Food program for Haitians


Benjamin Wilks

Margaret Trost passionately speaks to the audience about the “What If?” foundation.

Austin Anderson , Staff Reporter

What if you witnessed a terrible tragedy and wanted to make a difference for the people involved? Most can only imagine what that would be like, but Margaret Trost has firsthand knowledge of that experience after helping to save some local Haitian children from starving almost 14 years ago.

Trost came to Lakeland’s Bradley Building stage on Nov. 5, and she shared the good news of how she started a non-profit group devoted to helping the local children of Haiti receive food and hope. Trost gave a speech about her struggle to start the “What If?” foundation.

It all started when her husband, Riche, suddenly passed away from an asthma attack in 2000. As she and her son grieved, Trost decided to stay home with her 5-year-old son to help him through the grieving process. Trost had started a business from her own home. One day, she received an invitation from a friend to go to Haiti. She took off with her son from San Francisco to Miami, and then down to Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince.

After the plane landed, she explored the countryside. Much to her dismay, she found that many of the children and their families in Haiti were starving and living in poverty. Local people had to live in little cinderblock houses, sleep on top of tables and scavenge the ground for something to eat. She ventured to a small church where she saw the local Haitian people praying and asking for hope and faith.

Trost noted that she “had never seen that kind of energy in a church before.”

After the service, she met the church’s very energetic pastor, Father Jerry. He told Trost that he had a desire to stop hunger, especially child hunger, in his church.

Father Jerry told Trost, “The funds were not efficient enough to make the program work.”

Trost wondered how she could make that food program a reality.

When she returned home to the United States, she told her family and friends about Father Jerry’s dream to start a food program for the starving children in Haiti. Her friends sent her little donations by check or email. Trost then sent the money to Father Jerry.

The little donations from Trost and her family and friends were enough to start a new food program.

Father Jerry called up Trost and said, “The food program is a success!”

Trost excitedly went back to Haiti and spread the word to her friends back in the United States about the successful food group. Her friends eventually told many people and more donations came flying in. She and Father Jerry named the program“What If?”.

Trost says that she is unsure of the exact number of donations made annually to the “What If?” foundation, but she says, “It is around $420,000 a year through small donations.”

Approximately 500 to 800 Haitian children and even adults come on Sundays to a local stand and eat healthy food cooked by the local villagers that volunteer. Mostly rice and local vegetables that the farmers grow are fed to the starving children. “What If?” helped the farmers get back on their feet because their crops were being purchased.

Father Jerry said to Trost, “There is great hope for these children.”

Some families walk up from five miles away to eat at the “What If” foundations’s food tent.

As time went on, Father Jerry became ill from leukemia. He was treated with chemotherapy, but the treatment had made him weak; he passed away not long after the surgery. To make matters worse, an enormous 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated the Haitian community in 2010.

Trost said that she and the Haitian people were not going to give up hope on the “What If?” foundation. After finding a new location in the city of Port au Prince, the “What If?” foundation was feeding more kids and people than ever, and still the donations kept coming in. With the donations received, the “What If?” foundation started pouring cement for the new cafeteria that the school desired to build.

Trost showed pictures on a PowerPoint presentation. Most of the photos were of the children eating at the program’s tent. Trost still visits Haiti regularly to check up on the program’s progress on the new cafeteria. The program is also providing scholarships for kids in need to go to school. The scholarships are made up through the donations that come in to “What If?” foundation.

“There is a waiting list of children waiting for a scholarship,” says Trost.

Normally, it would cost about $350 to $500 to educate a child in Haiti. Elementary grade level students are in the $350 price range and the high school level students are in the $500 price range.

Trost said that plans for the program’s future are to keep building the school and to keep the children of Haiti alive and well. “We work with what we have,” said Trost.

In closing, Trost taught the audience to say “Lespwa Fe Viv,” which is Haitian for “hope makes life.”