Haitian school looks to the future amid political unrest

Haiti is a beautiful, resilient country, steeped in a rich history often marked by struggle. Recent headlines have brought stories and images of riots in city streets. Violence. Desperation.

Demonstrations have surged since last year among increasing cries of governmental corruption. The roots of these frustrations are complex and layered, but are most immediately due to exasperation with President Jovenel Moise’s policies and alleged governmental misconduct as well as a steep rise in the cost of goods.

As the unrest grows, so does the impact on the entire country where there is already little margin to accommodate such dramatic disruptions. According to recent data from the World Bank, most Haiti citizens survive on the equivalent of less than $2.50 each day. Nearly a quarter of the population falls below the extreme poverty line of $1.23 per day. For context, a bag of rice in Haiti now costs approximately $18. A container of dry beans about $7. Malnutrition remains an omnipresent concern.

Yet, through the alarming headlines and noise of complicated issues, there are beacons of hope to be found. Less than ten miles away from the busy streets of Port-au-Prince sits the village of Merger. On a clear morning, the early sun peeks over Merger’s rolling hills, casting a warm glow over the placid waters of the Gulf of Gonave. Max Lorient moved here several years ago with his wife, Phabiola. His home is nestled high on a hillside overlooking the peaceful water below. These days, the morning calm of the seaside village is belied by the instability that has besieged the capital city.

The village of Merger, overlooking the Gulf of Gonave

Affectionately nicknamed “Pastor John” by locals, Max sets about each day with a singular purpose; he is driven to improve the lives of children and families in his area. Learning to speak fluent English mostly through self-driven efforts, Max found employment as a translator for humanitarians, missionaries, and foreign aid workers that descended upon Haiti in the tragic wake of the massive 2010 earthquake.

Spending time with Max is inspiring. It’s quickly apparent that he considers his successes a profound responsibility to share resources where they are so limited. When asked about the recent turmoil in Haiti, he’s matter-of-fact in his assessment. “This kind of stuff happens almost every day in the country nowadays. Unfortunately, it does affect the whole country. The people don’t know what to do about it.” Yet, Max is steadfast in his work, perhaps most importantly through investing in Merger’s children.

A few years ago, Max founded a school in Merger. The culmination of a vision that had been stirring in his heart for a long time. Unlike other countries, children in Haiti are not afforded a public education. Rather, families must contribute tuition which, in comparison to the United States, can often rival a mortgage payment in its financial impact on a family’s resources. With this in mind, Max was determined to make possible an affordable, quality education for the children in his village.

Construction of the school meant not only a brighter future for Merger’s children, but vital employment for its adult residents as well. Village men helped dig the building’s foundation, raise walls, and secure the roof. Merger women helped sew uniforms. Max’s efforts created ripples throughout the community, ensuring all boats were rising.

Workers building the school at Merger

The progress since the school construction first began has been incredible, transforming a once overgrown plot into a central area thriving with activity. A visit to the school today is met with bright smiles from students, enthusiastic teachers, and a challenging curriculum, giving Merger’s children every opportunity to set a new course for their lives and country.

Even better, the Mario Foundation provides opportunities for folks, just like you, to be a part of this incredible story of determination, compassion, and hope in the midst of instability and chaos. Your contributions already have helped complete construction of the school, sponsor teachers’ salaries, and provide important textbooks. But more help is needed. A recurring contribution of any amount will allow all of these amazing efforts to continue and grow. Even small gifts, given consistently, add up to make a huge impact.

Merger school children
Max (or “Pastor John”), founder of the school in Merger, serves as the principal. He also teaches English, Spanish, computer skills, and is serving as an interim biology teacher.
Meet Mario Pompilus, who teaches physics and statistics.
This is Astavin Maxon. He teaches history, geography, and civics.
Janvier Edson teaches geometry and algebra.
Noël Guerrier is the watch man. He also cleans and helps as needed at the school.

Hope House reaping the benefit of donations to the foundation

We’re excited to announce that the Mario Foundation board recently distributed more than $10,000 and additional computer equipment to Hogar Esperanza (Hope House) thanks to caring donors just like you.

Hope House administers to the full spectrum of needs of the children in its care (e.g., medical care, counseling, education, etc.). These funds are particularly important as they will help cover a wide range of important items:

  • medical expenses for a special needs child who requires and will continue to require extensive medical attention and multiple future surgeries;
  • doctor appointments, medical tests, medications, and other necessary items; and
  • completing Hope House’s monthly budget which would not have been possible without these vital funds.

Laptops were recently purchased and sent to Hope House.

In addition to funds, we were thrilled to also send down four (4!) more laptop computers that will be used for administrative and educational purposes both at the San Pedro Sula and Portrerillos locations.

On behalf of the Mario Foundation, we cannot thank these special donors enough for their timely and generous gifts! This post includes recent photos of the children at Hope House supported by your giving (courtesy of Rebekah Bolin, a friend of the Mario Foundation and dedicated volunteer at Hogar Esperanza).

