I really haven't had time to reflect on how our project has affected the children all that much, but a few moments made me begin. Before our project, many politicians and some good-hearted tourists had come to Barrio Blanco promising to return with help. None arrived. Ever. No charities have arrived; no Save the Children, no Red Cross. No one came to help. And nothing had changed except the barrio expanded as the poorest people in Northern Dominicana and many from Haiti arrived and erected more rusted scrap-metal shacks. Men are hungry for work in Barrio Blanco. For food. For their families. The feeling in this place was one of despair. Does this affect the children? That their parents live with little hope?
The Hope for a Better Life. This is a village of squatters. Before our project they were under constant threat by
the Tourism areas of government to be bulldozed onto the street.
At the beginning of the project we got written permissions from the federal department who controls title,
and the Mayor of Cabarete to "build as many new homes as we can". That was the first step.
The second step was driving Regina, Angela, Hector to a hardware supplier and getting some of our first tools to build. Before we rode into the barrio with the tools, everyone had heard that I was planning the project. But they'd heard words before. On this day, we drove into Barrio Blanco with a wheelbarrow and shovels hanging out the back of my car trunk. People sitting around whose eyes had been looking down looked up!
I swear that I saw the change in some of those eyes at that moment. I felt the beginnings of hope in Barrio Blanco. For some, it would mean new homes. For others, paid work. For all, it was new positive change.
And the barrio pitched in. The first home we built was for Domingo Kin's family. One day I counted 37 people in the community working on his home at once. Even the children got into it. At a pause when the adults who were demolishing his shack stopped, a dozen little children 4 to 8 years old decended on the lot to help. The photo in my mind is two little girls filling buckets with debris and struggling to unload them in my wheelbarrow. They put their hearts into it.
The second moment that gave me pause to reflect on the children was actually two. First, I saw two little girls around 5 years old playing
on the newly painted porch of Angela and Leandro's home. They were hiding, and they were adorable and having fun.
The second moment happened 15 feet away. There were 7 or 8 kids around the same age playing amidst garbage in the obviously tough environment.
It made me ask "How does it shape a person's life to grow up surrounded with poverty versus a pleasant environment?"
I really don't know...time will tell, but it must be part of who you become, and what you dream of. Would your dreams be the same as they are if you had grown up in poverty like this? I've read that in the US anyway, that when we grow up we often develop an internal standard for what we feel our home should be as adults, and that this standard is based on our family homes where we each grow up. Our expectations. If this is at all true, then the children who grow up in our new homes will not settle lightly for living their adulthoods in shacks. And so on their children.