Empowerment is Powerful

Saturday, September 8th, 2018 and is filed under Uncategorized

Dominicans are amazing. We truly work with some of the most talented, hard-working, and spirited people on the planet. When Dominicans are passionate about something, they put their everything into it! Don’t believe me? Did you know that Dominicans made up 29.8% of active Major League Baseball players in 2017? That’s almost a third!! It is so fun to watch them play dominoes and slap them on the table when they know they are about to win. It is extremely entertaining to see their eyes light up when their favorite song comes on the radio and they turn into the loudest, most charismatic person you’ve ever met.

I recently had this incredible experience of watching my youth group kids in Canta la Rana blow my mind. You see, we needed to raise $865 USD to send 16 of us to camp. That’s roughly $54 per person. I know that doesn’t seem like a very high amount to most of us, but in the DR, the minimum wage is about $150 a month.  Many people don’t have a fixed income, so they make much less than that. For the vast majority of my kids, this amount of money is impossible to grasp. So, I sat down with my teenagers and young adults—and we had a good long talk. I told them how badly I wanted them to go to camp. I told them how important camp was to me when I was a kid. I told them about how many unforgettable moments they were going to enjoy and how camp is almost a magic place where you can feel closer to God and nature. I explained that they were going to get to meet amazing men and women from all over their country that love Jesus and want to see them develop a relationship with Christ. And of course, I told them how much fun we were going to have! A giant swing, tons of great food, camp fire, climbing wall, swimming pool, etc!!! The whole nine yards. I told them about how the worship was out of this world. I ended by telling them the cost and explained I would help in any way that I could—but that I couldn’t GIVE them the money. We were going to have to put our heads together and fundraise. The room lit up! They were excited. They did exactly what I know Dominicans to do when they are passionate about something. They started clapping and cheering. They were screaming all at once in the fastest Spanish you have ever heard. Ideas were flying all over the place. “Let’s do a car wash.” “Let’s go door to door.” “Let’s make cookies and sell them!” “Yeah, and bracelets, too!”

BINGO! It hit me. We were going to have about four groups come down over the summer and work with Go MAD on our new building site. I knew this would be an opportunity to ask  the group if 32212798_1889130887787115_1594942161273487360_othey would be interested in purchasing desserts and jewelry to help our kids. Our amazing group members were all on board! One of my girls, Maima, just graduated from our Infotep baking class in December and had this amazing recipe for chocolate cake. She and a bunch of other kids baked this delicious irresistible cake together, and they were able to sell every slice. They made jewelry of all kinds and were able to sell them as well. Once the kids had some confidence, our fundraising was getting out of control. Our kids were going door to door in the neighborhood asking for donations, the kids started selling tennis shoes that were donated to us for this purpose, and the kids were doing various odds and ends jobs in the community. Before you knew it, my kids had raised about $17,000 RD pesos ($350 USD)!! I was so proud and so impressed. I posted on social media about our journey in fundraising, and someone saw our post and sent me a message. That person just happened to be leading a Young Life team from Pennsylvania for Go MAD in early July. My kids were going to a Young Life camp in Jarabacoa. The Young Life kids in PA wanted to know how they could help. I sent her a picture of the bracelets we were making and asked if they’d be interested. She replied that if we could somehow figure out how to make them say “Vida Joven” (Young Life in Spanish), that they would want to buy a lot of them. Carlos, our English teacher and male discipler, figured out how to do it in no time. The next thing you know, we’re all huddled around my living room in a circle watching You Tube videos on how to make these bracelets. We made a prototype, sent it to the Young Life group leader interested in the bracelets—and the next thing you know, we had an order for 100 bracelets! When you add the money we would make on these 100 bracelets and the $17,000 pesos my kids had already raised on their own, we had enough money to send us all to camp, pay for transportation, and even have some money left over to save up for activities in the future! We became bracelet making machines! The next several weekends consisted of kids piled in my living room eating pasta and popcorn, watching movies, and making bracelets. Ain’t no party like a bracelet making party! Fast forward to the first week of July, all the bracelets are done and beautiful and the amazing Young Life team from the states arrived. We got to play a fun baseball game together Dominicans vs. Americans (Do I have to tell you who won? Come on, you know Dominicans are serious about their baseball). And then we got to put on a Young Life club together where we played fun games and worshipped together! It was beautiful that my kids got to meet the kids that were sponsoring them to go to camp and watch them play alongside each other. It was cool to see them singing and praying together.

37034648_10100260085135609_2945405833346809856_oAs I write this, my eyelids are heavy. Camp ended yesterday and I’m so stinkin’ tired. We had so much fun and enjoyed every moment of camp. My kids made lifelong friendships, created incredible memories they will have forever, and grew closer to Christ. Every day I would ask the boys what their favorite part of camp was so far. I was expecting them to say the giant swing, the climbing wall, the pool, the food, the ropes course, etc. but every single time I asked I got the same answer: Cabin time devotional. Every night after worship and before the night activity, we had a 45-minute time in our cabins where the boys and girls separate and were given of list of tough questions they had to ask themselves. The questions were about how they dealt with sin in their lives, their relationships with Jesus, and how to live in a society that doesn’t always point us to Christ. I know why this is their favorite part. So many of my kids don’t have any kind of role model in their homes. They don’t get this opportunity to open up and share what’s on their hearts all the time. It takes a special place like camp where kids have a level of independence, great role models all around, and fellow lovers of the gospel everywhere in sight to bring this out sometimes. Our kids weren’t allowed to have their cell phones, so they were literally checked out from the entire world for a week. They had no idea a tropical storm passed through causing severe flooding on the south coast. They had no idea that deadly strikes are going on in Haiti and people are afraid it will cross the border. We were all too busy investing in our spiritual development.

