Today was another incredible day in the DR seeing the work of compassion firsthand. We visited project DR710 and were all blown away by staff, kids, church and work happening here. I’ll share a brief overview and then leave you with a story that I think might stick with me. (for what it’s worth, there’s not enough space or time to write all of the things I wish I could share, but I’m sure you couldn’t read them all either!)
This project was in the North-West corner of Santa Domingo. The project has a sponsorship program (CDSP), Child Survival Program (CSP) and also has a CIV (Complementary Intervention… er… Complimentary Inter… Vention) project currently being built. Basically what that means is there’s a ton going on. CIV’s are special projects that are funded through donors that are requested by projects and go through a Compassion approval process – they’re aren’t tons of them as Compassion is mostly about sponsoring and supporting children, but they recognize that sometimes extra infrastructure is needed in a community to do this. We were greeted by a wonderful group of children again and taken into the church where we heard all kinds of great music (including My Heart Will Go On from a group of recorder students). The kids then went back to their classrooms and we heard what all happens at the project from the pastor, including an amazing vision of what the church hopes to do in the future and how they’re going to use their CIV project. The new building was still under construction, but was just a few buildings away so we headed over and he told us all about the extra space and the multiple uses for it, many revolving around a vocational training centre where community members can come and learn the skills necessary to get better jobs and break the cycle of poverty. We then stopped in on a CIV that was put in place 10 years ago – a water purification centre where they sell bottles of water for one third of the price that it is available for elsewhere. What an amazing way to serve the health of the community, as well as the opportunity for some in the church to resell the water with a small markup and make a living.
We then headed back to the project to serve all of the kids snacks and hear from another CSP director about the moms and babies in their community, and then to a classroom to see what a lesson was like. There were some amazing things said in that lesson, and it was so cool just to be a fly on the wall to see what these kids are learning. We then had a fantastic lunch with some of the students and the project staff, and after hanging out and really enjoying our time together, our team broke off into groups to do another home visit. The one that I went to (Rachel was at a different one) was again small and crowded, but hearing from the grandmother of the girl who attended the project and how they live and the hope they have was amazing. I also brought some balloons along today, so every time a child showed up (a common thing if you’re ever visiting projects!) I got to blow one up for them and see their faces light up. After we came back we played outside with the kids for a while and got to make up crazy games and see more kids faces light up yet again. So much fun.
That was a really brief interview and more fact than emotion, but I’m also going to share a story from lunch today. I had the privilege of sitting beside one of the older girls at the project – maybe 13 years old. I asked her name, but I’d be lying if I said I’d remember it as we hear so many names each day. I remember her face though – a pretty girls with her thick black hair pulled back into a bun on top of her head. She was clearly glad we were there but a bit shy and nervous as some of the children are (others are bouncing off of the walls and jumping on us, but that’s a different story). She had played a solo on the clarinet when we arrived – the only student to do something by themselves, and she was clearly a gifted musician. This project had what seemed to be a great music program (the music teacher was a few seats away and we also had an engaging conversation), and she was excelling in it. Compassion pays for her music lessons, and she has already learned a few instruments. We talked a bit through a translator about what kind of music we liked to listen to, our families, and what she hoped to be when she grows up. She hope to be either a musician or doctor, so I told her a bit about what I do and why I chose to study music. She was very bright. I then asked her about her sponsor, if she knew where they were from and if they wrote her often. She knew they were somewhere in the United States, but told me that she rarely hears from them. I told her that if I could I would tell them to write her more, and she told me that she has asked them to write her in the letters she writes them, but still hasn’t heard from them. It was a beautiful and heartbreaking moment – she was a beautiful bright girl who was clearly benefitting from the program, but also was lacking that extra level of encouragement, love and relationship that should be coming from her sponsors. I’m sure she’ll go on to succeed regardless, but I couldn’t help but wonder what she would be like if she had that love and support. Aren’t relationships what it’s about – isn’t this at the heart of the Gospel? God loves us, not just as a group he abstractly saves, but as individuals. He knows us intimately, and invite us to know Him too.
The sponsorship model if fantastic because it is based on relationship. Compassion isn’t asking sponsors just to give, but also giving them an opportunity to receive. That’s how relationships work – we learn and grow together. I’m not the same person I would be without my biological children, and I think that’s true of our sponsor children too. Tonight as I go to bed by heart is full, but I am also pleading to God that her sponsors would write that girl a letter and both she and they would know the joy that comes with loving each other more deeply and closely.