Suzy Whitfield

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Showing Up and Showing You Care

Posted by on in Nonprofit Success Stories
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Vision for Haiti Foundation

*photo credit: Sandra Wong Geroux

Organization: Village of Vision for Haiti Foundation/Foundation Enfant Jesus (VVHF) is a non-sectarian organization focused on addressing and solving key life sustaining problems that plague the people of Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.  VVHF runs a micro-community that includes an orphanage, a school, which also supports the local community, a medical clinic as well as a newly organized support camp for 100 mothers who have become amputees as a result of the earthquake.


Key Success Factor: Local drive and resolve combined with the commitment of global resources from individuals, families, corporations and governments bring success to those who rely on and work for VVHF.


Gina Duncan and her family, who founded VVHF, have spear headed and financed the initial development of VVHF but the recent earthquake changed their ability to sustain the organization. Now they rely on outside donations of time, skills and resources to sustain the village and surrounding communities that rely on it.


Upcoming Objectives:

  • Encourage more teams of people to travel to Haiti, stay at VVHF and get involved – not just doctors or builders but people who just want to play with the kids, talk to the Moms, teach Yoga, help fix toys or assemble bicycles…
  • Raise donations of not only money but also tangible goods (clothes, toys, books, music, nail polish, medical supplies etc.) and things that help women and children feel normal and cared for again
  • Coordination of funding for both long and short-term milestones.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Suzi Gurry who recently organized and led a trip with 9 other volunteers to spend a week at the Lamardelle based VVHF compound, 12 rough miles from Port Au Prince. Suzi and her family are very involved with VVHF on various levels from fundraising to providing medical services. However, Suzi wanted to connect on a personal level and, with the help of people at VVFH, worked tirelessly to coordinate the efforts and logistics for this team of ten volunteers.

This article can only hope to reflect the emotional, spiritual and physical impact this group of ten women from Chicago and other parts of the US made on the people who live in the village or to express the depth of personal reward each volunteer experienced as a result of the trip. Suzi and the others were not sure exactly what skills they were bringing to the village but each found her own way to engage, connect and give.


Suzi’s message was clear. Just being there made a difference. These 10 women travelled to Haiti with suitcases full of clothes, toys, lollipops, books and nail polish and they came back with a profound emotional bond with the women and children who now call VVHF home.  This bond is in addition to the anticipated respect and admiration for the people who work so hard to run the village.


Gina Duncan is the founder and driving force behind VVHF. Her vision, family support and hard work have made the village what it is today – a thriving micro community complete with school, church, orphanage, medical clinic and, most recently, an amputee camp.


Amputee Camp

VVHF is a new home for 100 women who suffered amputations as a result of the recent earthquake. Not only is VVHF caring for the women’s immediate physical needs but is also taking care of their children. Additionally, as part of coming to the Lamardelle site, the women receive psychological support to help them work through their traumas, learn to care for themselves and families again and even learn new practical skills.


Suzi and the other volunteers from the U.S. who visited the village became particularly close with the women (fellow mothers) in the village. These women were working hard to care for their families, mostly alone, with little support and with fresh, physically devastating injuries. Most of the women were new to the camp and unsure of what was next. The US team, also new and unsure, was able to sense what was needed and spontaneously began to spend time with these women, give them manicures, take their photos, listen to music and even share a laugh – a rare and important gift.


Beyond spending time with the amputees, the volunteer team gave massages and taught Yoga. The massage therapy was so gratefully received that many of the amputees wanted to learn how to do it themselves.  The amputees were equally enthusiastic about learning yoga. They were keen to do yoga next to American women and copy their moves.  Suzi added “their self-esteem was rising right before our eyes. The amputees loved it so dearly. We could definitely use more women with these skills to make the trip.”



80 Children are being raised at VVHF. This orphanage is one of 33 officially recognized and sanctioned orphanages in Haiti. Before the earthquake more than 1,500 orphanages were in operation in villages and towns across Haiti but of those only 60 were official – now only 33 remain.


Suzi and her fellow volunteers helped the hard working staff by sorting out bags of donated clothes, playing soccer with the children, blowing bubbles or playing “cars”, and even holding babies who just needed to be held.



The school serves the orphanage but is also a community resource that provides education and two meals a day to over 500 children. The team of volunteers brought books and created a small library that will be enjoyed, not only by the local children, but also by their parents as they too learn to read.


Other Resource/Projects

The Japanese Government has generously donated a new Medical Clinic. This clinic, while located within the VVFH compound, will be a Free Clinic for the entire community of Lamardelle and will run on the generous donations of supplies and skills of doctors and medical staff from around the world. The first medical team to use the clinic arrives in late January 2011.


A new Receiving House (where mothers can safely give up their children for adoption) is being planned and generously donated by the US Green Builders Council, Project Manager Mike Mahon and, Chicago Architect Ann Clark. The new LEED certified building will be part of VVFH, but located in Port Au Prince where the earthquake destroyed their old Receiving House.


These projects are huge, generous donations by large organizations and will play an important role in the future of VVFH. The message from Suzi and the rest of the US team was clear, that is showing up and being willing to play, sing, laugh, do yoga or roll up your sleeves for the residents of VVHF is equally important.


To donate funds or to learn more about being part of a team to personally reach out and play a role in the future of VVHF please contact



Blog posted from Chicago, IL 60664, USA View larger map
or roughly 20 years, Suzy enjoyed working with large multinational financial institutions for IBM. In her role as relationship manager she was in charge sales and delivery of multifaceted contracts and overall customer satisfaction. Suzy has been involved with non-profit fundraising for more than 20 years and has worked on the Youth Board of Children's Memorial Hospital as well as boards for educational institutions.

More recently, Suzy spent a couple of years working and volunteering with various environmental non-profit organizations in Chicago including the Alliance for the Great Lakes and the Chicago Climate Action Plan. She also studied non-profit management and marketing at the University of Chicago. With that background and interest, Suzy joined SocialRaise to help non-profits be successful by leveraging technology, social media and focusing on the mission rather than the technology itself.

Suzy has a BA in English and German from the University of Michigan and an MIM focused on Marketing from Thunderbird, School of Global Management in Phoenix, AZ.

Suzy currently lives in the Old Town neighborhood of Chicago with her husband and sons. She is actively involved with fundraising for the local public school and other local organizations. When not trying to keep customers happy, raise funds or get children to karate or baseball she and her family like to travel - both in the US and abroad.