Day Three: The Building Continues
I'm going to say it again: What a day! (I'm posting late, so I'm actually talking about Thursday)
I cannot begin to convey to you the spirit of the people here, especially the children. I guess at a certain age you don't know you are lacking some of life's luxuries, or in this case necessities, like access to clean water and adequate shelter, toilet facilities and education. These are things we take for granted and are basic human rights.
Today I met a community leader who is making a difference. Sandra N. Timeo, who is called the Mother Teresa of the community, has created a foundation called the Garden of Light and has spearheaded the building of a school, church, boys and girls programs, a clinic and a women's cooperative that sells their handmade goods in a local shop. (In this picture she is given a list by a local construction worker.)
Sandra grew up in Aguas Negras and is a single mother of four children, aged 19, 17, 15 and 12, and is loved and respected by all who know her. When we were introduced to each other by Christal Earle of LiveDifferent, she gave me a big hug and put her hands together in prayer and told me that she loved me and we (the build group) were an answer to her prayers.
The school, which goes up to Grade 4 or 12 years old (whichever comes first) is about to get a second floor, meaning that the children won't have to bused out of the community to continue their education. And although admission to the school is free (it gets no government funding), children must buy their own uniforms and books, which can be a barrier to many families getting their young ones a prized education.
For many here, they know that education is the way out of the barrio and a key to their future. Sandra tells me there are about 1,000 families living in Aguas Negras – about 4,000 people – and there are 258 children attending the school with 10 teachers, and 36 girls and 22 boys in the clubs she runs. Teachers at her school are paid about the equivalent of $60 a month for a half day of classes and $120 a month if they work both morning and afternoon shifts.
The school is funded by private donations, with the bulk coming from Project of the Americas, with Ridge Point Community Church in Holland, Mich., their main source of funds. The church provides enough money to cover the teachers' salaries.
“I'm blessed because God gives me many people to help my community,” Sandra says in her acceptable English, although most of our conversation has been facilitated by Earle.
The Garden of Light is about to celebrate it's ninth anniversary and Sandra is proud of her work. She may be like Mother Teresa, but she is a saint in her own right.
On Thursday night, the Canadian ambassador to the Domican Republic, Todd Kuiack, and his wife Christine, joined us for dinner and headed out into the community to help with the building on Friday. The ambassador's presence has also brought out the local media ... I'll report on that later.
Also check back here later today, I'll be posting on Day Four shortly. Also check out OHBA's Dave Henderson's blog at www.humanitarianbuild.com.