christ, have selflessly reached out time and again to rescue the poorest of the poor. With our donorsâ€™ generosity, those most vulnerable are saved from the cycle of poverty and have restored in them the power to dream!
This book features 30 of the most inspirational stories and photographs throughout Food For The Poor’s history of helping the poor. Our mission of service is best represented in the words Jesus speaks in Matthew’s Gospel which reads: “As often as you did it to one of the least of My brothers and sisters, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:40) Food For The Poor is proud to be the vehicle chosen by our dedicated and faithful donors who have transformed countless lives with their generous giving in the Caribbean and Latin America since 1982. Our devoted donors inspire us with their selfless giving and generous hearts, while the poor inspire us with their faith and courage. The stories you will read on these pages are living testimonies of an incredible journey of love bringing us all closer together in our Lord Jesus Christ.
First anniversary of the Haiti earthquake, 2011
Preaching in the garbage dump The road winds up a steep hill and the smell of rotting garbage hits you before you can even see it. Fires burn at various locations in the dump, while crowds of people sort through the trash. Thousands of large vultures, black as tar and as tall as a small child, pick at the garbage alongside the men, women and children. The garbage dump in Honduras is the “office” to Jose Arita and his family. They once lived in a cardboard shack near the dump. Co-pastor of a small church in his village, Jose has a deep faith in Christ and preaches in the dump as he works.
“It’s my call to minister to my brothers and sisters here in the dump,” he said. “It’s an honor.”
Every day after school, Luisa Lorena Arita, 10, Rocky Manuel Arita, 7, and 12-year-old Lillian Jaquelina Arita accompany their father in the search for scraps to sell. They come here every day except for the day when the water trucks come to the village. “I can get enough to feed my family rice and beans, and sometimes it’s enough for milk for the little ones here,” Jose said. The stench of the garbage, combined with the heat and the dangers of working in the bacteria-laden piles of trash, does not shake his faith. “I am a Christian, and I pray for God’s blessing every day. I ask God for strength to help my family and for more spiritual growth.” Though his life is hard, Jose has faith in God’s promise. He is materially poor, but spiritually rich. “Scripture tells us we will all go through hard times, God didn’t promise us that we’d be rich, only in spirit, and that’s where it counts. Living like this, having to dig in garbage does not shake my faith, because although I have to come to the dump, my Lord and Savior is still
and always, Jesus Christ. I love the Lord, and when I get the chance to share the Gospel with others here in the dump, that’s a blessing from God.” It was through the generosity of our donors that Jose and his family received a new Food For The Poor house. This deeply religious man feared for his children’s safety in the frail shelter they once called home. Thanks to compassionate people who cared about his plight, the prayers of Jose’s family were answered. “I have seen some marvelous things through the hand of God. The biggest change in my life is we have a better environment. The children told me they feel safer and I feel happy,” he said.
His daughter Lillian added, “In our old house I felt scared. I feel really happy now to have a roof over my head and a happy community that I want to become a part of.” f
“I’ve got nobody but God.” The house is a termite’s delight. Once it was probably a graceful, sizeable home where one could sit on the verandah and catch the delightful Jamaican sea breezes. Time has carved it into a hodgepodge of splintering, rotting boards with the exception of one dark, dank room stuffed with an old, sagging mattress. In front of this room, Corona Cox sits hunched over, blowing at a few skinny sticks of wood, fanning a smoky fire with a small bit of cardboard. Over the fire is a battered tin filled with water and a handful of beans. This is Corona’s breakfast, lunch and dinner, so the fire is very important to her. If the fire doesn’t catch, there is nothing to eat. Time has carved its mark on Corona as well. At 80 years old, she is nearly doubled over and cannot straighten up. Pain is her constant companion, sinking cruel iron claws deep into her back. Corona neither has the money to ask a doctor what he thinks nor to buy medicine that would take the edge off the pain. Corona, like many of Jamaica’s elderly, lives alone. She has no one to take care of her. But she is quick to point out that she is never alone. Always at her side is the God
who raised her up, and the God who won’t abandon her. The God she talks to, to let Him know how her day is going.
Faith in God keeps her going. Despite the hard times, the pain and the crumbling house, she still has her faith in God.
“I pray every day and every night, all the while. I talk to Him to tell Him what’s happening to me, and how I am,” she says.
“It’s He that gives me the gift to go along,” Corona says. “God keeps me going. I’m thankful. I’m thankful to Him.”
Other people have cars, plenty of food, things money can buy, but Corona does not. Yet she has a wealth no one can ever take away from her — a richness in the Spirit. “Though other people are rich and I am poor, I am rich in the Spirit. That’s when you are really rich, when you have the Spirit,” she says.
Because generous donors of Food For The Poor have given so much to help Jamaica’s poor, elderly women like Corona receive the help they desperately need. Truly, our donors have helped provide ongoing assistance to those who often are ignored by the rest of the world. f 19
GOD I S A SHELTER “Please keep my children safe and healthy and someday give us a safe place to live,” prayed a tearful Claudia Gudiel after Hurricane Ida destroyed her humble home in El Salvador. The deadly storm hit Claudia’s former home during the night and left her family and their belongings under water. The home was destroyed, but the family of four survived. They were now forced to roam the streets in search of any shelter. “God saved us,” Claudia said. “He never abandons us.” The best Claudia could find was a collapsing shed made of rotted wood and plastic sheets located near a soccer field. For her three young children, the hut’s location was just as dangerous as its crumbling condition. Disorderly, drunken men would frequently harass the innocent little ones. On a wall inside her crumbling shack Claudia painted the words “Psalm 91” in reference to the Bible passage that kept her strong. 20
“…my God in whom I trust. God will rescue you…” (Psalm 91:2b-3a) Our caring donors’ generosity made the dream of a protective new home for the Gudiel family a reality. “I’m crying because I’m happy,” Claudia told us on a subsequent visit. “This is a blessing I’ll never be able to forget.” “I feel more safe,” said Karla, Claudia’s 17-yearold daughter. I was always afraid because even a little wind made it feel like the [old] house would fly away.” Karla, a sweet young girl, is also a very motivated student. But her former home, a flimsy shack with plastic walls, prevented her from sleeping and studying. “There was no space and no light,” she remembered.
But today, in her safe new home, Karla is receiving excellent grades and beams with optimism concerning her goals and aspirations. “I want to be an accountant,” she said. “My dream is to work in a professional job to help my mom.”
After moving into their safe new home, rains picked up one night and Claudia’s little ones began to cling to their mother. “You don’t have to be afraid anymore,” Claudia softly assured them. “We are eternally grateful for you,” Claudia beamed. “God put it into your hearts [to help us]. He will repay you. I will never stop thanking you.” f 22
Loving the Lord through affliction
Once he was healthy, working hard as a farmer in Jamaica. His family cared deeply about him, and he had a deep love of the Lord. Then one day, George McPhee glanced into the mirror and saw bumps on his face. Skin tingling and going numb, his eyesight failing, he knew something was dreadfully wrong. At a doctor’s visit, he received the news. At age 32, he was diagnosed with leprosy. Like Job from the Bible, George had a good life and suddenly everything was stripped away. He became an outcast. People ran away in horror when they saw him. Men and women recoiled in disgust from shaking his hand because they feared contracting the disease. Leprosy stripped him of human contact and isolated him in a lonely world. But leprosy did not strip his faith. Instead, he grew closer to the Lord. Faith became his shield and his strength. Leprosy victims lose sensation in their hands, feet, eyes, and even their noses. Unlike the myths of old, most people have a natural immunity to leprosy and it is the least contagious of all the infectious diseases. George eventually went blind and partially deaf. His face was blotchy from the ravages of this ancient illness. Leprosy even destroyed the fingers on his hands. Yet through all his suffering, George never hesitated in praising God. “I always say, the Lord knows best,” he said. “This is for the saving of my soul, that is what I always say.” With the stump of one hand, George gripped his harmonica and played enthusiastically at St. Monica’s Home, the group home where he lived. With a strong, robust voice, he recited poetry about God’s great love for us all. He was always quick to point out that he accepts his condition and does not worry about it, despite the great prejudice against lepers. “In Jamaica, there is a stigma where leprosy is concerned. It affects you mentally too, because neighbors have a lot to say about it,” he said. To be afflicted with leprosy is one of the worst social stigmas... one feels ugly, rejected and ashamed. 26
Many lepers are forced to be kept shut inside, or even cast out of their homes in fear of the disease spreading. Some lepers are chased away or locked up in group homes, cast out from the rest of society. To be a leper is usually a lonely, solitary existence. Many count on God as their only friend. Our generous and caring donors have helped many such outcasts like George, with loving hearts like Christ, helping lepers who are shunned by many others.
