The History of The Good Samaritan Foundation of Haiti (GSF)
In 1976 founder Michael Gardner was working to salvage a schooner "Bluenose" on the reef of Ile a Vache. Left alone on the island, he became ill. The island people and a Catholic priest nursed him back to health. 21 years later, Michael sailed to the island to find a way to give back. There he met Jean "Phelix" Joseph, whose dream was to build a free school on the island. Michael began to support Phelix's own education as a lawyer, while financing teachers' salaries at a tin-shanty school in Phelix's village, La Hatte.
In 2007, they created a Haitian non-profit. In 2008, Phelix qualified as a lawyer. A real school building became their main focus, and so Michael appealed to the Rotary Club of Tortola, British Virgin Islands, to build the school. In 2011 the Good Samaritan Foundation of Haiti became a US 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Dutch sailor Olaf Heginson donated a boat to serve the school, hauling food and supplies from the mainland, and doubling as a cargo business. A small micro loan program was also started (and now has become very successful with 360 members running small businesses from food stalls to fishing).
In 2012 the school building project was completed, starting with 117 students. The facilities included a 2500 gallon water cistern, a kitchen, and latrines. In 2015 the school was re-inaugurated and a 7th grade added, the refectory was converted into a 3 year kindergarten program, the kitchens were plumbed and fitted with bio-mass stoves. We now have 270 students.
Mandy Thody took on the administration of GSF in mid 2013. She lives in St. Croix, USVI, and had rebuilt and runs a Haitian school near Petit Goave - now GSF's second school IMECT, which also has 270 children. Mandy speaks French and Creole, and makes frequent trips to both schools in Haiti. She ensures that the programs are efficiently carried out, linking GSF to other Haitian groups that will be mutually beneficial, for our vocational education and sewing programs, the schools, microcredit, and literacy efforts, while hoping to boost responsible tourism in the area.
Our newest projects are spearheaded by Mandy, Phelix and Agronomist Anousse Paul, a GSF scholarship recipient who studied in Benin, Africa. In 2016, we built and stocked two large poultry houses, we are producing large quantities of meat and eggs, plus vegetables from our three demonstration fields, a tree planting program with moringa and many fruits, classes for farmers, a new well, and ten additional staff. This adds valuable protein and nutrition to the school diet and helps the elderly and handicapped with regular food supplies. We have reduced malnutrition levels to effectively zero, rabbits are thriving in our demonstration hutches, and we share skills and give breeding stock to local farmers. In 2017 we introduced bee-keeping and other new techniques to the farmers.
Michael began his journey from the Great Lakes of Michigan to the Caribbean as an apprentice treasure hunter turning the wooden hulls of shipwrecked vessels into beautiful handmade furniture for re-sale to the nautical collectors market.
He later discovered that the sheen on the shipwrecked furniture shone more brightly when hope entered the craftsmanship, and the working hands of the beautiful people of Haiti poured their love into the project. When he recognised that it wasn't the tattered wood but a shattered people, still managing to smile, that was making his adventure so rich, Michael felt a calling to give back.
Michael has been recognized many times by Rotary Clubs, both in Tortola and State-side, for his personal humanitarian endeavors over many years in the establishment and operation of The Good Samaritan Foundation of Haiti, Inc. His awards include the "Paul Harris Fellowship Award" - named after the founder of the Rotary organization some 100 years ago - by the Rotary Club of Tortola, British Virgin Islands.
Administrative Director of GSF since 2013.
Born in La Hatte, Ile La Vache, Phelix is the Co-founder and President of The Good Samaritan Foundation of Haiti, Inc. Married, and the father of 4 children, Phelix finished his studies in Haitian law at Ecole de Droit et des Sciences Economiques des Cayes. He is also Secretary of the Committee General for the Development of Ile a Vache. Phelix lovingly pours his life into the community of Ile a Vache for the betterment of the people for whom he cares.
He is the day-to-day manager of Good Samaritan Foundation in Haiti, and responsible for all reports and banking, overseeing the running of the school and other programs. Phelix and Michael Gardener joined hands to create The Good Samaritan Foundation of Haiti, Inc. and make it a positive force in troubled times.
Tristam was born on a traditional Puerto Rican sailboat in the BVI and grew up in the UK and around the Caribbean. He moved to Boston to study computer science and philosophy, before entering the tech industry. He lives in Seattle and, following a five year stint at Amazon, he now develops virtual reality technologies at Oculus.
Mandy grew up in England and South Africa, and has spent 30 years sailing and living in the Caribbean. After gaining experience working for several different organizations all over Haiti, before and after the earthquake, she adopted a ruined school (IMECT), rebuilt it and has run it since 2010 with donations from friends and fellow artists in the Virgin Islands. In 2014 she took on the task of expanding and streamlining GSF, now combined with her former group, '100% for Haiti'. Mandy speaks French and Creole, and makes frequent trips to stay at our projects, start new initiatives and develop programs. Under her leadership, GSF has become one of the most respected and fastest-growing development groups working in the areas where we operate.
Susan brings more than ten years of experience of designing and implementing biodiversity conservation projects on small Caribbean Islands (Virgin Islands). She holds an Msc in Economic Development (concentration: Environment) from Tulane University Law School’s Payson Center for International Development (New Orleans, Louisiana).