Dominican Republic with World Vision – Part Two

Heading to the first sponsored child's neighborhood

With the neighborhood kids at the sugar cane plantation housing

Nathan plays thumb wars with some of the boys

The crowd begins to grow

With our sponsored child, Melandia (in red), her mother, younger sister, and niece

Heading back to the ADP

With some of the ADP staff, Jean, and Claudia

Jean with her sponsored girl, Moreli, who really, really really loved her new doll!

One of the nutritional supplements for malnourished kids developed by World Vision

In the waiting room at the clinic

Seeing the pediatrician

Today was a great day. One of my favorite things when traveling is getting to go to real people’s homes – not to be a tourist, but to see and experience a little bit of how people really live. When traveling with World Vision, many times that is a hard experience because people are living in very difficult situations and circumstances, but getting to see the real needs in a country and in people’s homes and lives is what God has used to really wake me up to our responsibility to others in our world. James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Four of us on this trip chose to sponsor new kids in DR before we came so that we would be able to meet them and start the relationship that way. We spent the morning visiting the families and meeting our kids. When we were at the home of someone else’s sponsored child, we spent the time outside just playing with the neighborhood kids and learning more about what WV was doing in their neighborhoods.

We started at Joel Weldon’s sponsored child’s house. I was again amazed today at the variety of placements we saw. Her family lives in a rural area with very little greenery or ability to grow food. She was so beautiful, and had such a wonderful and supportive family. While he was meeting her, I was outside giving out stickers to the neighbor kids and taking their pictures to show them on my camera. They taught me the Spanish names for the stickers I was handing out, and my Spanish vocabulary basically tripled. 🙂

This was a hard stop stop for me, though, I confess. There was one boy in particular who I noticed quickly was a special needs child. His mother was very protective of him, as were his siblings. He was clearly loved. I kept thinking of all the resources we had had access to when my son, Toby, was little, and what a profound difference they made in his life. This boy really has access to nothing, and it was so clear to me that he was so valued by his mother – it must break her heart. That was the hardest thing I saw personally, and I cried as we left. It’s hard to go back to some of those feelings, and harder to think of the struggle of his family. World Vision has a specific program to support special needs children, and I really want to look into that more. If you are interested in supporting a child, click here.

After Joel’s family we went to a much more packed neighborhood to visit the sponsored child of Barb Christing, an author and speaker. This was also the neighborhood for our sponsored child. These homes are basically barracks built to house the workers on the sugar cane plantations. Nearly all of the people living here now are of Haitian descent. Their families came over a few generations ago to work the plantations, and were never able to leave. These people are held in the grip of generational poverty, and there is really no way without help to get that hand up to get out.

As Barb met her sponsored child, we played with many children in the neighborhood. Word spread, and there were close to 50 by the time we left. We moved on to our sponsored child’s home, but the kids followed the bus and more people joined. By the time we got to our sponsored child, Melandia’s home, there were so many children that they were getting concerned about safety. We missed most of that since we went in to meet her, but it also was sobering to think that there were so many who had so little that a free sticker would draw enough people to be concerned about trampling.

When we got to Melandia’s home, we met her, her younger sister, her mother, and her little niece. Their home was made of cinder block, about 10 feet wide and two rooms deep. Melandia was feeling so shy, which made a lot of sense considering how much attention our group had drawn, and we were able to draw her out a little more by telling her about our kids and how shy they would be, and talking about her dog. We had brought her letters from our children and a picture of our family as well as some school supplies and other presents and the groceries for her family. The first thing she brought out to show us was the first letter we had written her.

It was wonderful to meet her and we are so excited to have a relationship with her, but what really struck me was her mother. Her mom stood to the side and watched everything, such a big smile on her face. She was so proud of her daughter, and even more than that, she was so happy for her. I could tell she was expecting us to realize what an amazing daughter she had, and she was so pleased for her to have the support. It was exactly how I would have felt about my children in her place. I felt very connected with her, and for me, it’s always that connection with the parents’ feelings that make me want to help even more. We aren’t just here for Melandia, but also for her family and for her community. Leaving was hard, but we will write and we will pray, and I know that meeting her and having her meet us will make our relationship so much more real.

We left that neighborhood then to go to a more developed area. Jean’s sponsored child lived down the street from a school and she had stayed home that day to meet Jean. She was such a beautiful little girl with a sparkling personality, and when she was asked what she wanted to do when she grew up, she immediately said, “I will be a doctor, and I love school!” Her story was very sad. Her mother had remarried, and often in that situation, the man will accept his new wife but not her children. Fortunately, she has an aunt her took her in, and also seemed to be extremely loving and proud of her. I give her aunt a lot of credit – she had taken in several other children as well to keep the family together, even though it was hard for us to see how she would ever support them.

After this we went to the ADP office to meet the staff, and then onto the medical clinic World Vision was running in the area. The waiting room was packed, and we learned that was because the shipment of nutritional supplements for malnourished children was in, and many families were waiting to get their new supply. At the clinic they had a pediatrician’s office, an OBGYN, and a blood testing station which they were so thankful for – they told us several times how helpful it had been both for HIV testing and also for all kinds of other diseases. Upstairs there were classrooms, and they do a lot of community education about health issues there.

By this time we were running far behind schedule and had to cancel our last stop at a bakery school. We were all sorry about that! But we still had the 3 hour aka 5 hour trip back to Santo Domingo that night. On the way we heard a couple of other stories from people on the trip. It’s been really fun to hear how God has transformed the lives of the people with us on this trip and how He has put them into ministry.

Checking into the hotel tonight was a serious culture shock. This hotel is completely modern and comfortable, and very nice. There is an area of Santo Domingo that looks wonderful, but we know tomorrow that we will only have to drive a few minutes to see desperate poverty. I am uncomfortable in this very comfortable room. So often, we are immune to our wealth in the U.S. Our family lives a very middle class life in our country, but compared to the world, that still puts us in the top 1%. Our translator, Claudia, told us that when she was growing up, a wealthy person was someone who was able to eat three times a day and who didn’t have to sleep on the floor because they owned a mattress. Right now I’m in a room with two beds and triple sheeting, and if I weren’t where I am, I wouldn’t have given that a second thought. This is hitting me hard tonight.

Want to see more pictures? Check out the whole album here!

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