Through all his suffering, George felt blessed. His trust in the Lord never wavered, and he found comfort in a deep relationship with Christ. Inspiring to the many visitors who heard his poetry, George was a living example of Job. Never lose faith and always love the Lord.
“Perhaps if I was in good health and had riches, I might have turned from the Lord,” George pondered. “I have loved the Lord through all my affliction and I still find myself loving the Lord.” f
Hurricane Felix, Nicaragua, 2007
HAVENS OF HO P E
Located in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, the seaside neighborhood of “Shada” is one of the poorest slums in the world. Here, pigs and little children muddle through the same garbage-laden waters. Here, infection and disease run rampant. Here is where Food For The Poor staff members first met Durona Previl and her suffering family. Durona and her children used to literally live
amongst refuse. Her crumbling shack was comprised of rusty zinc sheets and plastic. The view outside her front door was one of sludge and filth. Due to atrociously unsanitary conditions, Durona’s children had contracted tuberculosis, and like all of the suffering mothers in Shada, Durona desperately prayed to God for a miracle… a deliverance of her family out of their treacherous surroundings.
“We have no choice but to live here,” Durona said. “God knows. Maybe He can do something.”
Durona’s prayers for a miracle were answered when our donors stepped in and built a new home for her and her family. For years, Food For The Poor’s donors have been dedicated to helping suffering families of Shada by relocating them into safe housing villages far from this unhealthy slum. Food For The Poor housing villages are comprised of sturdy block concrete homes equipped with protective roofs and sanitation. For a family like Durona’s, these safe new homes are considered a true godsend. Food For The Poor homes not only physically protect innocent families from the elements but they ensure a better future for little children. Within these protective new homes, a poor child is able to sleep properly, study and avoid illness. The homes our donors build for the poor are more than safe structures, they are havens of hope. f
SHELTERS FROM ABOVE When Joe and Judy Roetheli started working on a way to clean up their dog’s halitosis, neither imagined that their efforts would lead them to transform entire communities in Guyana. In 1996, the Roetheli’s invented “Greenies®”, a dog treat designed to clean teeth and freshen breath for man’s best friend. The doggie dental chew worked so well, that by 2006 they had sold more than 750 million units. The family then formed The Lil’ Red Foundation™, a charitable organization that would allow them to use their newfound wealth to help those in great need. During a sermon at church, Joe and Judy heard a Food For The Poor speaker talk about the work they were doing to help the poor. The couple took the priest’s message to heart and decided to do something – something big that would make a real difference for the poor. That something big was Joe and Judy’s decision to partner with Food For The Poor to build entire housing villages for destitute villagers in Guyana.
To date, the Roetheli’s have helped Food For The Poor build four new housing villages in Guyana consisting of 287 two-bedroom homes, and they plan to do more in the future. Depending on the individual area’s needs, these villages have also included self-sustaining projects, community centers, schools, libraries and more. “We have been blessed in our lives to be able to bless you,” said Judy Roetheli to village residents during the dedication of Georgeville in Capoey, Guyana. “It is a great blessing for us to be able to be part of the building of this village.” f
“We encourage others to find what inspires them to help others,” Joe added. “Each of us needs hope. With hope and inspiration, nothing is impossible.”
Li g h t o f C h r i s t illuminates a d a r k s wa m p Elise Pierre was terrified of her children drowning in their own home. Her family once lived in Rue du Fort Prolonge, a fetid, oozing swamp in northern Haiti. Thousands of families once lived here, trapped by poverty. To try to prevent flooding, people piled garbage atop the muck, using it as a foundation to build their mud floor shacks. Food was scarce, and children often crawled on their hands and knees in the mud, hunting for small crabs and fish to eat.
When torrential rains flooded the houses, water rose to chest level. Elise and her husband would grab their children and flee for their lives.
darkness descended. Fearing their children would get sick, many parents gave them the bed while they slept on the dirt floor.
“I’m so afraid. I pray and ask God to get us out safely with our children. The children want us to leave here, but we can’t afford any other land. We have nowhere else to go,” she said softly. These children desperately beg to move, not understanding that their parents are too poor, and that safe shelter is out of their grasp.
When water seeped beneath the flimsy door, the children wept in terror. “When the children see the water, they cry. You can’t escape easily. The water comes at night, and when it comes we gather our little things and by that time, the water is high. We put the little children on our shoulders and feel our way out. The older children hold hands. The children are all crying and screaming,” said Elise.
During the day, Elise, her husband Wilson and their children endured a brutally hot shack. At night, mosquitoes and other biting insects tortured the children. Rain turned the mud floor into an oozing mess. But flooding during the night caused the greatest fear. There is no light in the dark swamp to warn of the steadily rising water outside. To fend off the children’s fears, families used the stars and fireflies for light when
During one of those times, the Pierre family and their neighbors waded through chest-high water, sinking up to their knees in the thick, hazardous mud. Those who escaped to dry land formed a lifeline of voices in the pitch black swamp. Elise firmly believes that night God saved them.
“People called out to each other, telling you how to escape, where to walk. There was an angel of God watching over us. Nobody would have escaped that night if not for God,” she said.
“The children are scared. When the water goes away, we have to come back because this is all we have. I don’t have a good home for them. I don’t have anything to give them. If it weren’t for prayer and God, I don’t know what I’d do. I get so depressed,” Elise said. “I’m so afraid. I don’t want them to get hurt. I don’t want them to die because they don’t have a good shelter. I only have God. I cry out to God to ask Him to watch over us.”
Food For The Poor donors who heard about the misery endured by the families of Rue du Fort Prolonge came to the rescue. These generous donors were responsible for moving all the families out of the swamp to a safer area, complete with small micro-enterprise projects to allow parents to put food on the table. Through the darkness that was the swamp, the families clung to the light of Christ, trusting in Him to lead them out of misery. f
“…this I seek, to dwell in the Lord's house all the days of my life…” (Psalm 27:4b)
(clockwise from top left) Their faces strained, young boys in northern Haiti comb through a muddy stream for tiny fish to eat. Driven by hunger, they slog through muck and mud to catch fish with their bare hands. A young mother stands near her shack built on rotting trash in a muddy swamp in northern Haiti. Thanks to compassionate donors, Food For The Poor built homes for families living in this swamp and helped them start income-generating projects. Today they no longer live in misery. Their treasure is tiny, usually no bigger than their palms. When the fish are cleaned, there is little meat left, but an entire family shares the meager meal. Eating the fish fulfills the Creole proverb, â€œChewing on anything helps chase away hunger.â€?
A Change in Spi r i t
Anile was unrecognizable at first. The young girl who used to have an unforgettably solemn look on her face was now neatly dressed in her school uniform and giggling. When we first met Anile, Food For The Poor staff were investigating living conditions along “la linea” or “the line” — the border that separates the Dominican Republic and Haiti, a place where forgotten families continue to endure extreme poverty every day.
Throughout central and northern Haiti, randomly placed cement markers signify Haitian territory, while a fence outlines the Dominican side of the island of Hispaniola. On both sides, horrific living conditions plague suffering poor families.
Back then, Anile was heartbreakingly somber. Her family’s decaying mud hut was threatening the young girl’s health, safety and future. Since that initial visit, thanks to our caring donors, several housing villages along this impoverished border area have been built. The recipients could not be more thankful. Because of their new safe and secure home, Anile now sleeps well and studies properly. Anile’s mother Yanna is happy to report that her daughter is much happier and is doing better in school. When our staff revisited her, the changes in Anile’s spirit were remarkable… and they were brought about through compassionate donors. “I never envisioned a house like this,” said Yanna. “We are very grateful to God. We feel so happy.”
Before Food For The Poor began working in her area, Yanna told us, “Nobody comes out here [to the border area]. No one can help.” Yet when God works in the hearts of donors like you, anything is possible. Just ask Anile. f
(clockwise from top left) Life is harsh in the arid wilderness of the Dominican Republic, near Haiti’s border. This area, called “la linea” or “the line” is a virtual no man’s land. Many Haitians fled here to find a better life. Instead they found severe hunger. A child stands in a field stripped of crops. Little rainfall in this area means a lack of a sustainable food supply. Hunger and disease are common in la linea, especially among its youngest victims, the children. Thanks to funding by generous donors, Food For The Poor has taken many families from la linea and built them new houses and given them micro-enterprise projects to help them support themselves. Thin as their shadows, these children stand before the cooking pot in anticipation. They await their meal for the day of a half-cup of pasta soup. Severe malnutrition has made their ribs protrude, their bellies distend and their hair fall out. Many Haitians live here illegally and fear going into town for supplies and better jobs, because being caught would mean being sent back to Haiti. 48
Shelter me from the storm, Lord
Living in poverty often means struggling to find shelter. “Home, sweet home” may be nothing more than boards hastily hammered together or a sheet of plastic stretched over poles. For Melanie Merilus in Haiti, home was literally a rock on the ground and a few planks of wood. Hungry and desperate for work, she settled with refugees on unclaimed land near Haiti’s border. One day men who claimed ownership of the property arrived to demolish the tiny houses she and her neighbors had built. “I grabbed the kids and ran because the men had weapons,” Melanie said. “Everyone was running and screaming as the bulldozers tore down the houses. We lost everything inside, even our clothing.”
