A mere four hours separate the sparkling tourist hub of Punta Cana, from the mostly rural, but no less beautiful Samaná Province in the Dominican Republic. However, they seemingly lie worlds apart through the eyes of a child.
The vast majority of the people living in the Samaná Province are poor and mostly uneducated. The Dominican Republic is above the world average for preschool enrollment – but the statistics go down from there. An average of 80% of those children go on to primary school, and only 40% of those kids continue on to secondary school. According to a national poll on child labor, there were close to half a million kids and teenagers working instead of attending school.
The lack of education leads to a never-ending cycle of poverty for families.
Children in poverty in the Samaná Province are often food insecure and have nowhere to turn to get a meal. There is not an established child welfare agency on the island, so children who are left as orphans often have nowhere to go for help. This care falls upon extended family members who can not afford to feed another mouth.
So the kids are put to work. This ends what little educational opportunities the children had to begin with. It’s not only orphaned children who experience this, it happens often when families seemingly have no other choice to feed themselves.
Days are long when you are a child growing up in the Samaná region of the Dominican Republic. Here, being a kid is not easy- it’s often hard work.
In 2013, The Advocates of Love Foundation saw the need and rose to the challenge. Advocates of Love is the first ministry and children’s home within the entire Province of Samaná. Even after 7 years, they are still the only CONANI-recognized resource in the region to help the children get the care they need to move forward in life.
Advocates of Love provides food, education, and most importantly- a home and a family to love and care for these kids that have nowhere else to go. Children live in a family environment and attend private school. They have the opportunity to actually be kids. They love to run, play with their friends, make crafts, and no longer worry where they are getting their next meal or where they are going to sleep that night.
Even in the most culturally-rich, beautiful places- kids are the future. With the help of Advocates of Love, Samana’s kids will get to help write their own future. The sky is now the limit for these youngsters.
Melissa is originally from Ocala, FL and after moving around Florida, Georgia & North Carolina, she has settled back in Ocala. Melissa went to the College of Central Florida and has pursued a life of service in various administrative, customer service and marketing roles. She has now settled into her dream role as the Communications Director for Advocates of Love.
Melissa was on the state board of the Florida Foster and Adoptive Parent Association while serving 4 years as a foster and then adoptive mom. She has two adopted daughters, Kenzi and Shyne, who keep her busy. Melissa also serves in her local church.
You can reach Melissa via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.