Helping Haitian Angels
Our guest blogger this week is Jeff Civillico, Las Vegas Headliner, TV & Live Host Personality, and Philanthropist
On March 7, 2020, I’m hosting the “Celebrate Kanaval: The Rhythm of Haiti Gala & Auction” fundraising event to benefit the nonprofit organization Meds & Food for Kids.
I first learned about this inspiring nonprofit at a corporate event where I was performing for a company incentive trip in Panama City, Panama. MFK had a presence there, and I met MFK Founder Dr. Pat Wolff and Vice President & Chief Mission Officer Stephanie Grant over lunch. The passion they had for their work was contagious, and I immediately wanted to get involved!
As a part of my collaboration with MFK, I agreed to travel to Haiti to perform for the children there in schools and orphanages where MFK provides Medika Mamba, Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food to treat malnutrition, and Vita Mamba, their school snack. In my role as Emcee of this fundraiser, I knew I would be asking attendees to support this organization financially. What better way to prepare myself to speak from the heart than to go to Haiti, visit the MFK factory and staff, and see MFK in action at schools in Haiti. In addition, I have always loved traveling and exploring new places and cultures, and anyone who knows me, knows I have a soft spot for performing for children in all circumstances. I was excited about this opportunity!
I had never been to Haiti. I was aware of the natural beauty of the country, the rich culture and the friendliness of Haitians, but I was also aware of the abject poverty and corruption that has plagued the country for so many years now.
As we pulled up to the first show at Helping Haitian Angels school and orphanage, I expected many things – poor roads, insufficient classrooms and materials, overcrowding, malnutrition – all the negatives. What I did not expect was the amount of pure love and joy pouring out of these children. How is it that these children can be so genuinely happy with so little? No air conditioning, minimal school supplies, no phones, no iPads, no gaming consoles, no TV, no internet. No conveniences of modern living, way too little food. But they were still kids – really, really happy kids – yelling, laughing, running around, playing.
As I was setting up for my show, the staff was organizing the distribution of the Vita Mamba supplement provided by MFK. In the minutes leading up to receiving a food supplement that in many cases was actually saving their lives, the children were full-out singing and dancing, doing a call and response song and dance with their teacher… quite literally and physically emitting joy. If you had closed your eyes, you would have thought you were at Disney World or Chuck-E-Cheese. You would never in a million years guess you were in Haiti with children about to receive a sachet of fortified peanut butter paste, that in some cases could be their only meal of the day. It was remarkable to witness.
This was quite possibly the best audience I have ever had. The children squealed with happiness, jumping up and down with every trick. Although I couldn’t communicate verbally with this audience, we were in sync every step of the way. I kept hearing a certain Haitian phrase repeated over and over again by the kids, and after asking the teacher what it meant she said it translated to: “unreal, unreal.” Not affected by internet and TV, not jaded by having “seen it all,” they were able to experience my show in pure wonder. Afterwards, the children ran up to me and wanted me to pick them up one at a time. I must have lifted up 100 kids that day, each of them shouting with delight!
How is it that I can find myself in a bad mood, irritated by one inconvenience in my day. One trivial nuance – traffic, weather, an email – can ruin my spirits, sending my day into a tailspin. These children, born into some of the most challenging situations in the world, were literally singing with joy. Their gratitude for what they did have, their mental fortitude, their ability to see the good in life and each other, was all truly inspirational.
As I saw the Helping Haitian Angels sign at the front entrance on the way out, I couldn’t help seeing the name of the orphanage in a different way than I had on the way in. Sure, I guess I had helped those “Haitian Angels” by bringing them some levity and a new experience … but they were the real “Helping Haitian Angels” that day… helping ME to be more grateful for what I have, more respectful of others, and more generous with my time, talent, and treasure.
About Jeff Civillico
Jeff Civillico is a Las Vegas Headliner, TV & Live Host Personality, and Philanthropist. He recently celebrated 10 years headlining on the Las Vegas Strip with Caesars Entertainment, having performed his award-winning, clean “Comedy in Action” show at The LINQ, The Flamingo, and The Paris Hotel & Casino. Jeff is the Founder & Chairman of Win-Win Entertainment, a 501c3 national nonprofit based in Las Vegas that creates opportunities for professional performers to share their time and talent with children in need. Jeff serves on the board of several organizations including his alma mater Georgetown University, Las Vegas Academy of the Arts high school, Nevada Medical Center and The Greater Good Council of Las Vegas. Learn more about Jeff Civillico.