Terrified and homeless, she and the children slept under a boulder and a few planks of wood on pieces of cardboard. Melanie prayed, “Dear God, please give me a house where I can be safe with my children.”
Desperate housing conditions like Melanie’s touched the hearts of Food For The Poor’s compassionate supporters. Through their generous donations, Food For The Poor constructed Resurrection Village and moved the refugees into new homes. The joy on Melanie’s face reflects the hope she now holds for her children’s future. Like the name of her new home, Resurrection, the lives and faith of Melanie’s family members were raised up and made whole. f 53
The little boy who wasn’t “worth saving”
When Lester arrived at a malnutrition center in Guatemala, he was on the brink of death. At 13 months, he weighed just nine pounds and was suffering from diarrhea, vomiting, pneumonia and parasites.
In his first year of life, Lester knew nothing but hunger and sickness. His family took him to one hospital after another, where he was briefly treated and then released. At one hospital, he was refused admittance and his family was told, “He isn’t worth taking care of because he is going to die.” 56
His parents refused to listen to the doctor’s grim pronouncement, even though there seemed little hope of saving him. They brought him to a nutritional center supported by Food For The Poor donors and run by Sister Ana Cristina. Sister Ana Cristina doesn’t believe in such death sentences. She believes in God’s healing and worked diligently with her staff to coax life back into the dying baby. After just two months of treatment, Lester had a renewed chance at life. His weight nearly doubled to almost 16 pounds. The staff at the center cared for him while ministering to nearly 60 other children, nourishing them not only with food, but also with love and faith. Today, Lester is a healthy, thriving child who runs about, flashing smiles at visitors and acting like any other normal child. He enjoys playing soccer and learning to read and write. His parents are eternally grateful for the help he has received and the new life he’s been given. This precious child, whose life was once dismissed, is a reflection of one nun’s dedication to saving children through hard work, prayer and faith. f 58
A little boy’s sacrifice At 8 years of age, Gerson David shoulders responsibilities that many adults would find challenging. His days are long. Gerson works and goes to school in Honduras, but also cares for his siblings with special needs. At the end of a typical day, Gerson is often drained. But you’ll never hear him complain. All of Gerson’s siblings — he has two brothers and a sister — are mentally and physically handicapped. “I love them,” he says with a smile as he washes them. His mother relies greatly on Gerson, her youngest.
After his first-grade class is dismissed, this little boy rushes home every day to care for his family. He helps bathe his brothers and sister, clothe them, secure them in their wheelchairs, cook for them, play with them and put them to bed. After all this, he tries to study. Ingrid Jansen is Gerson’s teacher at Primero de Febrero School, where he is repeating the first grade. “He’s very bright, but his mind starts to wander,” she said. Aware of his family’s situation, Ingrid offers Gerson extra help by staying inside with him during recess while the other children play. For such a young boy, Gerson is very certain of his goals. “I want to be a doctor because I want to understand people,” he said. If he becomes a doctor, Gerson’s selfless disposition will be felt by others. “I would buy wheelchairs for other people and medicine for people without money,” he said. When at home, the love that flows between Gerson and his siblings is exchanged without words. He knows his brothers and sisters love him, although they’re generally unresponsive. Gerson rarely receives physical responses from his oldest brother, Allan. Gerson said that Allan is the saddest. But when tickled, his sister Wendy smiles and his brother Bryan produces a slight laugh. “I have fun with them,” beamed Gerson. Gerson’s teacher claims that he is the friendliest student in her class. But because he has no free time outside of school, he is not able to cultivate true friendships. Ingrid explained, “If one of the kids says
“Since he was a little boy he has always helped me,” said Gerson’s mother, Eliodora. She and her family were abandoned by Gerson’s father. Gerson has been her only help. 63
that they don’t have a pencil, he runs and gives them one.” Despite his friendliness, Gerson claims, “I don’t have friends at school.” While Gerson is at school, Eliodora must care for her children. With no time to work, she desperately attempts to make a living by begging at nearby soccer matches. She brings a picture of her children to the stadium, with a sign begging fans to help feed her children. The frightened family once huddled together in the corner of their shack when it rained. The inside of their home became entirely wet. On the wall was scrawled a message to help them endure the hard times: “Christ will always be with you and love you forever.” Food For The Poor’s big-hearted donors were able to build Gerson and his family a new, secure house. Neighbors worked as a team to help build the home because Eliodora is a single mom and couldn’t put in the “sweat equity” required for construction. “I feel like this is a dream come true for me,” said Gerson.
His mother, who worried about her children’s safety, said God has answered her prayers. “I feel happy and content, like I was one of the best people in the world. Now it will be so much easier for me, knowing they are safer now. I feel like God hasn’t abandoned me." f
The young girl who built a village
It didn’t take a village to raise a child. It took a child to raise an entire village in Haiti. For two years, Rachel Wheeler, 11, worked diligently to raise money to build homes in Haiti. Her zeal for helping the poor began at a Chamber of Commerce meeting she attended with her mother at Food For The Poor. Like many caring donors, Rachel saw photos of the poor and was deeply moved.
“Seeing all those heartbreaking photos just made me want to change how they live,” she said. A student at Zion Lutheran Christian School in Deerfield Beach, Florida, she set an initial goal to build 12 homes in Haiti. Then her goal grew. Rachel asked people and business owners to donate, telling them about how the money would provide a destitute family in Haiti with a safe, secure home. Word spread about the little girl determined to help Haiti. Soon Rachel was giving media interviews and telling many others about the plight of poor families. She eventually surpassed her goal and raised more than $170,000, enough to essentially rebuild an entire fishing village that had been destroyed by the 2010 earthquake. “I never thought I’d reach my goal like I have to this day. It has changed me in so many ways, like not throwing things away that could be given away,” Rachel said. Last year, Rachel and her family traveled to Haiti to see firsthand the village that is now named “Rachel’s Village.” The grateful families she helped greeted her with smiles and plenty of singing and dancing. Seeing them so happy in their new homes has strengthened Rachel’s resolve to continue helping the poor. Rachel plans to keep donating and helping others. “Everyone is equal and it isn’t fair for them to live like they do,” she said. f
Few Things Are as Precious as the Hope of a Child
“I want to be president,” 11-year-old Kelvin Wilson confidently stated after he was asked about his hopes for his future. Kelvin’s bright aspirations are dimmed only by the dark poverty that has hung over his family for generations. Along with his mother, Sherry, and his siblings, Kelvin attempts to study and sleep in a porous, treacherous shack in Guyana that isn’t fit to be a storage shed, much less a child’s dwelling. “If the rain falls, we get wet,” Kelvin said about his home. When Kelvin’s father died a year ago from stomach cancer, the young boy and aspiring student quickly became his family’s only source of hope amid allencompassing poverty. Filled with despair and loneliness, Sherry can do little for her children. So, each morning, Kelvin wakes up with big dreams and even heavier burdens. Before school, Kelvin searches for firewood. Then he collects scraps of metal to plug up holes in his family’s roof. After that, he tends to his younger siblings. Then, because there’s rarely food in the house, Kelvin grabs his books and begins the arduous walk to school… all on an empty stomach. 69
On top of a rotted strip of foam that he attempts to sleep on, Kelvin prayed, “Lord, give me life, health and strength for my mother, brothers and sisters that we may live long.” Kelvin reads the Bible often and Psalm 23 is his favorite passage that provides comfort for him and his family.
“The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. In green pastures You let me graze; to safe waters You lead me; You restore my strength.” (Psalm 23:1-3a) “We don’t feel safe at all,” said Sherry. “I ask You to make a way for me oh God when there is no way. I’m poor and needy. Please help us almighty God,” she prayed. A few minutes later, when asked what he would like to accomplish if his dream of becoming president came true one day, Kelvin simply stated, “I would build houses for the poor.” Thanks to Food For The Poor’s compassionate supporters, children like Kelvin have a brighter future. Caring donors build houses, support education and help send poor children to school, helping to make their dreams come true. f
A home of Their own
Left homeless by Hurricane Mitch in Nicaragua, Luz Alvarado’s three children used to live under a sheet of black plastic in a Nicaraguan slum. Every day, these innocent little ones scampered barefoot over soil containing high levels of bacteria from the blood of animals from a slaughterhouse next door. The family was so poor that they couldn’t afford a mattress. Instead, the children were forced to sleep on top of a bed frame. Like baby chicks seeking 72
refuge, the children curled up next to their anguished mother, hoping she could shelter them from the violent rainstorms that frequently soaked their fragile tent. Orlando, 9, Gerald, 6, and Lestor, 18 months, frequently fell ill with diarrhea and fever. Luz wept as she explained she was too poor to move to safer living conditions. “All my life I’ve dreamed of owning a little house of my own. I just want a decent place for my children to live.”
