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On That day, Everybody Ate: Margaret Trost's testimony of hope for the hopeless

posted by WadnerPierre Port-au-Prince Topics: Book

August 31, 2008

On That day, Everybody Ate: Margaret Trost's testimony of hope for the hopeless

By: Wadner Pierre-haitianalysis.com

"On That Day, Everybody Ate: One Woman’s Story of Hope and Possibility in Haiti" is the title of Margaret Trost's newly released book about her experiences in Haiti.

After her husband's untimely death, Mrs. Margaret traveled to Haiti to heal her broken heart by serving others. She was deeply moved by the struggles of the poor and resolved to do all she could to help them. In the year 2000, she founded the What If? Foundation in collaboration with Father Gerard Jean-Juste, a prominent Haitian humanitarian, political activist, and the priest of St. Claire’s Church in Port-au-Prince. He also lived in Florida for many years where he fought for the rights of Haitian immigrants. The Foundation’s mission is to provide food and education to impoverished children in Haiti. Together, Fr. Jean-Juste and Margaret have worked to establish a food program, educational scholarships, and a summer camp for children in the Tiplas Kazo neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. Members of the St. Clare’s community run these programs. The What If? Foundation provides the funding. It is an effective partnership that started small and has grown over the years. On That Day, Everybody Ate tells the story of this remarkable journey.

The What If? Foundation provided the funds to serve the first food program meal at St. Clare’s after mass on Sunday, March 19th 2000 - the day the Catholic Church celebrates Saint Joseph, patron saint of workers. Five hundred children enjoyed a meal that included rice, beans, and vegetables grown by Haitian farmers:

"I was so happy when Fr. Jean-Juste told me that his vision had become a reality and that the food program had begun. I wasn’t sure how we would find the money to keep it going, but the faith and hope of the St. Clare’s community inspired me and we took it one step at a time. " said Trost.

" Piti piti na rive" (little by little, we will arrive) is a proverb that Haitian people say when they feel overwhelmed by a problem. It is an expression of faith that God will help them survive, resist and struggle in the long run. This is one of many Haitian proverbs Fr. Jean-Juste taught Margaret and it has guided her over the last 8 ½ years of their partnership. Today, the What If? Foundation funds 6,000 meals/week (1,200 meals are served every Monday through Friday at St. Clare’s), 200 school scholarships, and a summer camp for 450 children.

HaitiAnalysis asked Margaret Trost about her years as director of the What If? Foundation.

While responding that she finds her work deeply fulfilling, she also said

"I was so sad and overwhelmed after my last visit. The number of children at the food program has increased dramatically as a result of the current food crisis. The price of rice is too high. People can’t afford to eat. Those who were hungry are now starving. I am grateful that we’ve been able to keep the food program going at its current level to provide thousands of meals each week, but so much more is needed to relieve the suffering. Of course, changes in U.S. foreign and economic policy are needed to create real change in the lives of the poor majority in Haiti. But, little by little, through our collaboration with the Sainte Claire’s community, we’re providing what Fr. Jean-Juste calls, 'an islet in the middle of the ocean.' Even through Hurricane Gustav, the cooks at St. Clare’s prepared and served meals. Their devotion and courage inspires me to do all I can on my end to raise the money needed to pay for those meals. I’m hopeful that my book will help raise awareness and inspire people to take action.”

Asked how her family regards her work with the What If? Foundation and her new book, she explains how the love from her son, Luke, and her second husband, Tom provides a foundation of support that encourages her to follow her heart:

"It was his [Tom's] idea to put my experience in a book. His faith in me helped me believe I could do it and I’m so glad I did."

Paul Farmer, a world renowned physician, cofounder of "Zanmi Lasante" (Partners In Health) who has devoted his life to providing health care to the poor, wrote the foreword for On That Day, Everybody Ate, and said that Trost's book "...should enjoy wide readership as more and more of us who do enjoy comparative privilege become aware of how much so many others struggle simply to survive."

"On That Day Everybody Ate" is available online at amazon.comand in bookstores across the country. Remember that each time you buy this book, you also help support the feeding program, educational program and summer camp for impoverished children in the St. Clare’s community of Port-au-Prince. To make a donation directly to the What If? Foundation, visit whatiffoundation.org

More about the author:

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Margaret Trost received a bachelor's degree from the Pennsylvania State University, graduating Phi Beta Kappa, and later received a Master's degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin. She began her career in public television at Chicago's WTTW. One of the programs she produced – The 1990 Illinois Young Performers' Competition – won a regional Emmy. In order to stay home full-time with her infant son, Trost left the television industry and began a home-based business as a sales representative. Although she still runs her business today, the majority of her time is devoted as a volunteer to leading and developing the What If? Foundation.

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