COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (Nov. 6, 2023) – Vulnerable families in Trouchouchou, Haiti, soon will no longer have to live in mud and rubble and fear the rain soaking their belongings.
Supporters of Food For The Poor’s (FFTP) 24th annual Celebration of Hope Virtual Gala pledged to build more than 40 homes for poverty-stricken families who have been praying for safe shelter.
For the fourth year in a row, the program was livestreamed, taking viewers on a journey of prayer, transformation, and hope.
FFTP Board Member Dr. Lynne Nasrallah, who has chaired the gala for 24 years, expressed deep gratitude to Orlando-area donors and others for their support. She shared with viewers her love for the Haitian people.
“The poor of Haiti have stolen my heart,” Nasrallah said. “Their resilience and joy make them strong and faithful. No matter the insurmountable challenges, Haitians remain unshaken in their faith, hope, and love of the Lord and their neighbor.”
Meg Fitzgerald, of Lake Worth, Fla., donated 10 homes in Trouchouchou in memory of her 7-year-old son, Ryan, who died tragically in a boating accident in 2014.
“It’s always been in mind to build a village in his honor. This is just the beginning,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m so grateful to be able to help. It is overwhelming to think how much you can impact someone’s life by providing a home for them.”
The outpouring of love that Fitzgerald said her family received after the sudden death of their son inspired a new purpose in their lives and a strong desire to comfort others.
In 2015, Fitzgerald and her then-10-year-old son, Josh, traveled with FFTP and the Nasrallah family on a mission trip to Jamaica, where they donated stuffed animals through a foundation named for her late son.
Over the years since that trip, Fitzgerald has donated funds for homes for past Celebration of Hope galas, but she wanted to do something more significant.
“It has ignited a passion in me to do more than to write a check,” Fitzgerald said. “It makes me so sad that we allow extreme poverty in the world. It doesn’t need to be like this.”
Saturday’s Celebration of Hope program featured inspirational and joyful performances by Haitian recording artist Jonathan Laurince.
Committee members George and Joanne Olson spoke about their commitment to Haiti after being introduced to the gala and Nasrallah by their daughter and future son-in-law 13 years ago.
“It led us to learn more about Food For The Poor and how they worked to raise funds to feed the hungry and build homes for the poor in Haiti,” Joanne Olson said. “The following year, we attended the gala with them, and our interest piqued. Through their efforts, our eyes were opened to the beautiful and necessary work that was being done and what was accomplished with the money that was raised. When we were able to walk into a replica of a house, we were hooked and became regular attendees of the gala and donors of Food For The Poor.”
George Olson said their donations became personal. When they donated homes in memory of their respective parents, they received a photo of the homes that were built and the families living there, with the names of their loved ones on a plaque beside the doors.
“The smiling faces of that family were standing in front of that door,” George Olson said. “These pictures and those families are priceless.”
In 2021, the gala’s supporters built 40 homes for families in Kitis, Haiti, exceeding the goal of funding 25 homes. The construction has been completed and some of the families have moved into the homes.
In 2022, funds were raised to build 40 homes for families in need in Maché Mango, Haiti. They also provided funds for a water well and a community center, which will serve as an integral place for families to gather for prayer, for children to do homework, and to unify the community.
“I had all my kids in a small hut,” Jolene said. “Today, God blessed someone and touched their heart so they could change my life. Now, I can breathe easily. Thank you so very much, and may God bless you.”
FFTP President/CEO Ed Raine thanked the Celebration of Hope committee and the Orlando-area philanthropists and supporters of the gala for their unwavering commitment through the past 24 years and especially this year to families in Trouchouchou.
“The urgency of their situation cannot be overstated, and it’s not limited to Trouchouchou alone,” Raine said. “Haiti as a whole is facing a crisis that demands our immediate attention and assistance. Our brothers and sisters in Haiti endure ongoing hardships. But today, they are particularly distressed by their pressing material needs and the challenges they face in the weeks and months ahead. In these difficult times, our solidarity and support are more vital than ever.”
Committee members include Linda Bonnewitz, Bruny and Paula Compas, George and Kim del Campo, Mike and Dr. Desirae Friend, Cynthia Hawkins, Nicole Nasrallah, George and Joanne Olson, Lisa Padilla Ortiz, Nancy Padilla, Dwight and Lisa Saathoff, Tom and Jean Wilkes, Jean and Donna Wilson, and Holly Wilson.
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 Latin America and the Caribbean. This interdenominational Christian ministry provides emergency relief assistance, 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 foodforthepoor.org.