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Never giving up hope in Haiti

September 13, 2018   ·   0 Comments


“There are setbacks, there is joy, there is a lot of work.”  This is how Deb McKelvey describes running her charity in Haiti, Hope for People-Fodhiva Inc. For the past seven years, the Caledon-based Speech-Language Pathologist and owner of a clinic called Let’s Talk Guelph, Inc. and her husband Simon Trillwood, owner and president of export/protective packaging company Topax, have worked tirelessly to establish and maintain their orphanage in a town called Thomaseau, where children from the extremely poor mountain region of Haiti are offered safety, shelter, food and an education- the last of which is a dream beyond most people’s imagining in the small Central-American island nation.

The poorest country in the Americas, Haiti slid further into poverty after a devastating earthquake in 2010. “A lot of people think that Haiti is poor because of the earthquake. It was poor before,” says Deb.

However, the earthquake brought much-needed attention to the country, which shares its island with its richer cousin, the Dominican Republic. Many aid organizations became involved with rebuilding the troubled nation, which had been in dire straits before natural disaster, and where people live now on a dollar a day. Deb took their first trip to the island to contribute, as she had been involved in missionary work for the past few decades. There they met a family struggling to keep a group of children safe and alive, and their faces stayed in Deb’s memory long after her return to Canada. Shocked by the extreme poverty and corruption so prevalent in Haiti, she wanted never to go back. However, the faces of those children persisted in her mind, and she reached “a tee in the road where you either say yes or no.” So, this time bringing her husband Simon, Deb flew back, and thus Hope for People began.

In the past seven years, the couple’s non-profit organization has worked to build the infrastructure that shelters and educates forty orphans at Fodhiva — which means “house of God” in Creole. With dedication and persistence, the orphanage and school now features a well for safe drinking water — most important for survival in Haiti, dormitories built from the ground up, a six-classroom school for 200 students, which had before been an empty plot of land where informal classes were held, a full kitchen, toilets, showers, and a 10-foot security wall, essential in Haiti.

Deb describes Haitians as a proud, hard-working people, but less than one in six children receive a third-grade level education. Education, she says, is essential to building a better society and future for Haiti- and unlike in Canada where such a thing is taken for granted, “kids beg to be educated.” Haitians, she believes, “need our help with infrastructure. Every kid deserves a safe place to eat, a safe place to sleep, a place to be educated. These are things we don’t think about in this country. How many people usually think about if they are going to eat supper?”

The main objective of Hope for People is to improve the community, but primarily to see these 40 children in the Fodhiva orphanage supported through high school and beyond, whether that means trade school or some other form of higher education. Raising funds, however, is always a chore. The organization is dependent on charitable donations at fundraisers, of which one is taking place in the form of a Barn Party this Saturday, Sept. 15th at Briardale Farms on Glenn Haffy Road. This annual event begins at 3:30 p.m. and features Phantom Ridge, performing Folk and Celtic Sound. Dinner, served at 5:30, will feature homemade burgers, chilli, pop/juice and corn. Guests are asked to bring a salad or desert to share, and BYOB.

In addition to entertainment and food, limited Haitian Metal Art and fresh Briardale produce and preserves will be for sale. All proceeds will go to support the Fodhiva Orphanage. Suggested donations of $25 per person are collected at the party (cheques can be made out to “Hope for People”), with 100 percent of the proceeds going directly to the purchase of food and construction equipment for the orphanage. If you are interested in coming, RSVP to either or, so that adequate amounts of food can be prepared.

Also, be sure to bring lawn chairs.

For those wishing to support Hope for People that are unable to make the Barn Party, visit the organization’s homepage,, where they can make a donation through Paypal. Hope for People is also always looking for volunteers to either join the team or help with charitable events. School supply donations are also always welcome.



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