Orlando-Area Residents Travel to Haiti

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  Families attempt to survive in Ganthier, Haiti, where extreme hunger and dehydration threaten life.
Families attempt to survive in Ganthier, Haiti, where extreme hunger and dehydration threaten life.

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COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (June 7, 2013) – Squinting as they emerged from a cramped and stifling hot 6-by-7-foot dilapidated hut, the travelers looked around them in disbelief that people could survive in such harsh conditions. The sea of tiny, stick-and-mud huts flowed down the mountainside to a lake’s edge in an area of Haiti called Ganthier.

These committee members from Orlando, Longwood and Winter Park journeyed to Haiti May 21-24 with the South Florida-based nonprofit Food For The Poor. With the support of the Orlando community, this year’s A Celebration of Hope gala will raise money to build a village of houses for the families they met that day.

“This area is remote and utterly desolate,” said Dr. Lynne Nasrallah, who serves on the Food For The Poor Board of Directors and as the gala’s Chairwoman. “The closer the van got, the more my heart ached for the inhabitants. Here, I felt like I had arrived in the deepest bowels of Haiti. The huts are primitively made out of mud, clay, twigs and discarded plastic materials. These huts offer no protection from the wind or the rain. Many, many children were scantily clothed or totally naked and mostly covered in dirt. The children ran up to us and crawled into our arms.”

One of the mothers they met lived with her five children. They sleep on a dirt floor and often have nothing to eat. All night long, the older children vigilantly attempt to swat the bugs off the smaller children. Their hut and few worldly possessions are at constant risk of flooding. During storms, the local families must evacuate to higher ground. The school is the community’s best option for shelter, even though the structure does not have exterior walls that reach from floor to ceiling.
“In Ganthier, I experienced something I have never experienced here in The United States – extreme poverty and malnutrition, crumbling homes, and kids without clothes,” said Jason Gingras, a gala committee member.
Parched children met the bus as it arrived and begged the committee members for sips of water poured from bottles into the palms of their hands. Feeling the cool water run down their throats, the children gasped with relief. The children in the community often suffer from illness due to a lack of access to water or sanitation. 

For most committee members, it was their first visit to Haiti, and an opportunity to spend time with families living in destitute situations.

“There are only four pit latrines that service 129 families,” said Dr. Nasrallah. “So often the adults and children use the swamp for their sanitation needs. This is a dangerous practice since harmful bacteria fester in these conditions.”

“The children of Haiti made me realize that every new day is a chance to make a difference in someone's life,” said Marie Morales-Johnson, a gala committee member. “I went to Haiti to help others in need but at the end of my journey, the Haitian people helped me find a piece of heaven on earth. The children of Haiti stole my heart with their bright and sweet smiles.”  

While in Haiti the committee members also inaugurated homes for 38 families in Emmanuel Village VII in Manneville, Haiti. These homes were built with proceeds from last year’s gala. During the ceremony, several grateful villagers spoke about how their new homes have changed their lives. The residents described how owning a permanent Food For The Poor house means they no longer have to run to seek refuge when it rains, their families are healthier, and whatever money they are able to save now can be used to purchase food and to send their children to school.

“Our challenge is not to fix the people of Haiti, for our Haitian brothers and sisters are filled with a strong faith and expressive love,” said Dr. Nasrallah. “But we do need to fix their suffering from a lack of human rights. After all, each Haitian is a child of God, who deserves to live with dignity and justice.”

The 2013 A Celebration of Hope gala will be at Rosen Shingle Creek of Rosen Hotels & Resorts in Orlando, on Saturday, Oct. 19. Attendees will be invited to help build critically needed houses for these families during the charity’s live house-rally. For additional information regarding A Celebration of Hope gala, sponsorship levels, and tickets, available at $175 per person, please call 1-888-404-4248 or visit www.FoodForThePoor.org/orlando.

The gala’s presenting sponsor is Rosen Shingle Creek and Rosen Hotels & Resorts. Gala sponsors include Almar Travel & American Express and Pan American Grain.

A Celebration of Hope gala committee members include Anibal and Maritza Beltran, Linda Bonnewitz, The del Campo Family, Janice Chong, Trevor and Freda Dieffenthaller, Jason Gingras, Cynthia Hawkins, Jackie Heaps, Rebecca James, Marie Morales Johnson, Dr. Anis Khalaf, Kathy Kinchla, Donna Larson, Brad Levine, Bernadette McComb, Laura McDonald, Paul Mylod, Dr. Desirae Nasrallah, Nicole Nasrallah, Robin Neel, Lisa Padilla, Nancy Padilla, Patricia Perfito, Anne Pinkosh, Amira Rodriguez, The Santana Family, Marie Schwarz, Ryan Shaughnessy, Kelly Wilkes and Holly Wilson.

Food For The Poor, named by The Chronicle of Philanthropy as 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 95 percent of all donations going directly to programs that help the poor.  For more information, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.


Jennifer Leigh Oates

Food For The Poor
Public Relations
954-427-2222 x 6054