Food For The Poor’s compassionate donors heard about the plight of Luz’s children and out of the generosity of their hearts, built the family a real home fashioned from concrete, with a metal door that locks and a roof that keeps them warm and dry. This grateful mother’s tears turned into a smile of joy. With one house and because of people who cared, the family’s lives have been changed dramatically for the better.
“I am so grateful to everyone who helped me with this new house,” Luz said. “I’ve never been able to have a house and now I have it. I am determined to change my life. I am going to work hard to keep trying to make a better life for my children.” f
Hurricane Ivan, Grenada, 2004
Hope among the rubble
The injured child sitting on his father’s lap at a Haitian hospital suddenly began a loud, plaintive cry. “Maman! Maman!” Jean O’Claude rested his head atop his son’s and said softly, “He is crying for his mother, but his mother is dead.” Oresto, 4, and his family once lived a peaceful life in Leogane. And then came January 12, 2010. A 7.0-magnitude earthquake dealt a direct blow to Leogane, which is near the country’s heavily populated capital of Port-au-Prince. An estimated 200,000 people died in the catastrophe. Thousands more were injured. Many are still missing, buried in mass graves without identification. Bodies were piled up in the streets of the city, causing passers-by to cover their noses from the stench of death. Search and rescue teams worked frantically around-the-clock, digging through the rubble to find those still trapped. Four-year-old Oresto was among the missing. When the earthquake struck, the little boy was outside with his young cousin. The walls of his house collapsed and trapped them. Oresto’s mother died inside the house. Jean thought Oresto was dead until relatives heard a moan from beneath the ruined house five days later. They dug furiously to free the little boy, whose cousin had died while trapped with him.
“They started digging out the dirt and started moving blocks and found him. My son said, ‘Give me some water,’” Jean recalled. Oresto had a severe head wound, his right hand was badly injured, and he had a long gash on his torso. Jean carried his son in his arms for 15 miles to find a doctor. As he walked, Jean prayed for his only surviving family member. “While I was carrying him, I was thinking about life and told God, ‘You gave me my son. Thank You. Now please heal him.’” At Carrefour, a doctor treated the boy and rushed him to General Hospital, where Oresto’s right hand was amputated. 82
Just a few weeks later, Oresto seemed miraculously transformed, demonstrating the indomitable spirit that enabled him to survive beneath the rubble. Mothered by women in the pediatric tent who were also busy looking after their own injured children, he began to heal both physically and emotionally. Now he runs around and laughs like any other child, as he learns to adjust to using one hand. Thanks to Food For The Poor’s caring donors, truck-loads of medical equipment and other
lifesaving necessities were sent within two days to the ravaged nation. Our generous donors helped to save countless lives and restore hope to little boys like Oresto.
“He’s more comfortable now and he’s happy,” said Jean. “I’m grateful he’s alive and doing well.” f 83
Faith after loss
Stripped of their meager possessions, the poor have few resources after disaster strikes. Hurricanes, earthquakes and mudslides are doubly tragic. Their fragile shacks crumble under the pounding forces of hurricanes, or are buried in thick streams of mud caused by earthquakes and mudslides. Homes can be rebuilt, possessions replaced. But lives are forever lost. Sometimes all that’s left for survivors is faith. Faith survived for Uroy Thompson, 30, after losing his two young daughters when Hurricane Ivan’s floodwaters swept over Jamaica in 2004. Their house began to flood as the water started rising. Uroy and Rebecca decided to evacuate. Uroy carried his 3-yearold daughter under one arm, and his 6-year-old son under another; Rebecca carried their other daughter in her arms. The water kept rising. They prayed. And prayed. “It was the longest night. I prayed hard all night. I prayed from beginning to end,” Uroy said. The wind whipped the chest-high water into a white froth. The family fought to make their way toward higher ground. As Uroy and Rebecca struggled to walk through the raging water, the storm surge engulfed them, drowning their poor, precious little girls in their arms. Only their 6-year-old son survived. Sobbing afterward in what remained of their home, his wife clutched their daughters’ birth certificates while Uroy believed that God would help them endure the piercing grief. Faith was all Uroy, his wife and son had left, and they clung to it like a rock. It was through our compassionate donors that the community was rebuilt, and Uroy’s family and many other families who suffered horrific loss after the storm were helped. f
“I accept that it was God’s will,” Uroy said softly. “I still have faith in Him, and I know that He will help us get through this.” 85
Encounters with Grace On January 12, 2010, Arielle Petit’s four-story school collapsed on top of her. Her dad frantically ran to the building and eventually dug his daughter out by hand. It took 48 hours. The little girl lost her lower left leg, and two of her cousins died directly on top of her. After surviving the catastrophe, Arielle was mute for five days. When Food For The Poor staff members first stumbled upon the little girl crippled by Haiti’s earthquake, they had no idea the extent to which your love would eventually help her and her family. In the wake of an inexplicable disaster, meeting Arielle was by no means an accident. Food For The Poor staff arrived in northern Haiti to spend a week meeting survivors who had fled the capital of Port-au-Prince. They must have come across one hundred children that week. But Arielle was the first. She hobbled into their lives in her family’s temporary shelter with the playfulness of any other typical 6-year-old. Her mother told them that Arielle would still try to run and play like the rest of the children. Apparently, Arielle had lost an appendage, but not her joy. It was evident that this little girl’s new disability would not end up defining her. Back at our team’s hotel, Arielle’s sweet resolve continued to be the topic of discussion over dinner. She had left such an indelible mark on our staff members’ hearts, that her situation was difficult not to brood over. As they left the restaurant, they happened to notice two women seated at the table next to them who appeared to be Americans. The next night they decided to acquaint themselves with some of the hotel’s other guests, and the first people they approached were the two women from the dining area. They informed our team that they were physical therapists working with Haitian amputees to fit earthquake victims for prosthetic limbs.
The women also shared that they would only be working in northern Haiti for another week. Over another meal, our team shared common experiences with the women, shared photos of Arielle and struck up new friendships. Meeting these therapists was also by no means an accident. A few days later, Food For The Poor’s local priest in Haiti arranged transportation for Arielle to visit our team’s new friends’ facility. Arielle happily received a new prosthetic leg. She even began running and climbing steps. Since then, our loving donors have built Arielle’s family a safe new home and provided them with food. Many charities came together to help this precious little girl and her family.
In light of such a cataclysmic disaster, compassion helped heal wounds of the past by uniting people in the name of love. f
wo r k i n g hard
Food For The Poor Fishing Village, Haiti, 2009
The miracle of clean water
At 6:30 a.m. the air was chilly in Quetzaltenago, Guatemala. Aurelia Pac and other women and children from the mountains above the city were at a municipal water source, gathering water for the upcoming day. It was their third trip down the mountain since beginning their day at 4:00 a.m. The women returned up the mountain with heavy five-gallon jugs of water balanced on their heads. The children carried smaller water containers behind their backs — vessels supported by a headband wrapped around the young ones’ foreheads. It’s a strenuous walk, but the women and children do it every day because their families must have water. The path is steep and strewn with rocks that can easily cause a twisted ankle or much worse. It’s easy to see how treacherous this daily routine can be while walking in the darkness of the pre-dawn hours. With one misstep or slip on a rock on the way home, the heavy water jug could tumble and a villager would need to turn back and begin the whole process again. After gathering the day’s water, many of the women and children head back down the mountain to scavenge in the city dump, hoping to find recyclables or items that can be salvaged, repaired and resold. For these villagers, daily survival is a demoralizing cycle of hard labor and degradation.
And then our generous donors funded a water project in the village. With easy access to running water, the village was transformed. Aurelia Pac was overjoyed! “Now I don’t work at the dump. Now I wash clothes for a living. This water brings us dignity,” she said.
As she proudly demonstrates her running water, tears quickly fill her eyes. “When I saw the water for the first time, I was crying tears of joy. I don’t call this a miracle… it is a miracle.” Access to clean water has improved almost every aspect of life in the village. Thanks to generous donors working through Food For The Poor, the villagers have seen amazing transformations. Freed from the burden of fetching water every day, the children now have time to attend school. The women who used to fetch water now use their time more productively. Overall health and hygiene have improved for the villagers and their lives have been transformed with a future that is promising. “I don’t have the words to thank you,” Aurelia said. “I’m so happy you extended your hand to help us.” f
(clockwise from top left) Women in Quetzaltenago once scoured the garbage dump for items to salvage and sell. Without any sources of income, it was their only means of earning a meager income to feed their children. At a community meeting, the villagers eagerly asked questions about the new opportunities brought about by Food For The Poor donor-funded projects. Thanks to our generous donors who funded water and micro-enterprise projects, such as sewing machine initiatives, villagers now have hope. Not only do the new water projects provide water to drink, bathe and cook with, but women can also use it to earn income by doing laundry for others.