To learn more about Hope House, visit the Mario Foundation’s website at https://mariofoundation.org/meet-our-beneficiaries/hope-house/

$10,000 to be sent to Merger, Haiti

We’re excited to announce that the Mario Foundation board recently approved distributions of more than $10,000 to both help with the construction of a new school and support students and teachers in Merger, Haiti.

The new school will mean accessibility for more students (not as far to travel), more teachers and a better quality education, more room to learn and play, more structure, and more rooms for different grades and classes – preschool, elementary, and secondary. The vision is for the school to ultimately serve 600-700 children in the community.

As a bonus, school construction has been providing employment for many men in Merger and surrounding communities, as well as boosting the local economy through the purchase of equipment and services.

Money from the foundation has sponsored two teachers, school uniforms, and construction costs, including concrete, sand, tile, and roofing materials. Photos below show the school construction in progress.

To learn more about Merger, visit the Mario Foundation’s website at https://mariofoundation.org/meet-our-beneficiaries/merger-haiti/

 

Hope House Celebrates 20 Years

This week, The Mario Foundation celebrates Angie McInvale Altamirano and her twenty years of service to the children of Honduras! A true reminder that not all heroes wear capes, but they do often need help. That’s why The Mario Foundation is dedicated to Angie and the mission of Hope House by providing opportunities for folks just like you to be a vital part of this incredible story of love and hope.

The sounds of activity start early in the quaint neighborhood where Hogar Esperanza (Hope House) sits in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The oppressive Honduran heat means everyday tasks are best done early, while the sun still offers some mercy before its mid-day tropical siege. And for the last twenty years, Angie McInvale Altamirano has set about early each day with a quiet resilience reminiscent of a champion marathon runner. There’s no time for rest or complaints. The stakes are far too high for those relying upon her unwavering commitment to shield them from a world of unimaginable dangers.

Growing up near Birmingham, Alabama, Angie was made aware as a teenager of the challenges the children of Honduras face. A beautiful, but embattled country, Honduras is known for its rich natural resources, including coffee, sugar cane, and fruit. However, it is equally known for the serious issues its people face: poverty, high crime rates, political instability, and violence.

Following the horrific destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Mitch in 1998, Angie dedicated her life to caring for the children of Honduras. She founded Hogar Esperanza (Hope House) in 2000 to provide a home for children born into extreme poverty and abuse. With Hope House, children in terrible circumstances find love and the opportunity to heal and thrive. They’re provided with counseling and other life necessities, including education, so that they may ultimately serve as agents of positive change in their communities.

We salute Angie and the many dedicated staff, volunteers, and donors that serve the children of Hope House.

First book donations en route to Hope House

Angie McInvale was very excited to get a stack of new children’s books in Spanish for the kids of Hope House. Let’s keep a good thing going! If you have an Amazon account and a few extra bucks, please consider purchasing a book off the wish list or finding your favorite children’s book in Spanish. We will give any books collected to Angie as she visits the states every few months.

Books can be sent to the wish list registry address at:

The Mario Foundation
c/o Jereme Logan
7750 Sardis Grove Drive
Gardendale, AL 35071

The Mario Foundation Journey – First Update

We’re very humbled by and grateful for the dozens of Facebook followers and website views we’ve received over the last 24 hours. Thank you to all who are helping to spread the word!

We just want to share a few words about the journey of starting a non-profit. In the words of one of our co-founders, “it’s like starting a small business.” Things we’ve toiled over so far include setting up the corporation, recruiting a group of passionate and dedicated volunteers for our board, branding (logo, mission, vision, etc.), building a website and donor database, and creating a strategic plan for the next 12-18 months.

Messy brainstorming notes during our strategic sessions

For those of you not familiar, the 501(c)(3) designation means that the IRS has recognized your organization as a nonprofit, tax exempt organization. Most of the charities that you could name off the top of your head would fall into this category, including many churches and schools. To protect donors, the IRS doesn’t make it easy to obtain the 501(c)(3) designation. Although there is a quick application (think the equivalent of a 1040 EZ form), we have chosen to complete the long form, as it provides more information to donors, adds to our transparency, and hopefully increases our chances of approval.

As of this post, we are working with professionals and gathering the final documentation needed to submit the application for The Mario Foundation’s 501(c)(3) status. Once submitted, the application could take a few months to process before it is approved. Once approved, we will file to register as a non-profit in the state of Alabama. We will not be actively soliciting monetary donations until these two milestones are accomplished.

We have already received several donations, and it is our understanding that these donations will be tax-deductible as long we receive our 501(c)(3) designation in the year that the donations were made. We are taking the application process very seriously, so we don’t anticipate any major hiccups. We will continue to share updates on our status as well as our overall journey.

Thank you again for your interest in the work of the foundation.