Parents Keep Memory of Beloved Son Alive With Generous Donation for Haiti

COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (Oct. 11, 2021) Before his death at age 15, Alfonso Amengual was a passionate supporter of Haiti, dating back to when he attended Pembroke Pines Charter Academic Village Middle School. That's where he met his drama teacher, Deborah Carvajal, who shared her experience of traveling to Haiti, the extreme poverty she witnessed there, and her love for the Haitian people.

Alfonso enjoyed participating in the middle school's Dress Down Day to raise money for Food For The Poor and its work on behalf of the people of Haiti. Although he had advanced to high school, he hoped to join Carvajal on a mission to Haiti one day.

That dream ended with his tragic death last May 10 after he was hit by a car while bicycling to a gym near his home. Recalling Alfonso's joy in participating in Dress Down Day, his parents, Rodrigo and Mercedes Amengual, recently made a donation to the fundraiser in his memory.

"Alfonso always was moved by the stories Mrs. Carvajal told the kids about Haiti," Mercedes Amengual said. "Every year, we sent money for Dress Down Day. After Alfonso passed away, we wanted to make another donation."

The middle school stages Dress Down Day several times a year, encouraging students to donate a few dollars to wear their personal choice of clothing to school instead of uniforms. The most recent event was during their Peace Week celebration, held in conjunction with the International Day of Peace on September 21.

Proceeds were donated to help FFTP provide relief for victims of the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti's southern peninsula on August 14. The earthquake resulted in more than 2,200 deaths, injured more than 12,000 people, and destroyed an estimated 53,000 homes. Another 77,000 homes were damaged. Tropical Storm Grace followed days later, bringing more hardship.

The one-two punch of the earthquake and storm made an impression on the 300-plus students, who usually raise about $400 during Dress Down Day. This year, they quadrupled that amount, raising $1,651.57. Their donations were augmented by the Amengual's gift.

"We are humbled by the gift the Amenguals made in memory of their beloved son," FFTP President & CEO Ed Raine said. "We are proud of the students at Pembroke Pines Charter Academic Village Middle School. Their generosity blesses the people of Haiti, and at the same time, the students experience the joy of helping the less fortunate so early in their lives."

Carvajal, who also teaches the school's leadership class, is proud of the students for connecting so profoundly with the people of Haiti and for their overwhelming show of support. The daughter of a Lutheran minister, she credits her family's commitment to service as the source of her compassion for the people of Haiti. She has traveled to the country five times through Mission: Haiti, a nonprofit, faith-based organization that grew out of the Florida-Georgia District of the Lutheran Church. Those missions were life-changing for Carvajal, and she eagerly shares stories of her travels with her students to help them grasp the plight of the Haitian people.

"I started by telling the kids about my experiences in going to Haiti, and I taught them about what extreme poverty looks like - how the people live and how it's different from the way we live," Carvajal said. "I also talk to them about the resilience of the people of Haiti, and I tell them how beautiful the country is."

Carvajal's message resonated with Alfonso and complemented the lessons on humility and charity that he received at home. His parents continue to impart that spirit of giving to their 13-year-old twin daughters, Olivia and Amy. A native of Argentina, Mercedes Amengual said she and her family bring donations of clothing and other items for needy children on their annual vacations to visit family in her home country.

In keeping with their philosophy of giving, the Amenguals delivered their donation to the middle school with no fanfare or expectations, Carvajal said. Their unexpected generosity deeply touched Carvajal and school administrators.

"Mr. and Mrs. Amengual had this horrible thing happen to their child, and it would be so easy for their hearts to become hardened and angry and sad," Carvajal said. "They made an intentional choice to spread Alfonso's joy and keep his memory alive. I think that this donation was a way of continuing his spirit of helping others."
Food For The Poor, one of the largest international relief and development organizations in the nation, does much more than feed millions of hungry children and families living in poverty primarily in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian ministry provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicine, educational materials, homes, support for vulnerable children, care for the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance. For more information, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.

Ernestine Williams

Public Relations
305-321-7342
ernestinew@foodforthepoor.com