The five talents…
She longed to lift herself and her family out of poverty, but didn’t know how. All Blanca Adia Castro knew was how to cook and bake in her small home in Honduras. But she had a deep faith in the Lord. Abandoned by her husband, this single mother of six trusted in God to show her the way.
stove. Then she attended a meeting at church of local women who were poor and struggling, but were being given a chance to start their own businesses. The pastor began talking about the Bible verse of the five talents. “I felt as if someone were pulling on my shirt. I jumped up and went to the sister and asked if I could serve.”
“I don’t need a man. I only need God,” Blanca said. “I was going to church and always telling God, ‘I want to serve you.’ I didn’t know which way He would choose me or how to serve Him.”
The nun told her, “You should use the talents God gave you. So I started baking,” Blanca said.
Through one of Food For The Poor’s partner organizations, she attended a baking course. She learned how to bake, but had no oven, only a small
When the nun asked Blanca how much she wanted to earn, Blanca wasn’t certain, but the figure of $5 stuck in her head. The nun tucked $5 in Blanca’s Bible.
of baking Blanca used the money to buy a sack of flour and began making donuts. She sold them to her neighbors, who liked them. “So I made more. From that day on, I promised myself that I’d dedicate my work to the church.” Blanca set small goals for herself and her business. Earn her first $500 by November. In February, start baking bread to sell with her donuts. Every time she received money, she’d run to the bank and deposit it. Another goal was to purchase a larger stove, which she
did by securing a small business loan from a local charity. By August, she’d met all her goals. “I had been getting up around 5 a.m. to bake. I’d take a basket with me and sell bread on the street to cover my expenses.” Today the “My Blessing” bakery brings in about $110 a week. Like many other once-poor women helped by Food For The Poor’s generous donors, Blanca has set an example for her children to follow in her footsteps. She is proof that a little help, hard work, determination and faith can lift someone out of poverty. f
“Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your Master’s joy.” (Matthew 25:21) 101
Sharing his blessings
Driving a van to LaGuardia airport for a large hotel may not seem like a prestigious job, but Rory Mercurio considered himself blessed — so much so — that he decided he would donate a portion of his tip money to help the less fortunate, rather than use it for himself. He wanted to help the poor, but was uncertain about which charity would help the most. “My main motivation to start setting some of my tip money aside for the poor, was my realization as to how much I have in life,” Rory said. “Not only in that I am able to live comfortably, but that I have so many good things in life like family, health, peace of mind and other blessings. I thought it would be only fair to share with others.” While at work about eight years ago, one of his passengers was a speaker who works for Food For The Poor. They began a conversation where Father Richard Nahman talked about the organization’s work in the Caribbean and Latin America. Then, “Father Richard offered me a tip, and instead, I reached into the bag where I kept my charity fund and handed it to him, asking him to add his tip to what I had and pass it on to Food For The Poor,” Rory explained. Thus began Rory’s habit of setting aside his tip money to donate to Food For The Poor. He’d collect a few hundred dollars, write a check and give it to Father Richard, directing him to use the money where it was most needed. Over the years Rory and his wife’s generous donations have equaled enough to build a house in Jamaica, dig a well for a village in Haiti and help earthquake victims in Haiti. It hasn’t been easy. Sometimes he’d look at his charity fund and think about something he wanted to buy for himself. Then Rory would realize he was fortunate compared to others.
“Because of my good fortunes, I feel myself to be ‘rich’ although I don’t have a great deal of money,” Rory said. “Being a churchgoing person, it is impossible to ignore the pleas of Jesus in the Gospels to reach out and help others.” The poor have taught Rory to be grateful for all he has. He has gained much from his experience and hopes the poor have as well. “I hope the people who are being helped are aware that there are others who care for them,” Rory said, “and they are not alone.” f
Blessings from the Almighty The one-room shack was barely habitable, but it was the only place Marcus Francis had for his family to live. Life for the Jamaican fisherman in the village of Manchioneal was a constant struggle. He couldn’t send his four children to school and had little hope they would escape the grinding poverty that had trapped him. He had the skills to fish, but no boat. Every day he’d trudge to the beach and ask for a position on a fishing boat, desperate to bring something home for his children. All he wanted was to work. It seemed hopeless. Sometimes, faced with the overwhelming problems, he would cry because he had nothing to give to his children. “It hurt my heart,” he explained. Then, Food For The Poor came to his village on Jamaica’s northeast coast to help the local fishermen. After hearing of their plight, compassionate supporters stepped in to help. 104
Food For The Poor developed a concept for a fishing village program in 2001 in Jamaica, gradually expanding it to Haiti. The concept was simple — give fishermen modern equipment to fish farther out in the sea so they can haul in bigger and better catches. Through generous donors who fund the fishing villages, the results have proven to be miraculous to desperate fathers like Marcus. Not only did the village receive new fiberglass boats and motors, but donations also funded the construction of a concrete building, a new freezer to store their catches, and built several new homes in the area. Marcus became a boat captain. Today he and his crew fish the azure waters off Jamaica’s coast. The income they earn from their hard labor not only benefits the men and their families, but the village as well. The fishermen give part of their catch to local schools so all the children can eat. They’ve also helped with repairs, and improved the sanitation for the schools. Marcus’s life has changed dramatically. He sends his children to school each day and takes pride in their
academic achievements. Gone are the days when he’d humbly beg for a seat on a fishing boat. Now he gives fish to an elderly blind woman who has no one to take care of her.
“I feel good about myself,” he said. But most of all, Marcus is grateful for God’s blessings in his life. The village is “a blessing from Almighty God” and a “blessing unto Jamaica.” No longer does he weep because his children are suffering. Instead, there is praise to the Almighty, and thanks to our loving donors, the opportunity to work hard and help others. f 105
Sister Edna Morales, San JosĂŠ Nutritional Center, 2009
A World of Di f f e r e n c e “He looked like a skeleton when he came in.” Sister Edna Morales, who runs a nutritional center in Guatemala, describes one of the hundreds of emaciated, starving children that she’s taken under her wing over the years.
“We give them food, nutrition and love,” Sister Edna says about the care offered at her center. “In my heart… to work with them [the children] is like serving Jesus who suffered. I feel that God presents Himself in the poor.”
The diminutive, yet feisty nun is surprisingly limber for her age. She regularly treks up and down Guatemala’s hilly mountain villages in search of precious lives that she can save.
“My only focus in this center is the kids,” Sister Edna says. “Here, you have to work with your heart. When they recuperate, I’m fulfilled because I helped save a life.” Thanks to our kind-hearted donors, Sister Edna is able to help the children. For a nation with the highest rate of child malnutrition in the Western Hemisphere and one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world, one special little nun with a huge heart is making a world of difference. f
Transforming lives in Haiti Life was once miserable for Jeanine Civil, 33. She and her children lived in a shack constructed with mud and twigs. Rain would leak inside the shack, turning the dirt floor into a muddy mess. Her children often fell ill from the damp conditions. Through her suffering, she trusted in God to send someone to deliver them from the misery. The someone God sent was a church called Church of the Nativity in Burke, Virginia, and a program Father Richard B. Martin had organized called â€œOperation StarfishÂŽ.â€? One project focused on the small village of Merger, where Jeanine lives. The church decided to build new homes, sanitation units and water wells to reconstruct the desperately poor community. 112
Today Merger is known as “Nativity Village.” Pink, blue, green and yellow concrete homes have replaced the sagging, dangerous mud and twig shacks. Jeanine lives in a new Food For The Poor house with her children, ages 5 to 13. Her new home has a solid, concrete floor, a sturdy roof and provides much joy to the Haitian mother. “Since the first day I was in the old house, I was praying to God to get me out of there. I never lost my faith. Thank God I am living very well now,” she said. Operation Starfish® began just before Lent in 1998. Father Martin was walking his dog and had an idea – what if each family in the parish made a Lenten sacrifice that yielded a savings of 50 cents a day? The church could help the poor and experience the true meaning of Lent. Parishioners agreed and a wicker basket was placed at the back of the church. By Easter, the basket had received over $67,000. Father Martin and his parish used the money to build 27 houses in Haiti. Soon the program was named “Operation Starfish®.” The name was chosen to reflect the story of the man who walked the beach, tossing back one starfish at a time into the ocean to save them. For 13 years, Father Martin and the church have worked side-by-side with Food For The Poor to help transform deplorable living conditions in Haiti and provide hope to communities that would otherwise have none. Every year the parish participates in a Lenten collection. From their sacrificial giving, countless lives are being transformed in Haiti. In 2010, parishioners gave enough money to build 100 homes in its seventh village, “Nativity Village in Mazere” in Cap-Haitien.
