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About The Samaritan Foundation

What began with a wrong turn

and the discovery of a heart-wrenching reality has resulted in over 33 years of helping the Dominican Republic's poorest people find home and hope.

Keep The Story Going!

Our Mission

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?

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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



Nest of Love school, receives a 2nd level. Began building homes in our 14th village villa Progreso.


  • Juan Calvino School in Esperanza received an additional building with 8 classrooms, villa Samaritano 2 was finished with 107 homes and office expansion completed with Aspire offices.

  • A basketball court was built in the village of Progresso.

  • In February John and Jane Huizinga returned to Canada after serving for 10 years.

  • Dave Melnick took on the role as President for Samaritan Foundation CANADA and his wife Jean became the Mission Director.


  • Started building Grace Paediatric Medical Centre, and completed community centre in villa Progreso.

  • Construction of Grace Paediatric Centre was started.

  • In the village of Paraiso we completed building a new school for 120 students.

  • In the village of Rio De Vida, the road and water systems for phase 1 construction was installed.
    Samaritano 1 received a playground beside the Church.

  • At our office in Paraiso the grand opening for Aspire took place. Aspire is a financial institution for banking and micro loans for the community.

  • In January of 2019, the pavilion at Rio De Vida was made available to Pastor David to have a place to hold Church. In a short 6 weeks’ time it was renovated and open to do God’s work.



  • We were able to complete 56 new house builds in Rio De Vida.

  • Started construction of phase 2 school building in Paraiso, to hold another 120 students. 

  • In March Covid struck. We started an Emergency Care Fund to feed and help the people in our villages the best we could. 

  • Construction continues at Grace Paediatric Medical Centre.


  • Construction continues at Grace Paediatric Medical Centre. 

  • Phase 2 of road and water installation in the Village of Rio De Vida has begun along with house construction. 

  • From generous donations we are able to continue with Emergency Care


Our Leadership

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Dave & Jean Melnick


Dave & Jean are from the Niagara area in Ontario, Canada. Dave ran his construction company for over 30 years. Twenty of those years were in Parry Sound and the remainder in the Niagara region. For many of those years Jean did the bookkeeping for the construction company. Prior to them arriving in the Dominican Republic Jean was the sole care giver to Daves aging parents.

Dave & Jean have lived their lives being involved in their home church. Lakemount Worship Centre is where they attended when they felt God call them to the mission field. The initial commitment was for 2 years but in December 2017 we felt called to take on the roll of directors which extends that timeline indefinitely.

Levi Giesbrecht

Board Member

Levi was co-founder of Spruceland Millworks BC in 1984 and has since been a member  of numerous successful businesses. The most recent was president and owner of the Vancouver College of Massage Therapy. Levi’s passion is building a collaborative team and bringing ideas together to create a successful enterprise. Levi has been on numerous annual home building projects with the Foundation, including leading several groups. This has given him a good perspective of the the great needs and how well the organization is managed. Levi is now also the board representative on the Samaritan Foundation family selection committee.

John Madonia

Board Member

John’s career in the food industry began in 1993 as a partner in Westrow Food Group, a brokerage company. He is one of the founders of Create a Treat Ltd., where he lead the company’s growth and strategic objectives until the company sold in 2016 to Give and Go Foods. He continues as a Vice President with Give and Go and as a partner in Westrow. As the son of our founder, Elio Madonia, John is excited to bring his entrepreneurial skills to further the work of the Samaritan Foundation.

Matt Tapley

Board Member

Matt Tapley has been the Lead Pastor of Lakemount Worship Centre in Grimsby, Ontario since 2008.  He is a gifted leader who serves the Church by developing leaders in a culture of dependence on the Spirit with full devotion to the unchanging Word of God.  He frequently travels Canada as an insightful preacher, anointed worship leader and a keen contributor to leadership team environments.  Matt’s commitment to the Manifest Presence of God and the healing gifts of the Holy Spirit are a catalyst for stirring renewed faith for the “more” of God wherever he ministers

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.

Ben Sawatzky

Board Member

Tore is the founder and CEO of The Trillennium Media Group Inc. (TMGInc). 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.


How do I sponsor a child to go to school?

Visit Childcare International to get more information

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

Yes! We have approximately 20 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.

How do I sponsor a child to go to school?

Through our partner organization, Childcare International, you may sponsor a child to go to school in one of our villages.

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 quarterly 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.
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