About The Samaritan Foundation

What began with a wrong turn and the discovery of a heart-wrenching reality has resulted in over 25 years of helping the Dominican Republic's poorest people find home and hope.

Our Mission

Our core purpose is to provide housing for the poor in the Dominican Republic. Not just to build a structure, but to build a new life for this community and keep it growing. We will continue to build villages for the people with a complete infrastructure including water, electricity, roads, schools, medical facilities, churches, and opportunities for vocational training. We don't plan on stopping until the Lord says so—will you be a part of His mission?

Founder's Corner

The Samaritan Foundation was born in 1988 after Elio and Lena Madonia first visited the Dominican Republic. Before retiring, Elio founded Brio soft drink bottling company, as well as Long Life of Canada, a product that popularized coffee creamers in North America.

The story began the day Elio took a walk outside his vacation resort during that visit, where he made a “wrong turn that turned out to be very right.” He remembers, “I was strolling along the streets of Sosua when I was struck by the extreme poverty…no running water, no electricity, and barely a roof over their heads.”

Elio sensed the Lord telling him, “What will you do for these families?" He answered, “My Lord, I will give them each a house.” Subsequently, Elio bought a plot of land and built Villa Maranatha, a village of 25 homes that were donated to the families that Elio first met. Elio and Lena’s initial trip to the Dominican Republic was intended to be a time of relaxation, however, 28 years later, their initial act of compassion has transformed the landscape in Sosua and deeply impacted the lives of many individuals.

You can read more about Elio’s personal journey in his book, Divine Passion to Help Others.

Our Journey


Elio and Lena Madonia build their first house. The village is now called Maranatha


Second health clinic is built to serve Villa Betania, Villa Trinidad, and Villa Redencion


Villa Ascension, our first village outside of Sosua is built, along with our first vocational school


The Huizinga's leave Dundas, Ontario for the Dominican Republic, serving as Mission Director and later as President


Our first full-service village, Villa Spruceland, is built, providing a vocational school, housing, churches, a full medical clinic, a school, and complete agricultural programs


The Government of Canada grants official charitable status to The Samaritan Foundation


Our 1000th home is donated to a new family


Our first drug and alcohol rehab centre opens


The Samaritan Foundation's first year to donate 100 homes in a single year


Villa Samaritano, The Samaritan Foundation's largest village, is built, housing 300 families


Our first hospital, Grace Children's Hospital, receives building permit approval


Over the last 28 years The Samaritan Foundation has built:

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Vocational Schools

Our Leadership

Dave Melnick


Ben Sawatzky

Chairman of the Board

Ben is the Chairman of the board and resides in Alberta, Canada. Ben started Spruceland Millworks in December 1982, overseeing the company’s strategic relationships and operations as CEO. Ben provides leadership for The Samaritan Foundation and has also been instrumental in bringing awareness of the Foundation to many individuals and companies across the world. Ben and his family, through their Family Foundation, have been involved in national and international ministry for over 25 years, with a strong partnership with The Samaritan Foundation since 2007.

Tore Stautland

Board Member

Tore is the founder and CEO of The Trillennium Media Group Inc. (TMGInc), Canada’s largest faith-based independent television production and media company. For over two decades, Tore’s philanthropic focus has included participating in community development programs with an emphasis on children’s health and education in continental Africa, South America, Asia, and the Caribbean. Tore is currently overseeing all aspects of the Foundation’s upcoming Grace Children’s Hospital.

Phil Donne

Board Member

Phil served as President at Campbell Company of Canada of Campbell Soup Company from 2002 until he retired in 2014, where he was responsible for the strategic business direction and overall leadership of Campbell Canada, the Canadian subsidiary of Campbell Soup Company. He accumulated over 20 years of experience in the packaged goods industry in both Canada and Europe, including more than 15 years with Kellogg Canada Inc., where he held the position of President and Chief Executive Officer. Through his role at Campbell’s Soup, Phil was instrumental in introducing the Foundation to Free the Children, whose partnership included building the Asher School in Puerto Plata.


  • Can work teams come to the Dominican Republic to help build?

    Yes! We have approximately 30 teams come every year to help build everything from homes to schools.

  • What area in the Dominican Republic do you operate?

    We operate mainly in the Puerto Plata and Sosua area on the north coast.

  • Does The Samaritan Foundation receive any financial assistance from the Dominican Republic government?

    No. All operations are based 100% on charitable donations.

  • Is education free for children in the villages?

    Yes. Vocational and academic programs operate based on charitable donations and minimal government support. We also partner with other charities to provide a more robust curriculum.

  • How does someone get a free home?

    Individuals are required to follow a strict application process starting with a meeting at The Samaritan Foundation offices. There is an independent selection committee that verifies all applications. Once approved, their name is included for a yearly random draw.

  • What do we do?

    Our basic mission is to provide homes for the poorest people in the Dominican Republic. However, in most of our villages, we also build community centres, health clinics, schools and playgrounds.

  • Our Work

    We’ve been working in the Dominican for over two decades, building complete villages to provide extremely poor communities access to shelter, education, church facilities, and medical treatment. See the many ways we have been able to come alongside the Dominican people.

    View Our Projects

    Get Involved

    Any impact made through our efforts would not be possible if not for the prayer and financial donations that are faithfully and generously contributed to us. Choose from one of our many ways to support this mission, as specifically or broadly as you choose.

    Make A Donation

    Be Inspired

    We are frequently told stories of how people were affected by the work of The Samaritan Foundation in the Dominican Republic. The hope that is found within these stories is what drives us to do all that we do, and we hope these stories encourage you to join us in this mission.

    Watch Some Stories