This is the transformational story of Ricardo Lantigua, a boy living in poverty in the Dominican Republic who was lost in rebellion and aggression. His Child Champion stepped in and helped Ricardo turn his life around for the better.
Ricardo Lantigua, 17, has been part of the Niños Felices Hope Center in the Dominican Republic since 2007. His friends and Child Champions describe him as energetic and an excellent soccer player, the best on his team and in his city.
“I want to study and be a professional soccer player if it is God’s will,” Ricardo says. “My biggest dream is to be signed by a soccer team, work, and share the gospel with everybody.”
For a long time, this was not the direction that Ricardo was heading in. As a child living in poverty, he had learning disabilities and a temper, and he was failing in school. One day, his mother, in the midst of despair, approached the Hope Center for help. That’s when Child Champion Danely Grullon entered into Ricardo’s life.
Danely is a psychologist who oversees all psychologists from Hope Centers in the Dominican Republic. Her responsibility is to make sure that the kids have someone trained and committed to their psychological development. Dominican Republic Hope Centers prioritize a child’s mental health since it is key in order for them to thrive.
So, when Danely heard about Ricardo’s situation, she immediately stepped in to help.
“I remember a meeting I had with his director and teachers at his school,” she says. “They showed me his grades. He was really ready to fail the year, but I knew that the situation and all the problems he was facing at home was the reason he was failing at school. So, I committed myself, with his teachers, to work together for him to get ahead. I was surprised when a couple months later I received his grades again. He did his part, he made an effort to learn, and he succeeded. I did my part, his teachers did their part, but he was the one who decided not to fail. It is admirable how he decided to put his trust in God and God rewarded him.”
Ricardo comes from a dysfunctional family in which alcohol and violence were present from when he was very young. After some tests, he was diagnosed with an emotional disorder caused by all the trauma he had growing up. The continual trauma impeded his academic performance and behavior. For many years this was Ricardo’s reality, but thanks to the help he received from Danely, he was able to bring his grades up, change his attitude, and pass the classes he nearly failed.
Danely traveled to Ricardo’s house three days a week for an entire year to help him do his homework and work through all the trauma from his past.
“It feels so good receiving this help from my Hope Center,” Ricardo says. “They brought Danely here for me so she can specifically help me. They showed such great interest in my situation. They wanted me to move on. They taught me to always walk with my head held high without looking back. They encouraged me to understand that life goes on and that there is much more for me in the future.”
Rosa, who is Ricardo´s mom, runs a beauty salon in her living room to earn an income for Ricardo and his brothers. She says that Ricardo was a rebellious and hyperactive child, but thanks to the emotional and psychological support of the Hope Center, he is a different young man and a faithful believer in God.
“I feel privileged that Ricardo is part of the Hope Center because, as is the situation and crime we have in our country and in this community, it gives me peace knowing that my son is in a place that teaches him to reflect and to choose to do good to achieve his dreams,” Rosa says. “I thank them very much because the Hope Center always comes, and they are aware of us and our needs. Also, thanks to the Hope Center, Ricardo knows about God and His plans for his life. My boy is a believer who reads the Word of God. He is a whole new person, and I am grateful for what they have done in my son’s life.”
When Danely came into their lives, Rosa had no faith that she could help Ricardo change. If Rosa couldn’t help him, how could a stranger? Today she thanks the center and Danely for everything she accomplished in her son’s life.
“I thank Danely from the bottom of my heart for helping my son, who was not even able to learn the alphabet, and today he knows so many things,” Rosa says.
Rosa’s dream for Ricardo is that he becomes a professional soccer player, and that he can achieve his dreams. With tears in her eyes she says, “What you see here is all that I have been able to give my children, and my wish is that they continue to move forward, that they achieve everything they dream of and especially Ricardo, because thanks to the transformation that he had now he is a good son of which I am totally proud.”
Ricardo says he was able to transform with the help of his Hope Center and his faith in God.
“All this was thanks to God,” he says. “I asked him to be the One to guide me and change my heart. I decided to study His Word, and from that day on God began to teach me to love and act as He does.”
This is a beautiful testimony of how Hope Centers are instructing kids in the path of truth and how they can bear good fruits. Now Ricardo is a completely different young man, with good grades in school, with a clean heart, and surrendered to God. He speaks to everyone about the love of Christ and how He and his Hope Center transformed him. Today he serves and attends church regularly.
All the help that Ricardo received is also provided to hundreds of children in the Dominican Republic, thanks to sponsors like Ricardo´s who are willing to support one child living without help and hope. Don’t underestimate the power your sponsorship has over the life of a child living in poverty. Your contribution is a light in the dark situation that a child may be facing today.
“I want my sponsors and all the sponsors know that Christ loves them and that I am here is thanks to them,” Ricardo says.
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