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FOOD CRISIS IN HAITI

Spring 2008 Newsletter

From Margaret Trost,
President of What If? Foundation.
margaret@whatiffoundation.org
Tel: 510-558-9010 or 888.228.8020

http://www.whatiffoundation.org

 

Dear Friends of the What If? Foundation,

 I am so grateful for our partnership with members of St. Clare's Church in Port-au-Prince and the food program we began together eight years ago. Thanks to your financial support, we're currently paying for 1,000 meals a day, every Monday - Friday. These meals are needed now more than ever.

 As most of you have read or seen on tv, a sharp rise in food prices across the globe has sent Haiti into an even deeper hunger crisis. The price of rice worldwide has nearly doubled in the last three months. With over half the Haitian population earning less than $1 a day and 78% earning less than $2 a day, this increase has made it impossible for most people in Haiti to feed their families. Reports of families eating "mud cookies" - dirt, mixed with salt and vegetable shortening and baked in the sun - because they don't have the money for food, have appeared in the media. Food price protests and riots have taken place in several countries around the world, including Haiti. It appears that the world is beginning to notice the suffering, and I pray that this will help bring about positive change.

 To understand the reasons why there has been a dramatic global increase in the price of rice, wheat, corn, and other staples, and why Haiti is especially vulnerable to these price increases, please see Bill Quigley's piece and other articles in our "quick links" section of this, our first What If? Foundation newsletter.

 We've started this newsletter to help keep you informed and to encourage your continued involvement. Please let us know how we can make it better. We also invite you to share it with your friends to help us spread the word about the critical programs we fund in Haiti.

 With gratitude for your support,

 Margaret Trost
President, What If? Foundation
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 In This Issue:

Report From Fr. Jean-Juste
How The Food Program Works
Donors Respond
How To Donate
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Fr. Jean-Juste has been at the food program nearly every day in April. In phone conversations and emails, he has shared the following observations about the dire situation in Haiti and how critical the food program at St. Clare's is.

 "The country is in turmoil. People cannot afford to pay for food. Children are coming to our food program in big numbers... Some babies accompanied by an adult come too for a delicious hot meal... Some time earlier, I've tried to pray while walking back and forth on the porch. I could not stop thinking of the very needy people. I thought of three boys who visited me. They were skin and bones. No hair at all for two of them, and the third one has some thin reddish ones. They looked miserable... I've met some families that are living a near famine situation. Now, there are many promises. The government must develop a respectful method to distribute food to these suffering people. Our Food Program is under pressure. We are serving as many people as we can."

 Every Monday - Friday, at the St. Clare's Church rectory in the Ti Plas Kazo neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, 1,000 people are served a meal of rice, beans, meat and vegetables bought at the farmers market. Some people walk five miles to the program from Cité Soleil, the poorest section of Port-au-Prince.

Thirty members of St. Clare's Church prepare and serve the meals. Children are fed first. A long line of young adults, parents, and the elderly, wait near the rectory gate to see if there will be any food left over for them. The cooks try to be sure there always is, but lately, with more children then ever coming to the program, there often isn't anything left for the adults.

 The food is paid for with your donations. The What If? Foundation is the only source of funding for these meals.

 A 3-minute video of the food program is on http://www.whatiffoundation.org

With news of the hunger in Haiti spreading, we've received calls and emails from donors sharing their ideas and efforts to increase donations to the What If? Foundation.

One of our donors writes: "The timing of this and the 'Bush tax refund' seems especially relevant. My family has decided to send the What If? Foundation our refund check. We want to share it with the hungry in Haiti instead of spending it. Even if donors gave 10% of their check to What If?, it would really add up. If a couple receives $1200, 10% of this would provide almost 200 meals." Christine, CA

Other donor-initiated activities taking place across the country include: fundraisers such as garage sales, a "clothing-swap" with proceeds going to What If?, and a cooking class with a chef who has donated his time so that the fee for the class will go to pay for meals at the food program. In addition, special offerings are being collected at a few churches to support the food program at St. Clare's.

If you have questions about doing a fundraiser for the What If? Foundation, please call our office: 510-558-9010 or 888.228.8020