“Piti piti na rive” – The Journey of the What If? Foundation

Mike Sweitzer-Beckman Benedictine Bridge, Justice Leave a Comment

The sisters at Holy Wisdom Monastery have befriended many neighbors over the years in the Fox Bluff neighborhood on the north side of Lake Mendota.  Along the way, they got to know the Trost family: Frederick, the former President and Conference Minister of the UCC’s Wisconsin Conference; Louise, a former employee of the sisters at St. Benedict Center; and one of their five children, Margaret.

The Trost home, where Margaret spent her college summers and grad-school years, was near Lost Lake.  Margaret’s parents were and continue to be great admirers of the sisters and the Rule of St. Benedict.  Margaret came to know the sisters through her parents and has always admired and been inspired by their faith, courage and leadership.  Sometimes she would see them walking through the neighborhood and catch up with them on their way to the monastery.

Fast forward a few decades and Margaret founded the What If? Foundation in 2000. The foundation partners with members of the Tiplas Kazo community in Port-au-Prince, Haiti to bring much-needed food and educational opportunities to impoverished children. In just over ten years, the organization has grown from serving meals to a few hundred children on Sundays to providing funding for 9,000 meals each week, 212 school scholarships, an after school program for 240 youth, and a summer camp for 550 children.

Margaret Trost and Father Gerard Jean-Juste

Margaret Trost and Father Gerard Jean-Juste

The organization was born out of the vision of Father Gerard Jean-Juste, a Haitian priest who served the Tiplas Kazo neighborhood on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince.  His vision for a food program included  feeding the children in his community who came to him every day aching from hunger.

Margaret decided to help make this vision become a reality, beginning with sharing the vision with her friends and family.  Some decided to help by offering donations to help feed the children.  Within three months, the first meal was served at the rectory in Port-au-Prince.

What has kept Margaret and others sustained during this project?  Father Jean-Juste taught her, “Piti piti na rive,” a Creole saying that means, “Little by little, we will arrive.”  Every step on the journey, every act of love helps.

New opportunities and challenges have come up in the last couple years.  As the Foundation writes on their website:

It was on a Sunday in March 2000 that the first meal was served out of the kitchen at the St. Clare’s rectory building in Port-au-Prince. And it was almost exactly ten years later, in March 2010, that we heard that the food program would have to move from the rectory building because the Catholic Church, as a result of the earthquake, anticipated needing the rectory building for their own purposes. As a result, the What If? Foundation was able to purchase a piece of property in April 2010 that’s about one half of a square acre and less than a mile from the St. Clare’s rectory building. Our plan is to build a neighborhood school and cafeteria on the site, a dream our partners have been holding for years.

Margaret welcomes your prayers for the What If? Foundation and its work, as well as for their partners in Haiti, the school and cafeteria they hope to build in the year ahead, and the community of children they serve.  Other ways to help are available on the What If? Foundation website.  For updates on their work, the What If? Foundation also has a blog.

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