Beyond Charity: The Philosophy of Elio Madonia
As much as we enjoy all the comforts and luxuries of Western society, there is still ample strife and chaos that afflict people across the globe. It’s easy to ignore the problems within our own country, and even easier to ignore the problems outside it. We may say we care, but we really don’t, else we would do something about it. Indeed, there are very few people willing to step up and really make a difference. Elio Madonia is one of those few.
Madonia is head of The Samaritan Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to building homes for the poor – and I mean very poor – in the Dominican Republic. While vacationing in the Dominican in 1988, Madonia and his wife Lena took a wrong turn and stumbled upon the slums of the small village Charamicos – a terrible and unbearable sight. Maybe it was the right turn. Compelled to act, Madonia knew something had to be done, but where to start?
“We looked around and found a pastor of a small church in the area. We visited every member of his church who lived in the same area. I decided that I was going to build simple homes for everyone of the  families … so that’s what we did,” recalls Madonia.
This village, Maranatha, would be the first of many that Madonia built. Today, the village has bloomed into a community of over 800 homes, a church, medical clinic, elementary school and trade school. Where once a slum barely stood, a community now flourishes.
Word rapidly spread of Madonia’s deeds and momentum grew. While continuing this personal endeavour, he was contacted by a sympathizer in Toronto who wanted to support this noble cause.
“That was really the beginning of the mission, because prior to that it was a personal thing. I did it with my own funds, I wasn’t looking for sponsors or looking for anything – I just did what I thought I should do,” Madonia explains.
With the support of various partners from Canada, the United States, England, Australia and others, Madonia evolved his work from a personal undertaking into a focussed mission to provide those in need with the essentials of life.
Since starting the foundation over 20 years ago, Madonia is responsible for building nine villages, totalling over 1,000 homes. This tireless work may seem more like a burden than a reward, but nothing could be further from the truth.
“It’s not a sacrifice, believe me. When people feel sorry for me that I’ve spent the last two years mostly in the Dominican Republic, I say to them: ‘Don’t feel sorry for me, wish that you could have done it, too.’ Because what I’ve had are the greatest years of my life,” says Madonia.
That is just the man Madonia is. His unrivalled faith and constitution is a testament to what a human can accomplish when those qualities are coupled with unwavering love. His wisdom and passion surpasses the material world, recognizing the everyday objects we so desperately crave only offer mere illusions of real happiness.
“There is more to life then what material goods we have in this country,” says Madonia. “Real joy does not come from having a new car – you’re happy for just a short while then you forget it … it’s all temporary. Real joy comes from when you are able to do something of lasting value for somebody that you don’t even know,” says Madonia, author of Divine Passion to Help Others, a book that touches on his life and how he uses his faith to guide him.
The epitome of caring and compassion, Madonia embodies a virtue that few of us can only hope to achieve. A man so passionate, he is moved to tears when describing the joy he sees in the eyes of families he helps, or how proud he is of his own family’s accomplishments – including grandchildren who donate half their Christmas money to The Samaritan Foundation every year.
“He is a very sincere man. There are many people that will help others for their own gain, or to boost their public perception, but he has a genuine compassion for those he is helping regardless of who is watching,” says Steve Bruno, a volunteer who worked alongside Madonia in the Dominican Republic. “He is extremely approachable and very gracious, never showing off his past accomplishments. I look up to his strong faith and tireless efforts to help those in need.”
Although he is a man of faith, his love for fellow human beings goes beyond religion. We can frown at the television as disaster befalls on the misfortunate of the world, but we eventually change the channel as the safety and security of our warm houses with two cars proudly parked on our driveways protect us. Yet in this sea of selfishness stands a man more then willing to dip into his own pocket and give not just money, but blood and sweat to help those in need: a man who asks for nothing but gives everything. If there was ever a lesson we should teach our children, it’s this simple passage that is most dear to Madonia: “Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you.” This plain yet powerful universal message is forgotten far too often, but a man like Madonia is here to remind us.