Minnesota Teen Fundraises for Homes for Families in Haiti
COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (May 3, 2016) Eighteen-year-old Brooke Salfer, who attends Pine Island High School in Pine Island, Minn., is less than a month away from graduation. As Brooke prepares for the next chapter in her life, she reflected recently on how a mission trip to Haiti last summer, and a chance meeting with a visiting priest in the fall, inspired her to build homes through the relief and development organization Food For The Poor.
"When I returned home, my perspective on life was turned around. I no longer looked in my closet and saw nothing to wear, I looked in my closet and saw how many clothes I didn't wear," said Brooke. "I looked at my overflowing plate and remembered the weak and malnourished children I cared for. I attended school and saw the opportunities that the Haitian children will never have."
In August 2015, Brooke took a 10-day mission trip to Haiti with volunteers from St. Michael's Catholic Church of Pine Island where she and her family worship. The group stayed at the Mother Teresa Sisters of Charity compound in Port-au-Prince. While there, they spent most of their time caring for and playing with sick infants and young children in the city's hospital.
"My experience of working alongside the Haitians and impacting the lives of the people there truly changed me as a person," said Brooke. "What amazed me most was that the children were filled with such joy and they had so little."
After the start of her senior year, Brooke couldn't shake the feeling of needing to do something more for the people in Haiti. In late October, while visiting Pax Christi Catholic Church in Rochester, Minn., 15 miles south of Pine Island, Brooke was inspired by guest speaker, Reverend Glen Paul Baptiste. He spoke about Food For The Poor and his experiences in Haiti. After the sermon, the two talked, and Brooke realized she wanted secure homes for families.
"I see a clear emergence of a heightened sense of social consciousness in these beautiful young people," said Fr. Baptiste. "I am therefore deeply encouraged by this generation."
Fr. Baptiste is a member of Food For The Poor's Speakers Bureau, Catholic and Episcopal priests and Lutheran pastors who travel to churches across the United States to share the mission of Food For The Poor.
With her fundraising goals in view, Brooke recruited the assistance of her two older sisters Lindsey and Victoria, along with their mom Maribeth and a group of her friends to help with church bake sales, painting parties and Zumba classes. After several months of creative fundraising activities, Brooke exceeded her goal of one home. Now, thanks to the loving support of her family, friends and even strangers, she's close to reaching her goal for the second house.
"It brings tears to my eyes when I think about the joy this will bring to the poorest of the poor. What started out as a daunting project to raise the money snowballed into something so much more," said Maribeth Salfer. "I am finding myself much more generous. When I hear of local families in need, I wonder, what can we do to help? It is through the act of giving that we receive. I thank God every day for giving me such an amazing daughter with such a humble heart, with so much love and compassion for others."
Food For The Poor has been transforming the lives of families in Haiti for nearly three decades. The recent border crisis between the Dominican Republic and Haiti has left thousands of families in limbo, which has prompted the charity to build a village to help as many as possible.
The Haitian government gave Food For The Poor approximately 76 acres in the mountains of Artibonite, where 100 families have been relocated from the border town of Fond Bayard. It is within this community, which is expected to be completed in June, where the homes donated by Brooke will be built.
"We're very excited about this new community for these displaced families who have crossed into Haiti from the Dominican Republic, and for the local residents who have lived within the region for decades," said Angel Aloma, Executive Director of Food For The Poor. "We could not do the work that we do without the loving support of our donors. And when that support comes from a young person such as Brooke, the gesture is especially meaningful."
The new community will have concrete block homes with flush toilets and water cisterns. Each family also will receive a solar-powered light kit. The new residents also will receive training in micro-enterprise projects, such as beekeeping, animal husbandry, aquaculture and agriculture.
Brooke says, "My advice to other ambitious young people – go for it! God will provide you with the resources you need to change people's lives."
Food For The Poor, one of the largest international relief and development organizations 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.
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