“Food For The Poor has delivered aid and so much more to those who are desperate for help, and together we make a difference,” said Father Martin. Church of the Nativity not only meets the needs of poor families today, but is very dedicated to providing self-sustainable solutions to poverty. Some of these projects include schools, vocational centers, tilapia farming, animal husbandry and fishing villages. Working together to make a difference started with one dedicated priest’s vision of sacrificial giving and a legacy of love, that has helped to transform the lives of thousands of poor Haitians. f 113
you have to do this job with all your heart
Gladys Nonez’s face shines with love as she gazes down into the narrow bed at her “gift.” Richard is severely mentally handicapped. His legs are thin, twisted and crippled. He was abandoned outside a hospital in Haiti. He has a chronic cough and can’t swallow. Workers feed him like a baby bird, stuffing food deep into his mouth. But Gladys, director of the Little Children of Jesus home for handicapped and mentally disabled children, waves all this aside. She wants to talk about the little miracle she saw for herself. “When he first came in here, you couldn’t fold his legs. Now we can. We’ve been doing exercises with him and trying different positions and all that attention has worked,” she says. 115
They are the children no one wants. They are the blind, the crippled, the mentally or physically handicapped. And then there’s Little Children of Jesus home where each and every child is treated with loving kindness by Gladys and her staff, who mother them in place of their absent parents. Gladys and her workers believe in the Psalm, “Children too are a gift from the Lord.” (Psalm 127:3) The home is one of the few in Haiti that specializes in caring for the mentally or physically handicapped. Some of the children are found abandoned outside of medical facilities. Gladys calls them her “gifts.” The pressure of caring for her helpless charges is enormous. Sometimes she is so overwhelmed she cries. But she keeps going forward because her kids need her.
“I feel like I’m doing something for God. It’s a mission for me,” she explains. “You have to do it with your heart.” The work isn’t a mere job, but a calling from the Lord. Gladys relies on constant prayer for support. Because some of the children were abandoned and can’t speak (meaning little information such as birthdays, is available), everyone’s birthday is celebrated on Valentine’s Day. It’s one of the special touches that make Little Children of Jesus feel like a real home for the children. “God shows me how to do it and I’m learning. Every day I learn something new. They call me “Mommy Gladys,” she explains. One of the home’s first success stories was a young child who could not walk. He was the first child they rescued and thanks to our generous donors’ funding of the Little Children of Jesus home, one of the many children who now have a comfortable place to call home. When this child first came to the home, he could only crawl. Staff ceaselessly 117
worked with him in therapy, teaching him how to walk. One year later, he finally took his first steps on his own. Today he is able to set the table for dinner and never ceases to smile. Gladys starts every day at 6 a.m. and works tirelessly until late night. “If I’m not going to do the job, who will? The children need love,” she says. “You cannot treat them like normal children. When they fight you, you’re not supposed to fight them back. You have to see what they want to tell you and be patient. We have to give them love and kiss them and keep them clean.” Her greatest wish is that the parents of these abandoned children would realize what precious gifts from God they are. She prays for these parents to bring their children back home, learn to care for them and finally become parents to them, for every child is cherished in God’s eyes. “I would like to teach them how to love them because they are their children,” explains Gladys as she strokes Richard’s arm, watching as the disabled boy turns to her. “You get a baby like this and you can’t just throw them out. You have to acknowledge the child is yours. I will teach you to take care of them. Just ask.”f
Tending to Godâ€™s little sparrows
She will not let the children die. When all hope is lost, children who would otherwise be condemned to coffins enter Sister Ana Cristinaâ€™s nutrition center in Guatemala. Skin stretched taut over their small bodies, they listlessly await death. But, driven by faith, Sister Ana Cristina tends to those she thinks of as Godâ€™s sparrows. She never turns a child away. With unshakeable determination, prayer and tender love, she coaxes little ones like Maria back to life. At 22 months, Maria weighed only 12 Â˝ pounds. A doctor grimly informed her father that she would die. And yet Sister Ana Cristina saw not a coffin, but a crib. Months after Maria entered the center; her grateful parents took her home.
“Faith is necessary in a job like this, and prayer is also necessary,” Sister Ana Cristina says. “I pray a lot and I ask other people to pray for our needs here. I’m certain when someone is praying with me, those children are not going to die.” Thanks to the generous support of compassionate donors, Food For The Poor is able to help Sister Ana Cristina and the little ones she saves. Sister Ana Cristina believes that the Lord watches over her precious charges, like the tiniest sparrow falling to earth, and sends them to her. “The children are like little birds flying in here,” she explained. “It takes a lot of prayers and a lot of care. Thanks to God, we have never lost a child. I believe that is because of prayer.” f
A promise to serve the poor
Her private clinic serves the children of Haiti’s wealthy. It provides Dr. Michelle Coles with a livelihood, but her heart is among the poorest of the poor in Port-au-Prince. For 11 years, Dr. Coles has volunteered at the Food For The Poor clinic that is funded by our generous donors. Two days a week, she takes time out of her busy pediatric practice to treat children for free. The clinic is essential to the hundreds of indigent patients who visit each week. With a brisk, but kind manner toward her young patients, Dr. Coles treats children with a myriad of diseases. Malnutrition. Lice. Worms. Fungal infections. Typhoid, cholera, parasites, tuberculosis… With barely enough money to buy food, the parents who bring their children to this Food For The Poor-funded free clinic can’t afford medical care for their little ones. Dr. Coles saves children from wasting away from treatable diseases and has saved many lives, a fact she modestly dismisses. She has great passion for working with the poor.
“I received a lot in my family. My parents helped me and I promised my mother, ‘I will help children who are needy,’” Dr. Coles said. “This is a promise I plan to keep.” Some parents can afford medicine Dr. Coles prescribes, but for those who can’t, “We have to learn local medicine as well,” she said. “We have to help everyone. When they can’t afford the medicine, I find some other remedy for them. For example, for a cough, I recommend sour apple.” Her patients who need the clinic and Dr. Coles’ help are grateful. Elsie Jilles was frantic to find her daughter medical help. Bianca fell ill shortly after her birth. The public hospital was too expensive; despite the fact she and her husband sold their furniture and all they had to finance the medical bills.
Elsie prayed, fasted and then found the Food For The Poor clinic and Dr. Coles. “I didn’t expect my baby to live. It was benediction to find this clinic and a solution to her problem. God and Dr. Michelle saved her,” said Elsie. Dr. Coles shrugs off the praise. Medical care helps, but the best medicine is a mother who will do anything to save her child. “This mother made a lot of sacrifices,” she said. “Mother love. With it we can have a lot of change.” f 129
A new life for Lazarus
Deep inside the cramped, fetid slum called Cité Soleil lives a woman determined to save a child. She found the abandoned toddler crying and sitting on the dusty ground. Covered with dirt, lice and fleas crawling over him, the little boy held out a palm to anyone who passed by and cried out, “I’m hungry.” Some ignored him. Eunide Seide didn’t. Eunide took him home to live with her family. “I took him in because it’s my Christian duty,” she explained. The mother of seven brought him back to her crumbling shack in Haiti’s largest slum, where four adults slept in one room the size of a walk-in closet. She cleaned him up, fed him and paid for a health check-up at a local clinic. After, she visited the police station and got a birth certificate to formally adopt him. Eunide named him Lazarus after the biblical Lazarus. Just like the Lazarus whom Jesus brought back from the dead, the little boy now has new life.
“I really have nothing to offer the child, but my heart told me to take him,” Eunide said. “Jesus touched my heart. A lot of people asked me why I did it. They said this child will bring you to ruin. I told them, ‘God asked me to do this, so I’m doing it.’”
At 44, Eunide thought she was done with raising babies. Her husband protested adopting Lazarus because the family earns less than US $5 a week from selling charcoal, rice and corn. They can barely feed themselves. Neighbors who could have also rescued the boy shied away from the responsibility. But Eunide couldn’t walk away from the toddler. “If I could, I would have done more for the child, because that’s what Christianity is all about. You do it because that is what Jesus would do.” Her faith is a steady rock upon which to raise the child. Eunide quotes from her favorite Bible passage: “Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred,” (Proverbs 15:17). 136
“That touches me because someone can have a lot of money to buy food and no peace of mind, but while I eat the modest meal I have, I know Jesus loves me. I always have faith in God,” she said. Thanks to our generous donors, she and her family received a new Food For The Poor home in which to raise Lazarus. The toddler who once crawled in the dirt took his first steps in the new house.
