News Story

From Vacation to Humanitarian Foundation

While vacationing in the beautiful Dominican Republic, two women caught the vision of the difference they could make in the lives of families suffering from poverty. Louise ZoBell and Sandra Nelson, from Stirling, Alberta, are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are currently spearheading their vision as executive director and president of the Dominican Starfish Foundation.

“Little did we know,” says Nelson, “that a vacation in the beautiful Dominican Republic would lead to the establishment of a humanitarian foundation!”

ZoBell adds, “Our hearts have been given an increased meaning to the purpose of life as we associate with so many impoverished people in the Dominican Republic.”

Amarilis Urena Peralta, the foundation’s director in the Dominican Republic, is also a member of the Church and truly is the heart of the foundation. She manages the foundation’s work from within the Dominican Republic — from managing building projects to distributing clothing and shoes — all on a volunteer basis.

The name of the foundation is based on the story of a boy who, while walking along the beach, picks up starfish, one by one, and throws them back into the ocean. Likewise, one by one, the Dominican Starfish Foundation is touching lives and making a difference.

The foundation’s mission is to assist in providing food, clothing, shelter and basic needs for those suffering from poverty in the Dominican Republic. The generosity of individuals from Canada and the United States drives its operations. In 2016, $270,000 was donated for designated projects, including 10,000 pounds of clothing and school and household supplies. The foundation has also been active in constructing 46 homes, providing educational assistance to aspiring Dominicans and hosting groups of doctors, nurses and dentists, who provide free check-ups and treatments.

So, how does all this happen? One by one in Canada and the United States. One by one in the Dominican Republic. Whether it is two young girls in Edmonton, Alberta, collecting pop bottles and donations, or one young girl in Stirling, Alberta, collecting pennies, lives are being changed and hearts are being lifted one by one.

Mormon women ages 18 and over participate in an organization called Relief Society and are encouraged to provide support for those who are in need. Jean Bingham, recently called as general president of the Relief Society, said, “While our beliefs and convictions may vary, we are united with other faiths in our commitment to a higher cause that transcends our personal interests and motivates us to give of our substance, our time, and our energies on behalf of our fellow men and women” (speaking at the United Nations in New York City April 13, 2017, during a faith-based “Focus on Faith” panel discussion).

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.