Bringing Hope to Haiti: Boca Committee Sees How Gift of Homes Transforms Lives

COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (Jan. 2, 2019)  They arrived in Ti Maché, Haiti, to hear the welcoming sounds of joyful singing from destitute families longing for a brighter future.

Hope had come from 11 current and past Building Hope Gala committee members and supporters of Food For The Poor who traveled in November to visit Ti Maché, a rural community in Ganthier, where most residents survive on less than $1 a day.

"They were waiting for us, their closest hope for better living conditions," said Margarita Stegmann after her first trip to Haiti. "It was such a wonderful experience, even though it was hard to see so much need. I realized that the people are full of hope despite their daily struggles."

Attendees at Food For The Poor's 24th annual Building Hope Gala on Feb. 2 will be invited to create a legacy by pledging to build 50 critically needed homes in Ti Maché.

A highlight of the evening, the charity will honor Grammy Award-winning artist Shaggy and his wife, Rebecca Packer Burrell, with the Ambassadors For The Poor Award for work they have done for the poor of Jamaica through the Shaggy Make A Difference Foundation, which supports Bustamante Hospital for Children.

Many homes in Haiti's poorest communities like Ti Maché are made with scraps such as rusted metal and tarps, providing families little protection from storms.

"We're so used to having food, clean water and all the basics," said Karolina Kanner, a member of the current Building Hope Gala committee. "For these people, it's just a struggle."

In Ti Maché, one woman told the group she is scared every time it rains at night as water pours through holes in the roof. Her family waits for the rain to stop before they are able to sleep again. She said a new home would make a huge difference in her life.

"It's really, really sad. It makes you grateful for what we have at home," said committee member Rene Turner Mahfood, whose teenage son Ashton joined her on the trip. "It makes me more grateful to be on this trip to know that I can help bring attention to this community."

Homes funded by Food For The Poor donors are built on cement foundations with concrete block walls and galvanized zinc roofs so families can feel safe from storms. Each home has two bedrooms and a living area, sanitation and a water component. Each family receives a solar-powered light kit and furnishings with their home.

Also making the trip to Haiti were Laurie Braden and her daughter Piper, Noelle Kahan, Elizabeth Murzyn-Macey, Melissa Roig and her daughter Ava, and Joan Marie Veesaert.

During their one-day trip, the mission travelers also visited Boen, Haiti, where they saw lives transformed after families received 100 homes in two villages built by supporters of past galas.

"When we came to visit one of the homes, a 5-year-old girl took my hand to show me her house," Stegmann recalled. "That was very touching. I could feel her gratitude toward us."

Food For The Poor President/CEO Robin Mahfood said the goal of the charity is to provide destitute families homes that protect them, give them hope for the future and allow them to improve other areas of their lives.

Because of the commitment to the poor by the charity's donors, Mahfood said Food For The Poor has been able to build more than 78,000 homes over the last 36 years in the countries where it serves.

"No one can fight poverty alone," Mahfood said. "Together, we can continue to improve the conditions of these endangered communities, one family at a time."

The Boca Raton Resort & Club will be the setting for the 24th annual Building Hope Gala. The evening will feature an extensive silent and live auctions, cocktail reception, dinner and dancing.

Shaggy and his wife, Rebecca Packer Burrell, will be recognized for answering the call to help children's lives in Jamaica. Since 2009, Shaggy and Friends has donated and repaired more than 450 pieces of equipment worth more than $1.6 million to Bustamante Hospital for Children.

The gala committee includes Dr. Geneen Graber-Maxwell and Charles Maxwell, chairs; Siobhan Carty, Katherine Cathcart, Patricia de Siqueira Castro, Elena Del Alamo, Karen Foreman, Karolina Kanner, Marlene Ross Khouri, Julie Mahfood, Ivana Montague, Rene Turner Mahfood, Dr. Marnee Schneider, Renee Stetler and Patricia Wallace.

Event sponsors include: Aetna, ARC Manufacturing Limited, Butters Construction, Dennis Charley & Associates, Crowley, InfoGroup Nonprofit Solutions, McFEE Group, One & All, Salem Media, Schmidt Family Foundation, TD Bank and Teemlink. The Boca Raton Observer is the exclusive media sponsor.

For additional information on the Building Hope Gala, sponsorship opportunities and tickets, available at $400 per person, please contact event managers Marni Wyman or Shanny Tozzi at 954-427-2222 ext. 6854 or by email at

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 primarily 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. For more information, please visit

Michael Turnbell

Public Relations
954-427-2222 x 6054