“I pray he believes in Jesus and that his life is changed. When I found him he was in bad shape, but now he’s a little gentleman,” Eunide said. “I would love him to have faith like I do.” f 137
Nothing but love
for each other Elvin and Mabel James had nothing in life but their love for each other. They lived in a tiny two-room shack in Jamaica with a roof so leaky that the floor never fully dried after it rained. Their possessions were a sunken mattress, a wobbly table, and a chair missing most of its stuffing. By any measure, Elvin and Mabel lived hard lives. Toward the end of their journey together, Elvin was crippled and his wife was bedridden. When Mabel was 68, she suffered a stroke and could only sit up for a few minutes at a time. She was partially paralyzed and had no control over one side of her body. Elvin and Mabel lived Christ-like lives in service to one another. What makes this couple so inspiring is that they simply refused to let their heavy burdens bring them down. Their strength, faith and love for each other kept them going through the hard times. Elvin, who had his legs amputated just below the knees due to complications from Buerger’s disease, had an unquenchable thirst for life. He got around by scooting on a small wooden wheeled platform. He didn’t allow adversity to push him down or block his path. Every time he faced new challenges, Elvin simply overcame them through sheer determination. To the very end, he was fiercely independent and insisted on lovingly caring and providing for his wife. He lifted her into bed, bathed her, dressed her, and did all the cooking and cleaning. He worked hard to grow enough fruits and vegetables to feed his little family. He did this because he took an oath when he married Mabel. “To care for her in sickness and in health,” he told us when we met with him.
Nothing stopped him from honoring that vow. “I’m living up to it and I’m going to take care of her no matter what,” he said. “I love her.” Money was so tight at one point they couldn’t afford to pay the electric bill. The power company cut them off. For five years, the couple lived without electricity. But because of Food For The Poor’s faithful supporters, the couple received the support they needed. Despite their poverty and overwhelming problems, Elvin and Mabel remained cheerful and positive. “You’re only given one life and you should make the most of it,” Elvin said. f
Freed from a prison of neglect
Their cries sounded like peacocks, but those imprisoned in a cage were not animals. They were children and young adults, kept naked and behind bars in a mental institution known as â€œWard Tâ€? in Jamaica. Some were mentally ill. Others had conditions that could easily be treated, but were ignored. Food was scarce and they were forced to eat rapidly, because others would steal the food off their plates. The underfunded and understaffed facility had little medication and food, and the facility was badly in need of repairs. The terrible conditions they were forced to live in made it impossible for the young people to receive the help they needed. Once naked, emaciated and caged, the children were a cry against manâ€™s inhumanity to man. And then our compassionate donors stepped in and helped Monsignor Gregory Ramkisson build a new facility called Jerusalem. Now the former patients of Ward T are happily secure in a clean facility, a far cry from their old, bleak surroundings. After being diagnosed and receiving proper medication, some of the patients have become selfsufficient. They help with chores and tend the garden at Jerusalem.
“When they first came here, they ate with their hands. We taught them to use utensils and we told them to take their time. No one will take the food away from you. The best thing for these children has been love and attention,” said Andrea, a nurse at Jerusalem. One patient once thought to be “uncontrollable” is Stephen, a young man who was housed in Ward T for years. Diagnosed with behavioral problems, Stephen was kept naked, unwashed and unkempt encaged behind iron bars. No one talked with him. No one paid him any attention. Stephen never received the most basic of all human needs – a touch. At Jerusalem, Stephen’s life has been transformed. He now showers every day. He sits at a table and eats his food with a spoon. He now wears clothing the Ward T nurses said he would only tear off his body. He is hugged. Stephen and all the children in Jerusalem have improved because they now know what it is like to be loved and treated with what our Lord wants all of us to have — love and simple human dignity. f
A love that will never die
“When she was alive, she would always encourage me to pray, saying God will come through. Now that she’s gone, that’s how I get my strength, from her. Whenever I was discouraged, she would always encourage me,” he said.
On days when life is simply too overwhelming, widower Rafael Gonzalez finds strength from his late wife’s abundant faith. Though they had little in material goods, the couple shared a deep love of the Lord and a love for each other. They worked side by side in El Salvador, picking coffee beans. They had a simple wood shack built on land belonging to the wealthy farmer who employed them. Then tragedy struck. Shortly after giving birth to Flor, now 2, his wife died suddenly. So grief-stricken was the family, they fashioned a simple altar to memorialize her, only to have it torn down so the landowner could store fertilizer. But Rafael doesn’t need a memorial to remember his wife. He carries his wife’s memory deep in his heart, along with a love that will never die. Rafael’s wages barely put food on the table. Their daily bread consisted of corn tortillas and beans. Sometimes the children got sick and cried because they were hungry. “When my children are crying, I feel very sad,” he said. That’s when he remembered his wife’s amazing faith and would get on his knees and pray. Even when his own faith faltered, he took strength in what she always told him.
Life was filled with hardship for the Gonzalez family. The house belonged to the landowner employing Rafael, and he and the children risked being evicted in a moment’s notice if the owner wanted them gone. The Gonzalez family was still grieving the loss of their mother when Flor fell gravely ill. “She was going to die,” Rafael said simply. “I didn’t know what I would do if my little girl died. I was afraid and sad because I had just lost my wife, and thought I would lose my daughter now too.” The entire family prayed. Rafael walked half an hour to a clinic with his little girl in his arms. The doctors gave him medication that saved Flor’s life. Food For The Poor’s generous donors reach out all the time to the poor like Rafael and his family. Through our donors, lives are transformed and changed for the better. This helps reinforce the steady faith the poor have. Faith is deeply important to Rafael, a part of his heart, just as his love is for his spouse. He painted crosses on the side of the wood house so anyone coming down the road could see he is a Christian. “The cross is important to me because it signifies the death of Jesus and His resurrection,” Rafael says. “As the Bible says, if we kneel down and pray to God, we may not be in church, but God is there. God is our celestial father.” In his dreams, his wife is alive and happy in heaven. Heaven is a place where the coffee grows abundantly, the harvest is plentiful and no one goes hungry. Sometimes he dreams about cutting coffee with her, and there is much joy because there’s an abundance of crops. “In dreams I talk to her,” he says. “She tells me, ‘Don’t worry, I never left you. I’m always by your side. I don’t want you to suffer because where I am, I’m not suffering.’ Sometimes when I am sad, she tells me, ‘Don’t worry. One day we will be together again.’” f
â€œAnd behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.â€? (Matthew 28:20b)
Ferdinand Mahfood founds Food For The Poor (“FFP”) after an inspiring visit to a poorhouse in Kingston, Jamaica. “Ferdy,” and his wife, Patti, traveled throughout the Caribbean working tirelessly to bring relief to victims of poverty, disease and natural disasters.
The Banana Bark greeting card program launches, employing poor men and women in Haiti to handcraft cards for benefactors designed with the bark from banana trees.
FFP responds to the needs of victims of Hurricane Gilbert in Jamaica. FFP immediately distributes emergency goods from its warehouse in Kingston.
FFP builds its first home in Jamaica.
FFP initiates D.E.S.K., “Delivering Educational Support to Kids,” and ships nearly 5 million pounds of used school furniture to Caribbean schools.
FFP drills its first water well in Haiti. FFP immediately responds to the victims of Hurricane Andrew by supplying food, batteries, and first aid kits to devastated neighborhoods in Florida.
1982 1984 1985 1988 1992
2000 2001 2004 2005 2007 Robin Mahfood assumes the role of President of FFP.
FFP grows to become recognized as the fourth-largest international relief charity in the United States.
FFP distributes more than 138.9 million pounds of food in the countries it serves.
FFP’s first fishing village is built in Old Pera, Jamaica.
Hurricane Ivan causes a tidal surge in Portland Cottage, Jamaica. FFP sends emergency aid to this devastated region.
Tropical Storm Jeanne leaves the Haitian city of Gonaives battered and buried under a sea of mud. FFP responds immediately with aid.
Hurricane Frances damages or destroys 90 percent of the homes on the island of Grenada. FFP works with a network of partners to swiftly mobilize aid.
FFP implements its first aquaculture project, the Chamalecon Tilapia Project, in Honduras.
FFP relocates to its new headquarters in Coconut Creek, Florida.
FFP builds a dorm to house 24 street boys as part of the “Lazarus Project.” The project, started by 11 Lutheran pastors, sought to provide shelter as well as meals, medical care and educational opportunities for abandoned boys.
FFP builds its first school, the Ti Ayiti School in Cité Soleil, Haiti.
FFP expands and begins serving the poor in Central America, specifically El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Honduras.
