Food blogger Melissa Bailey (Hungry Food Love) grew up in the Dominican Republic, and returned to her homeland last week with the World Vision Bloggers!
Take a tour of eight stories she experienced that nourished her soul, and the top five things she learned about World Vision.
Visiting the Dominican Republic, where I am currently writing from, has always been a big deal. I was born and raised in this beautiful country, and even though I no longer live here, this will always be my home. When I plan a trip back, I spend every minute daydreaming about what I will get to do, see, and try during my stay.
This time, getting ready for the trip with World Vision was no different. I was ecstatic, especially about the opportunity to get to see what World Vision is doing in my country. But as a foodie and native that badly misses her land, I have to admit I was also really, really looking forward to eating ALL the local food, which I knew we would get to eat. What I did not imagine was that besides arroz con habichuelas, I was also going to find so much food for my soul.
What nourishes my soul?
Every time I am in situations driven by any of the below, my heart gets overjoyed. But after witnessing the incredible impact created by World Vision in so many impoverished communities, a strong and intense light has been ignited within like nothing I’ve experience before. This is because I learned that when you sponsor a child through World Vision you are transforming the life of more than just your sponsored child, and you get to see true change happen.
I recently shared on Snapchat my top 5 highlights of getting to know World Vision and their work on this trip. Here they are:
- Your sponsorship contribution does not just benefit one child, it benefits all the children in the community.
- Within a community, you are not just helping children. Men and women from any race and nationality get opportunities to improve their life and be part of a better and safe community for the children.
- World Vision goes really far to areas that may have been forgotten or no one else is helping.
- Through follow up and caring interactions, World Vision goes above and beyond to identify those that need help the most.
- World Vision offers customized solutions tailored to the needs of each community.
Having witnessed this is what has fed my soul during this trip, and here are the stories that touched me the most:
Honelis, 22, is a former sponsored child who is now a credit advisor for VisionFund, World Vision’s microfinance banking institution. Hunger and sleepless nights didn’t stop him from moving forward. World Vision provided him access to technology through computer training classes and he eventually became a volunteer teacher at the computer lab. He also took part in World Vision leadership training where he learned public speaking.
Honelis says that without the knowledge he received from World Vision, he probably would have been a construction worker or motor taxi driver. Honelis is very active in his church, and while we were visiting his home, the presence of the Lord was so intense as Honelis expressed what has made him so strong in his faith.
Loving One Another
The beekeeper association is a group of 15 farmers who were looking for a way to earn extra income. World Vision gave them their first 15 hives. Now they have about 30 hives across two locations. World Vision provided the honey extraction machine and the initial tools and materials to maintain the hives. World Vision also taught negotiation skills so they could get a loan for the second site.
Many of the children of the beekeepers are sponsored. Something that a member of the group said when we met them was that during the off-season they have to pour a lot of love on the bees, but then in Spring the bees give them love back. This was a story that resonated so much with me as it shows the power of loving one another.
Milagros Matos, 42, is originally from Haiti and a single mother of seven children. She discovered she was HIV positive in a near-death experience. World Vision staff were by Milagros’ side when she discovered her situation. To help her keep a normal life and offer a better life for her children, World Vision offered Milagros training in small business management, nutritious meal preparation, and HIV education. They also built her current house, gave her two cows, and are helping with food supply. Now that Milagros has seen hope for her future, she has made her mission to show other HIV positive people they can still lead a healthy meaningful life despite the disease.
Many children are abused physically and verbally at home. They carry these behaviors and emotions to school by hitting their friends, playing violently, and being undisciplined in the classroom. Former sponsored child Sucra Cuevas Trinidad, 33, is a 5th grade teacher who leads a workshop helping children talk through problems, express themselves, and identify when to seek help. After participating in her workshop, many children are more engaged in learning. They value justice, and are better, more respectful friends to each other.
In the Dominican Republic, kids that can’t afford private education normally stay at home or in the streets and don’t get to attend school until kindergarten. World Vision built a free pre-school so that parents in the community can leave the children there while they go to work or study. The school administration is World Vision staff, and World Vision provides the school with all the teaching materials as well as paying the overhead costs. The majority of those helping at the pre-school are volunteers that through their kind hearts offer this help.
29-year-old Dr. Jose Nicolas Ramirez, also known as “Jacobo,” is a former sponsored child who is now a general practice doctor. His interest in medicine started as a teenager when he was a World Vision volunteer and health education promoter. As a sponsored child he attended birthday and Christmas celebrations, and participated in anti-bullying trainings.
In particular, he credits a World Vision-led abstinence workshop for teaching him to wait on having a family so he could go to school. World Vision also helped him with tuition, some living expenses, and a motorbike so he could travel to his university. Because of how grateful he feels, he has stayed in the community where he was born so he can give back to other kids.
Jovenes Protagonistas que Cambian el Mundo (Young Protagonists Changing the World) is a leadership program where teens from the community produce a weekly, one-hour live radio show. World Vision provides workshops on how to speak on air, structure a story, and interview people, and they bring in national radio professionals for training. World Vision also pays for the weekly studio time.
These kids have grown in a beautiful setting of love and selfless giving with the support of their World Vision family, as they call it. They all feel passionate about helping others the way World Vision helps them, not just with monetary support but with the love and care that all human beings long for.
There is so much I could say about these stories, but the images speak for themselves. These are two of the bloggers that attended the trip with me. Matthew Paul Turner, above, is sponsoring five children through World Vision and he got to spend time with one of them in the Dominican Republic. Leanette Fernandez, below, decided to sponsor her first child after meeting Leini during this trip and being moved by her story. I admire so much Matthew’s and Leanette’s generosity as well as all the other generous sponsors out there that want to see a change in this world.
If you are also interested in sponsoring a child please do not hesitate in doing so. Below, meet the kids that could live a better life through your help, and choose one to sponsor!
Meet our Dominican Republic Bloggers and see what they’re writing about the trip!
Leanette Fernandez: "My Journey With World Vision in the Dominican Republic—Day 3"
Matthew Paul Turner: "Poverty Isn't Black and White; Neither is World Vision…"
Elayna Fernandez: "A mother's story: Being positive about HIV"
Daily Baez: "Beautiful giving | Bella bondad"
Benjamin L. Corey: "You Can't Be Christian If You're Not Caring For The Poor"