Yan Sang Shares His Personal Experiences of Addressing Child Poverty in the Dominican Republic in 2022
Have you ever visited the Dominican Republic?
If so, you probably brought back memories of warm and welcoming people, pristine sandy beaches, and delicious local food.
But did you also glimpse more troubling images beyond the all-inclusive resorts?
Sadly, beneath the veneer of beauty and warmth is a large swath of people living in poverty. Nearly 40% of the people here live in poverty, and of those, kids are hit the hardest. Nearly half of all children in the Dominican Republic are uneducated, and many are forced into child labor to help their families make a living. These pressures also contribute to a high rate of abuse, with one study estimating that more than 60% of kids experienced mistreatment by their caregivers.[i]
But hope lives here too. Child Champions, empowered by caring people who sponsor a child, are here in local communities helping kids thrive.
Yan Sang, OneChild Country Director in the Dominican Republic, recently gave us a behind-the-scenes look at how Child Champions served kids at our Hope Centers throughout 2022, including:
- Being there and supporting kids who lost family members.
- Providing emergency relief and supplies to families who lost belongings in a storm.
- Advocating for children when no one else believed in them.
- Fostering positive changes in family members when they observed positive changes in their children.
- Ensuring the children have a voice in building the programming.
Here’s a recap of Yan Sang’s top observations for 2022:
What were some of the most noticeable obstacles that your community faced last year?
The hardest thing, unfortunately, was the lack of commitment from families, which put extra burden on the shoulders of our Child Champions who already struggled with a lack of resources due to the economy. It is understandable in many instances considering how parents and guardians must work long hours — for very little pay — in order to support their children. They just do not have the time to participate in the program.
How were Child Champions able to support struggling families?
As part of the community, our Child Champions are able to understand the difficulties of their own people. When children lost family members, Child Champions were there to support them. When a storm hit, they were the first responders. When nobody believed in the community, the families, or the children, they were their advocates.
How did you see the communities surrounding Hope Centers change and grow?
Change and growth primarily started in the behavior of the families. When parents/guardians of the children in our Hope Centers observed a positive change in the behavior of their child, they then changed their own behavior toward their child, the church, and the community as a whole. It had a ripple effect.
“Having the Hope Center in my community, a place to go every week, learn about God and the opportunity to have a group of Child Champions encouraging me to keep pushing further in school and dreaming has been a fundamental part of my growth during these years.” – Andreina, a sponsored youth
What were some of the primary ways children and youth spoke into or guided the program?
Child Champions asked the children directly about what they would like to see in the program, and our children trusted their Child Champions and responded honestly. Whenever the planning season starts each year, each Hope Center has the freedom to put their own programming together and always takes the children’s ideas into consideration. If Child Champions and children don’t have a voice in the program, it simply won’t succeed!
What is your biggest hope for the success of the program in the Dominican Republic for 2023?
My hope is that we will see a school-based program run by the local church which will offer day care and pre-k and primary classes.
[i] The Borgen Project. Factors of Child Poverty in the Dominican Republic. Retrieved January 11, 2023, from https://borgenproject.org/child-poverty-in-the-dominican-republic/
Learn more about the Dominican Republic and how you can pray for our dedicated Child Champions and the beautiful families and kids there.
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