Imagine with me for a few minutes. All of those infomercials you have seen that try to raise support for poor people and countries are on. The grounds don’t have trees and it is literally just brown, dirt, and trash. Shacks made out of flimsy plastic and metal surround you with holes, dirt, and stray dogs wander around just skin and bones with obvious need for medical attention. Then, you zoom in on that one small child that looks at you with those eyes that you can’t help but feel weak in the knees.
Somehow these infomercials have lost a lot of their impact after so much exposure to them, but it is so much different when those eyes look directly at you in person. This area was everything I imagined it to be, but it was not at all how I thought I would feel. (I know I have said that before, but it is a new experience every day.)
I have the privilege of working with a group of youth called Líderes Defensores de Nuestro País. These youth literally live right next to a dump, but they come to Niños con Una Esperanza to help the kids with their homework, hand out snacks, and watch the kids at recess. The point of the Lideres program is to train the youth up to have leadership opportunities to later put on their resumes to make them more competitive when applying for jobs as well as making Niños a self-sustaining program amongst their community. The youth also have a meeting once a week to learn about leadership skills. Last summer I was placed with the youth working with Project Transformation in Dallas. I was a little nervous never having worked with youth before, but it ended up being the best summer of my life. How was I to know that only a few months later that experience would help me so much in supporting this community?
NCUE is also an extremely important stronghold in this area. They have the biggest recycling center in all of Santiago, which is huge. There really is not a push for recycling here and you see trash everywhere. Trash lines the sides of the roads, flows down rivers, and fills all the empty places you can think of. The environment is not a big deal here, but the recycling program not only helps support the environment but allows people to make money by bringing plastic to sell. It also provides jobs for people without the dangers of going out and working in the dump. A lot of times trucks in the dump will just run people over in order without looking where they are going. I am excited to see where this program continues to go!
As far as everything else goes, let me end on a bit lighter note by telling you about Denny. Oh dear, sweet Denny. Us gringos took a trip to Santo Domingo this weekend and ended up heading down to the beach for a little while to enjoy the Caribbean Sea. Here we sat beneath the shade of massive palm trees and chatted while sitting on logs and sand. During our chat, a guy came up and asked us if he could practice speaking English with us. (Smooth move, Denny. How could we say no?) The boys talked to him for a solid hour before I came over to see what they were talking about. It was then that I received my first marriage proposal. Please be on the lookout for our wedding invitations. No, I’m not really getting married. But if you ever meet Denny, remember that I have a boyfriend that conveniently shows up every time I meet a new Dominican who asks me if I’m taken! (I will say this will not work in every case. I once said I had a boyfriend and then the guy asked if I was married. When I said no, the advances began instantly afterwards. Use careful wording!) Until next time!