It’s 5 a.m., in the midst of complete darkness, and members of the Pentecostal Church of God in Batey Magdalena are gathered in one of the dusty streets of this sugarcane-cutting community. Worshiping the Lord, they pray for spiritual healing for their people.
Claudio, now a civil engineering graduate through our Leadership Development Program, is in charge of leading these gatherings.
As he was leading the group one day, the area’s most-feared voodoo leader came after him with a machete. The man shouted death threats and claimed that “those prayers” bothered him. But as he raised the machete to attack Claudio, the man’s body began to tremble and he collapsed to the ground. His sons picked him up and took him home.
Despite threats Claudio faces while doing street ministry, he persists. He is accustomed to overcoming obstacles.
During his early years, this young adult’s life was similar to the lives of many other children in Batey Magdalena: He and his twin sister were being raised by their uncle while their mother, Clarissa, worked on another island.
Then his mother returned home and, to better support her children, she began to make iced drinks, corn pies and fried wheat goods. Claudio sold trays of these goods and iced drinks to the community.
He learned at a young age that hard work and determination would help him accomplish his goals.
In his last year studying civil engineering, he flunked the exams in two classes and passed one class with a very low grade. He was called into a meeting with our country office director, Kleber Isaias Lora Bautista.
“I remember when I was called to Kleber’s office, I said to myself, ‘Well, in this lap, I’m out.’ But Kleber said, ‘Let’s do something that I have never done before. I’m going to write a letter so that you can get a time extension.’
“He said, ‘Claudio, I know that you are going to finish well; I know that you can.’”
Claudio was able to feel the grace of God in this time of trial. (more…)Continue Reading ›
“I grew up poor, just like you,” explains Albert Pujols. “No matter how successful you may become in baseball or in life, you can never forget where you came from. Never be ashamed of being poor; never forget that Batey Aleman is your home. You will always have a responsibility to your God, your family and your home.”Continue Reading ›
So many people erroneously think that because the poor live such difficult lives, marred by illness, hunger, gangs and all other symptoms of poverty, that they are somehow used to death around them. I am here to tell you, a parent is a parent in all cultures and classes and that loving bond is not easily broken. Heartache may surround them, but just like us, they still don’t expect to be a casualty. It’s nothing they can ever get used to.
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.
I found out today that the word “batey” is Creole for a shanty town. I find it hard to imagine feeling good about wearing the word “batey” on a uniform. I would have difficulty feeling a sense of belonging with that polarizing label sewn across my chest.
For these kids, that does not matter. Where they come from is more than a degrading label. Where they come from is their family, their friends and their God, who does not distinguish between Batey Aleman and Beverly Hills.
Yesterday was Father’s Day in the Dominican Republic. It’s no coincidence that the day we handed out uniforms to these young men and boys is a day that represents the absence of a father for many of them.
When we arrived at the batey, we assembled all of the parents for a meeting. The assembly was mostly mothers and the lack of fathers present at the meeting was very noticeable.
Yesterday, I made it into Batey Aleman, during a complete rainout. Tropical Depression Bonnie paid a visit and the rains haven’t ceased.
Right before going to the batey, I stopped at the Compassion Dominican Republic office and saw the 87 boxes of Rawlings and Nike equipment lining n entire wall three feet deep. I also learned quite a bit about Albert Pujols involvement in all the details of this league, including the discussions he had with Nike and Rawlings about what the team would look like.
A batey (buh-TAY) is a sugar plantation in the Dominican that mostly uses the labor of Haitians. Most bateys are defunct, but in some case the Haitians have been permitted to stay on the land, living in slums with little clean water or any means of support.
The hard work of Chiropractors With Compassion has helped transform the community of Batey Angelina from a place many wanted to leave behind into a model community in the Dominican Republic.
With a network of nearly 100 doctors of chiropractic throughout Canada and the United States, committed to donating U.S. $20.00 for every new patient that comes into their clinic, Chiropractors With Compassion have been able to raise around $1.2 million dollars since their founding in 2004.
By partnering with Compassion Canada, they have funded a number of major projects around the world and Batey Angelina is one of these.
The community of Montelimar is south of San Salvador, near a town named Olocuilta. The road near Montelimar, which leads to the airport, takes you past a scene that appears desolate. Even though the community has brick houses, electricity and potable water, the desolation of the surroundings and the distance from every other community make it feel almost like a batey or a slum.
The community holds about 2,500 homes, with an average of five people per home, according to the last census Rosario’s church conducted. (Rosario is a Compassion-assisted child in this community.) Most of the families rent space as they cannot afford to pay between $8,000 and $10,000 for a home. Most of them work at factories called maquilas, earning the minimum salary — about $170 per month.
Rent goes between $40 and $50, depending on the condition of the home. For some families, who earn their income as street vendors or have large families, their income barely covers the basic staples, and their option is to inhabit an unoccupied home, with the risk that someday an owner will appear and kick them out.
Sometimes a house will suddenly be empty. The reason lays in the comunity’s biggest problem — gangs.
In poor communities like Montelimar, gangs are a constant threat. Nobody comes in or out without them noticing. In fact, the commercial activity in the community has gone down, and small businesses such as pupuserias (little and simple dining places where they sell a local dish called pupusas) or convenience and staples stores are gone because the gangs ask them for “rent,” which means business owners have to pay a weekly amount of hundreds of dollars to receive “protection.” Otherwise, the gangs will do as they wish with the store and the owners.
In Rosario’s case, her family rents and her father, who sells sandwiches on a little cart on the streets of San Salvador and earns the minimum salary, supports the family.
Rosario is a quiet 12-year-old girl, very shy and organized. She is the oldest of four siblings. Even though she is very quiet, Rosario has many friends at school and at the child development center she attends.