Nativity’s Operation Starfish Gift to FFTP Will Build 13th Village in Haiti
COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (June 16, 2022) Nativity Catholic Church Pastor Fr. Robert C. Cilinski today presented Food For The Poor President/CEO Ed Raine with a donation of more than $500,000 from this year’s Operation Starfish® campaign to build 65 new homes in Bas Fossé, Cap-Haïtien, Haiti.
Due to ongoing concerns about the spread of COVID-19, the presentation was made virtually during a video prayer service, linking the Burke, Va., pastor and parishioners with the charity’s team members in Coconut Creek, Fla.
Fittingly, the event took place on Feast of Corpus Christi, also known as God’s Day, an important holiday in the Catholic Church. It was a celebratory gathering of song, testimonial videos and praise, as participants also acknowledged the 24th anniversary of Nativity’s support of FFTP, as well as the 36th anniversary of FFTP-Haiti.
“We rejoice in this partnership with you in how we are able to work together to uplift the people of God,” Fr. Cilinski said. “I’m very happy to present our gift to Food For The Poor to continue the good work in Haiti of building homes and providing food and opportunity.”
This year’s gift to FFTP is for the church’s 13th community, Nativity Village at Bas Fossé. Part of a commitment Nativity announced in 2021 to build 75 homes, the donation will improve the lives of almost 700 people, most of whom earn less than $1 per day. Thanks to the kindness of donors, FFTP already has completed the construction of the first 10 two-bedroom houses, each equipped with a living area, sanitation, a water component, a cooking area, a sink, furnishings, lighting and structural elements to withstand severe weather conditions.
Mario Nicoleau, Executive Director of FFTP-Haiti, thanked Fr. Cilinski and Nativity for the generous donation, noting that it comes at a time when his team is confronted with unprecedented challenges.
“Our mission has become more so ever important to fulfill,” he said. “The plight of our brothers and sisters here in Haiti has forced us to come back to the table and truly contemplate on the best ways to serve the people efficiently and impactfully. We really can’t thank you enough for all this and for sticking with us – we need you now more than ever.”
Nativity’s Operation Starfish® campaign began with the late Fr. Richard Martin, who died from complications of diabetes in 2014. Fr. Martin’s commitment to love and service continues through the efforts of Fr. Cilinski and the sacrificial gifts made by Nativity parishioners during the Lenten season.
“Fr. Martin’s spirit lives in Nativity Community, always saying to us ‘remember Haiti, remember Haiti’ and the community has been faithful to that for 24 years,” Fr. Cilinski said. “We’re happy to share 24 years of the 36 years of Food For The Poor in Haiti.”
Since the program’s inception, the church has raised more than $7.8 million, built nearly 1,500 homes and established 12 thriving villages in various regions of Haiti. Each Nativity Village starts by addressing basic needs, including shelter, sanitation and clean drinking water, followed by education, health care, schools, clinics and vocational training programs.
“It is humbling as a leader of this organization to receive gifts of this magnitude,” Raine said. “This incredible gift will allow us to do extraordinary things and we are so grateful for your trust in our organization for all of this time. We will do everything we can through thick and thin to make sure that we continue to earn your confidence and trust in the work that we do.”
Most of the houses in Bas Fossé are made of mud, sheets, dried leaves and wood sticks. Their roofs are covered with thatch, rusted sheet metal, or old tarps. By living in such desperate conditions, the residents are extremely vulnerable to the weather and whatever conditions it may bring.
With the help of FFTP, Nativity Village at Bas Fossé will include safe housing with water and sanitation, two water wells, a water treatment system, a community center and solar-powered street lighting. In addition to the 10 homes already completed, 10 are under construction and the remaining 55 are projected to be completed by the end of the year.
The project eventually will include an income-generating component, such as aquaculture, agriculture and animal husbandry, to help residents become more self-sufficient. The church also helps to support FFTP beneficiaries with relief during times of natural disasters.
In addition, the Nativity gift funds the Jamaica Medical Scholarship Program, which has so far awarded scholarships to four students in Jamaica and one student in Haiti.
Food For The Poor, one of the largest international relief and development organizations in the nation, does much more than feed millions of hungry children and families living in poverty primarily in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian ministry provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicine, educational materials, homes, support for vulnerable children, care for the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance. For more information, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.