The anticipation of the official launch of “batey baseball” with Albert Pujols, the president of Rawlings, 60 Minutes, the Pujols Family Foundation and of course Compassion, is evident at Batey Aleman. People have really come together in this community to take ownership of it, to take pride in it, and to give thanks for it.
The batey looks good, quite wet with some pools of water thanks to Hurricane Tomas. For the most part, it’s in better shape than I anticipated after seeing the large ocean swells and heavy rain the past few days.
It was wonderful seeing the friends again and visiting the homes of families whom I had never had the pleasure of talking to. I watched the community continue working on the baseball field, mowing it and clearing the long grass in the far outfield near the fence.
A water filtration system was implemented at the field and the community has access to it. I watched the children bring in the bags of chalk to line the bases and saw flagpoles lying on the ground which are going to be placed outside of the right field foul line. The community even built a marker as you enter the field to commemorate the launch of the league.
They have great plans for Monday – elaborate plans of ceremony, celebration and community. It is exciting to see the labor of love the community has placed into this project and the transformation that has taken place in the hearts and minds of those who live there.
Though the Dominican Republic is known for baseball, the excitement is not really about baseball. The excitement is about feeling a sense of worth, belonging and respect that has long eluded the community.
It is a revitalization that could only come from the power of God working through all of us who are blessed to a part of this endeavor.
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I had the chance to stop by the home of Adrian, my sponsored child, who was fast asleep under a mosquito net with his little brother. It was difficult to see that.
The mosquito net is a reminder of the conditions in which he lives and the constant threats that exist. It was almost like when I saw my own son in the intensive care unit. It doesn’t take much to realize how fragile life is and how vulnerable children are to all the things that prey on them.
Unfortunately, the mosquito nets did not protect Adrian from the ants. He was bitten from head to toe.
I returned to church when the heavy rains began and discussed the leaks in the roof with the mayor’s office, which provided an “engineer” to assist the church with the repairs. Obviously, the mayor’s office found a day laborer and paid him to show up.
The roof leaked from nails he put in and removed when he realized that he didn’t put the roof in correctly.
The children who attend the development center are forced to stay on one side of the classroom to avoid the water. Once the rains ceased, I ventured out to the community to visit the homes of three women with stories of how their children have been blessed by the work of Compassion and have more opportunity and hope than the woman had as children.
Two of the women participate in the income generation program that the Pujols Family Foundation helped implement. The women have been selling the purses they’ve sewn and earning an income.
One of the women, Ramona, was a gracious host and made sancocho, a traditional Dominican dish of cassava, plaintains, potatoes and other meat and vegetables cooked over a fire to provide a very smoky taste.
Ramona’s three children attend the child development center and one of them is on the baseball team. Ramona, who wants to have her own sewing business, leads the sewing team and it was obvious that she is proud of this.
The most interesting story came from Jenny, whose two children are enrolled in our program. Her son was born paralyzed and with, as she described it, a foot that was “inside out.”
Compassion helped her son get the surgery to repair his foot and paid the expenses. He was walking throughout the house, happy and displaying the typical energy of a young boy.
When the doctors told her that a bike would be therapeutic for him, Compassion provided her with the bike which he rode in the house while we were visiting, since the inclement weather didn’t allow for the intense cycling a little boy is known to do!
The thing I love about Batey Aleman is its vitality! The hugs are warm, the laughter is contagious and hope is alive and well here. But it wasn’t always like that.
It goes to show that a partnership of like minds and hearts, focused on doing the will of our Creator, can accomplish anything.
UPDATED at 9:50 pm MT: There is great anticipation for what will take place tomorrow. Starting at 9 a.m. ET, a series of ceremony and festivities will begin in Batey Aleman.
After a long parade from the entrance of the batey to the baseball field, children from the our program will perform rhythmic gymnastics while another group of children will sing, in English, for the attendees.
We’ll watch the Dominican flag and the Compassion flag be raised over the field, while the Dominican national anthem is sung by a Dominican artist. And that is only the beginning.
For many of us, we may find it silly for so much pomp and circumstance to be given to the launch of a baseball league. But this is no ordinary league. This is the conduit, the platform, to build leaders and retain children and their families in our sponsorship program so that they may be ultimately released from the ugly bonds of poverty.
This community has never been so cohesive, proud and truly revitalized. We feared the uniforms or equipment would get sold if families became too desperate. That didn’t happen. These families volunteered, participated and became supporters of their children’s future. In fact, the parents spoke hope into their lives.
One parent I spoke to yesterday said that her two kids will now have a better life than she had thanks to Compassion’s work in the batey.
Normally, for those who have not visited the poor in the developing world, one of our great battles is to have the parents see the intrinsic value in their children and to know and speak their worth. At Batey Aleman, that battle is being won and that is no small feat.