Tom Lorden was looking for a way to share his good fortune. But the 1964 graduate, a successful business owner, hadn’t found what he was looking for. Then, in 1999, he learned about Food for the Poor, one of the largest international charities in the United States, which works extensively in Haiti. Soon, Lorden and his wife Nancy were off on a five-day pilgrimage to the island nation.
Nothing prepared Lorden for what he saw. “It’s a real disaster,” he says. “It’s the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.”
The Lordens decided to help. They invited their friends to a dinner and slide show and soon raised $100,000—enough to build 50 12-foot-by-12-foot shelters. Then, in 2001, Lorden helped found a nonprofit organization, Hope for Haitians, and began working with other organizations to dig fresh-water wells in rural villages. Six years and hundreds of wells later, Hope for Haitians is poised for its biggest venture yet: building an entire village, complete with 100 homes, wells, a sanitation system, a talapia pond for food and a community center where the organization hopes to teach villagers how to capitalize on their skills. Price tag: $400,000. To reach that goal, Lorden hopes to expand the group’s current base of between 300 and 400 supporters.
“You can’t understand it until you’ve seen it firsthand,” he says. “The poverty is just beyond description. They’re destitute—that’s a big difference from being poor. No one can go there and come home and not want to help those people.”