By Michael Turnbell
It was a day Nelcia Laventure has dreamed about since she was a child, living in Food For The Poor’s Maison d’Amour orphanage in Haiti. She wanted to meet the man behind the charity that has impacted so many lives in her native country.
Nelcia, who was severely injured in the 2010 earthquake, visited Food For The Poor’s Coconut Creek headquarters today to thank President/CEO Robin Mahfood for what the charity did to aid her recovery.
Nelcia, 20, came for a surprise celebration in honor of Mahfood’s birthday.
“My wish came true to meet Mr. Mahfood and to thank you for all that you have done,” Nelcia told Mahfood in front of an auditorium filled with Food For The Poor staff gathered for its weekly Thankful Thursday service.
Nelcia is a graduate of McArthur High School in Hollywood and now is a student at Florida Atlantic University in Davie, studying criminal justice. She aspires to become a lawyer to advocate for abused children.
Nelcia’s visit and the miracle of her recovery prompted Mahfood to share his meeting another orphan on a recent trip to Haiti to commemorate Food For The Poor’s 30th anniversary in the country. Like meeting Nelcia, it was another reminder, he said, about the lifesaving work Food For The Poor does to bring hope and transform lives.
“He came to the orphanage when he was 2 years old, but he’s now 24 and working for Food For The Poor at our office,” Mahfood said.
Nelcia, Mahfood said, is a “lovely, lovely person. We never know in life how many people we are touching and the lives we are changing.”
Food For The Poor works with 19 orphanages in Haiti as part of the Angels Of Hope program. Through this program, more than 1,100 children receive shelter, an education and loving care.
At the time of the quake, Nelcia was living in Food For The Poor’s Maison d’Amour girl’s home in Haiti and was returning to the orphanage. She was injured by a falling wall, sustaining two large gashes on her right ankle and exposed bone fractures. She initially was treated at a U.S. military tent hospital at the Port-au-Prince airport, then was put onto an Air Force plane that was evacuating critically injured patients to hospitals in Florida.
Nelcia was accompanied by Marie Yves, an administrator from the orphanage. Yves was wearing a blue Food For The Poor polo shirt, which caught the eye of soldiers who plucked them out of the crowd and hurried them onto the plane.
Nelcia was sent to All Children’s hospital in St. Petersburg where she underwent multiple surgeries. Because of generous donors, Food For The Poor was able to take care of her expenses.
“I used to hear Mr. Mahfood’s name all the time,” Nelcia said. “Other people would say they saw him, but I never did.” Until today.