FFP opens a new warehouse in Haiti, which includes a medical clinic, feeding center, office space, and a warehouse with a loading dock. FFP launches its website.
Hurricane Georges devastates portions of Haiti and Hurricane Mitch causes a massive loss of human life and property in Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. FFP immediately sends emergency supplies and continues long-term relief efforts of building and reconstruction into 1999.
1993 1995 1996 1997 1998
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 The Chronicle of Philanthropy ranks FFP as the largest international relief charity in the U.S. (Rankings based on private support).
FFP expands to feed more than 2 million people each day, six days a week throughout the countries it serves. The Taiwan ICDF deepens its partnership with FFP by donating aid to the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua. The ICDF also establishes agriculture, aquaculture and education programs.
On January 12, 2010, Haiti experiences a horrific 7.0 earthquake. FFP immediately responds by shipping food, water, medicines, water-filtration systems, building supplies, tools and hygiene kits. From inception to the end of 2010, FFP has distributed more than 57,300 containers of aid to the poor, built more than 73,600 housing units, and completed over 1,188 water projects.
FFP celebrates 25 years of serving the least of our brothers and sisters in Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. FFP’s Guyana office celebrates 20 years of serving the poor.
Thanks to the tremendous compassion and loving generosity of its donors, FFP is proud to celebrate 30 years of saving lives, transforming communities, and renewing hope for the poorest of the poor in the countries it serves.
Compassion Results of
The journey over the past 30 years reflects the deep commitment in the heart of our donors for the poor. As a result of that commitment, we have seen miraculous transformations in the lives of the poor we serve. By reaching out to provide the comfort of shelter, the lifesaving gift of food and so much more to the needy, we see despair replaced with hope each day.
Hungry children and their families fed and nurtured. Thirsty villagers given clean water. Families living in misery given a new home. Critically ill children rescued from certain death with essential medical care. Families without work now earning income through micro-enterprise programs. Immediate aid and comfort given to families stricken by disaster. Schools built for children, providing hope for the future. For the past 30 years, God has truly blessed Food For The Poor with big-hearted donors who have given us the ability to serve the poorest of the poor in the Caribbean and Latin America. Thanks to our loving and caring donors, missionaries in the field and dedicated staff, we are able to consistently deliver aid and comfort to those who need it most. In 2011 — because of our compassionate donors and low administrative and fundraising costs — Food For The Poor was again rated by the Chronicle of Philanthropy as the largest international relief and development organization in the United States. No matter our size, we remain committed to being good stewards of every gift we receive. Fundraising and other administrative costs comprise less than 4 % of our expenses; more than 96% of all donations go directly to programs that help the poor. God uses all of us as His instruments to make the world a better place. Providing hope for future generations and freeing them from the darkness of poverty remains at the heart of our mission as we serve the poor in the years to come.
“Whatever you did to the least of My brothers and sisters, you did unto Me.” (Matthew 25 :40) 153
Our caring and loving donors, along with our partners, make it possible for Food For The Poor to operate and support programs that feed 2 million people a day. We distribute millions of pounds of food to malnourished children and their families in the countries we serve each year. To accomplish this, we partner with people like you, churches, schools, hospitals, missionaries and charitable organizations such as the Salvation Army, Caritas, the American-Nicaraguan Foundation, the Order of Malta and many others. One of these strong relationships is with the Taiwanese government through their International Cooperation and Development Fund to help ease the suffering of the poor across Latin America and the Caribbean.
We feed 2 million people a day 156
The need for clean, safe, drinking water is critical in the countries we serve. In areas far removed from a safe water source, women and children must walk for hours to collect heavy containers of water, with no certainty of its purity. The ingestion of contaminated water leads to stomach ailments, skin rashes, disease, and even death. Unclean water is one of the leading causes of death for children under 5. But with Food For The Poor's support, our dedicated donors are able to provide villages and communities with safe alternatives to drinking polluted water. Water wells, pumps, cisterns and sanitation facilities we are able to provide greatly reduce illnesses, diseases and parasites associated with polluted or contaminated water.
More than 1,237 water projects
Throughout the Caribbean and Latin America, the poor often live in dilapidated shacks made of scraps of wood, metal, plastic and cardboard. This type of shelter offers little protection from the elements, insects and rodents. As a result, illness and disease are rampant, especially among those who are most vulnerable â€” the young and elderly. In addition, the poor who live in these conditions are particularly devastated by natural disasters such as floods and hurricanes. Since 1982, our generous donors have built more than 76,000 housing units for destitute families in the Caribbean and Latin America. The homes are basic, yet safe and secure. These homes not only benefit the families receiving them, but also provide a source of much-needed work for local laborers.
Journey of Hope Village f f
On Tuesday, January 12, 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake shook Port-au-Prince, Haiti to its core. On that terrible day, twelve Lynn University students and two professors were traveling with Food For The Poor on a “Journey of Hope” mission trip. Eight of the Lynn University students returned home after the quake. Tragically, four students and two professors were lost. The “Journey of Hope Memorial Village” honors the members of the mission team who lost their lives while selflessly serving the poorest of the poor in Haiti. The village is relocating 42 families from the garbage-filled slums of Cité Soleil to a more secure and healthy environment in Croix-des-Bouquets, nine miles east of Port-au-Prince. A Food For The Poor double-unit house has been constructed for each family, along with a system for water collection and sanitation. In addition to housing, the project includes a six-classroom school with a sanitation block, a community center, a water treatment unit, five solar street lamps, 250 fruit trees and 62 goats. A meditation garden has also been established to celebrate and memorialize the lives that were lost in the earthquake.
More than 76,000 housing units built since 1982
Journey of Hope Village, Haiti, 2011
Medical care and treatment is often unavailable to the poor in the countries we serve. Food For The Poor solicits donations from major suppliers of medical provisions and medicines for distribution throughout the Caribbean and Latin America.
Some of the clinics supported by generous donations and gifts from our donors include:
In some of the countries we serve, our caring donors support the operation of outpatient clinics and supply hospitals with food, medicine and medical equipment. They also support HIV/AIDS facilities, homes for the elderly, and orphanages throughout the Caribbean and Latin America by providing food, medicine and medical supplies.
• Our Lady of the Poor Clinic at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Kingston, Jamaica
We are on the front lines of prevention and wellness
• Our Lady of the Poor Medical Clinic at the Bernard Mevs Hospital in Port-au-Prince
• Bethany Village Clinic in Nicaragua • Quetzaltenango Medical Clinic in Guatemala • Ocotillo School Clinic in Honduras
sustainability Providing the poor with long-term, sustainable solutions to poverty is a priority at Food For The Poor. To accomplish this, our big-hearted donors have funded the development of several micro-enterprise programs that help the poor help themselves. Some of these projects include:
Women’s vocational training centers
Animal rearing projects
Fishing villages in Jamaica and Haiti
Automobile repair shops
Agricultural research and training centers
Aquaculture fish farms
We provide the means to break the cycle of poverty
e m e r g e n c y Ai d Whenever the need arises, with the support of our generous donors, we stand ready to send immediate assistance to those affected by natural disasters. The world will never forget the horrific images from Haiti after the devastating earthquake of January 12, 2010. Because of our donors, we were able to immediately respond by shipping and distributing food, water and medical supplies. We also provided hundreds of tractor-trailer loads of supplies to Haiti, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic in response to the destruction caused by the 2008 hurricane season. Following the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Food For The Poor partnered with local churches and other organizations to bring relief to those affected in states along the Gulf Coast.
We stand ready to assist in times of crisis
The importance of education in breaking the cycle of poverty is crucial. Our loving and caring donors build schools and enable us to ship books, school supplies, furniture, computers and other needed items to schools throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. One of the main tragedies of the January 12, 2010 earthquake was that 80% of Haiti’s schools were destroyed or so badly damaged that they were closed. The Jean Marie Guilloux School was destroyed in an instant, leaving 600 children without a school building to continue their education. Our caring donors made it possible for a new earthquake and hurricane resistant school to be reconstructed. The inauguration took place on October 5, 2011. Three other schools are also being reconstructed that will be earthquake and hurricane resistant, including: George Marc, Marie Clarac, and St. Francois D’ Assise.
Through the support of our compassionate donors, we are renovating a school in the Ti Ayiti (“Little Haiti”) area of Cité Soleil to provide approximately 300 children in the community with a safe learning environment and a nutritious meal each day.
Education provides hope for the future 180
“‘ For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11, niv)
Food For The Poor, the largest international relief and development organization in the nation, does much more than feed millions of the hungry poor in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian ministry provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance, with more than 96 percent of all donations going directly to programs that help the poor.
6401 Lyons Road, Coconut Creek, FL 33073 â€˘ (954) 427-2222 â€˘ www.FoodForThePoor.org Saving Lives... Transforming Communities... Renewing Hope