We wind our way across roughly paved streets and uneven, disintegrating sidewalks, to even more unsteady ground, twisting between narrowing alley ways, to get to the home of Johani and Johan, seven year old twins who are significantly smaller than my 5 year old daughter back home.
Their mother graciously invites the 7 of us in. Our translator and tutor step in also, as we all press in as far as we can in to a room that can’t be more than 10o square ft in size. Immediately, sweat pours down my back, my legs, my neck. We’re pressed against each other, as the twins climb from lap to chair to floor and lap again. In the doorway 4 more neighborhood children appear, and without invitation, they step into the patch of space that is left by the door.
The translator explains the family situation; Rudolpho, the twins father works selling bread to markets, but if he doesn’t sell, his family doesn’t eat. He stopped going to church with his family, in order to work more. Before we go, He asks us to pray that he would return to church. The tutor reminds him that it is important that he go and worship with his family. It provides a good example to his children, and promotes stability in the home.
He bows his head, nodding. I bow my head too and notice that the floor slopes towards the door, and towards the left side of the room. It’s made up of broken bits of tile, salvaged, I presume. None of it matches, and large gaps are filled with rough, uneven cement, or some kind of mortar.
The bare board walls feel flimsy, and the rain drips in through the separation of the sheet metal roof.
I tell Amy, I don’t know how you raise a child in such instability.
The next day we make our way again through the winding alley ways, climbing uneven steps, holding PVC pipes-turned railing. A handful of women sit on a ledge along our path, one of them exposed, nursing her baby in the middle of the filth. I smile weakly, and look away.
Children are everywhere, climbing around the uneven path with an agility that must be learned quickly in such an environment. I’m struggling to navigate the 2 foot step, over the steady trickle of gray wastewater that flows between our feet. It stinks of bodily waste and rotting garbage.
I’m afraid I will trip, or slip.
When we get to the home of Orquídea, my heart seizes for a moment as I size up her staircase. It’s barely wide enough for one person. The steps are narrow and short, with barely enough room for half of your foot to fit on each step. The rebar banister is clearly a poor option for stability, as it is hanging off at one end and wobbles terrible when you hold it. “Hold the wall” they tell us, as we scale the steps. But the wall is mostly flat and so there really isn’t anything to hold on to.
I press in against it as close as I can, holding my breath the entire way. Orquídea gabs my arm near the top of the steps and pulls me inside. I am grateful for her firm grip, and her warm smile. We both breathe a collective sigh. I chuckle nervously at the accomplishment of not having fallen off of her staircase.
Inside her home, we talk to her about her 7 children and her husband of 12 years. Her boys wait at the table until it’s time to leave for school. They remind me of my own boys, waiting for me at home. Another little boy appears at the top of the stairs and I feel my heart seizing again. He balances on the edge of the top concrete step, the majority of his flip flops bending over the cracking edge of the stair.
My palms start sweating. All I can see is the danger of this home. I keep praying he doesn’t fall. There is nothing to soften the blow at the bottom. I watch him nervously as he shifts his weight with his back to the staircase. I breath deeply and whisper to Amy that I’m afraid he is going to lose his balance. Moments later, a barefoot 3 year old girl appears behind him on the steps. My heart lurches into my throat. How on earth did she manage to climb these treacherous stairs?
I am relieved when she comes all the way inside.
Past Orquídea, outside of her front door, I watch a boy climbing on the sheet metal roof across the alleyway. I’m seized in these moments by the constant and undeniable instability of my surroundings. I wonder how often children are fatally injured in this community simply by the terrain in which they are forced to navigate from a very young age.
But as I watch the children maneuver these difficult streets and alleys with shocking agility, I realize that the instability more threatening to them here is not physical but spiritual. They are born here, and learn to crawl, and walk and run on this challenging turf. They know it, and manage to move about with enviable speed and balance. But their emotional environment is rocky, and without proper training and infrastructure, the weight of extreme poverty can crush them.
The beauty of what is gained through Child Sponsorship is a relationship that serves as a foundation upon which a life of stability with hope for the future can be built. Physical acclimation to our environment is more easily accomplished than spiritual and emotional stability when hope is threatened by circumstances. Children in the Compassion sponsorship program are given a framework upon which they can climb from the crumbling steps of the alleyways into a future of hope, and promise.
When you sponsor a child from the Dominican Republic, you are helping to building a future for a child at risk.
Child sponsorship works because of the firm foundation that is laid through letter writing and communication with your sponsored child. Child sponsorship tells a child living in an environment of instability, that they are loved, they are important, and that they are worthy of the effort that it takes to help frame a life that can withstand the pressures of the world.
Lay a foundation. Sponsor a child from the Dominican Republic.