On the bus ride home, I took a moment to thank the kids for all of their hard work and let them know there is a “Spiritual Growth” session of camp in November for anyone that wants to really grow in their faith. This session camp is only two and a half days, and it doesn’t include as many of the extracurricular activities but more focused on digging into the word of God and working on your relationship with Christ. My kids were so excited. One of the kids raised his hand to ask a question: “Do we need to start fundraising now?” Guys, this is HUGE! Watching my kids work so hard and EARNthis opportunity, was one of the neatest things to see. And I now know FOR SURE it was worth every minute of their labor because they’re willing to put in the effort again. I know it would have been easier to just ask some sponsors from the states to throw some money to us to go to camp, but my kids got this amazing opportunity to set a goal, work for it, and enjoy their accomplishments. These are life lessons they can only learn through experience.

Thanks to all of you who participated in our fundraising journey. As you all know, it takes a village. Thanks for praying for us and lifting up our needs to the Father. Please continue to pray for us and our community. Many of my kids are new on their path with the Lord, and some are still trying to find it. I know that this past week was such a great experience for all of them. I can’t wait to see the fruit that grows from the seeds planted at camp.

– Bonnie Smith, Community Coordinator

Is this Heaven?

Saturday, September 8th, 2018 and is filed under Uncategorized

It’s been over a month since Chantz asked if I would write something for the Go MAD quarterly newsletter. When he made the request, I was still energized from my recent trip to the Dominican Republic and I jumped at the opportunity to share with you all the great things happening with Go MAD. But as it does, daily life consumed what felt like every hour of my day and finding the time to reflect on my trip became less and less of a priority with everything else that needed to get done.

As I was preparing for the week ahead, I did a quick surf of the movie channels and low and behold one of my all-time favorite movies was on, Field of Dreams. Needing a little break, I closed my PC, pressed the remote and came to the scene at the end of the movie where Ray and his dad are walking and John poses the question, “Is this Heaven?” Ray replies, “Its Iowa” and proceeds to ask the follow up question “Is there a heaven?” This is answered by Ray with an enthusiastic “Oh yeah, it’s the place where dreams come true” to which John replies “maybe this is heaven”.

I have watched this scene dozens of times but on this occasion, I could not stop thinking about the villages within the DR that Go MAD and all of its supporters assist on a daily basis. As I started to think about the context of this scene and the DR, my initial thought was the feeling I get when I visit each year. For me, my visits to the DR are the closest thing I have experienced to heaven on earth. It’s a community where I can focus on faith, family, and friends without the distractions of my always “on” world.

My thoughts then shifted from me to the perspective of the villagers. How could they ever think that the living conditions they are forced to endure every day could be associated with heaven. Poverty, hunger, and illness is no one’s idea of heaven. The reality is they don’t. What they do view as heaven is the love and support they provide each other as families and community. Clearly the Go MAD sponsored schools, medical clinics, feeding programs, service projects along with love and friendship provided by the missionaries and service teams that visit each year are appreciated and make a huge difference in the lives of many, but it’s truly the daily practice of loving thy neighbor that makes these communities so special.

Then I tried to think about God’s perspective and not a fictional movie. When you read the passages in the Bible where heaven is described, it’s clearly paints heaven as a place where you can see the magnificent glory of God. Proof to me that heaven on earth exists everywhere and that it comes in many different shapes and forms. As most of you know, Field of Dreams is best known for the quote “If you build it they will come”. Your continued support of Go MAD is helping in building a foundation for Hope and Opportunity for thousands within these villages. As a Board Member of Go MAD. I would like to thank each of you for your continued support, as it does Make A Difference.  I also want to send out an open invitation for anyone to come see this for yourself. If we were to walk down any of the dirt roads in these villages, I guarantee you would ask the question “is this heaven?” and I would respond, “Yes”.

CCP_75143

 

 

 

 

 

 

– Brice Salle, Board Member

Graduation

Monday, June 11th, 2018 and is filed under Uncategorized

34415242_10100247581852289_9053536024809963520_nYou won’t have to do a lot of research about the education system in the Dominican Republic for it to break your heart. The United States Agency for International Development ranked the DR 143rdout of 144 in the quality of its primary education system worldwide.

Go MAD is being relentless in helping our communities avoid becoming a victim of these statistics. In Canta la Rana, we recently got to celebrate two big education ceremonies! While they both were incredibly different ceremonies, they were both incredibly important and vital to the overall future of this community.

One ceremony was for a bunch of 5 and 6 year olds! Go MAD just graduated 9 little ones from our private pre-school. This means, that starting next fall these children will join a public-school system with one foot forward. These kids have not only learned their letters of the alphabet, how to follow basic classroom rules and instructions, and basic numbers—these kids have been learning about Jesus and how He can change lives. Our kids not only have the value of education, but they know their true value in Christ.

The other ceremony celebrated 18 adults spreading over decades in age, receiving their diploma for passing an Infotep course in baking. Infotep is a government system that provides technical training for local communities for free. Go MAD has been able to come alongside Infotep and provide the resources necessary to host classes and job trainings in our local communities. For the vast majority, this is the closest that any of them will come to getting any type of degree or high school diploma. At the end of each Infotep class, the graduates receive a certificate that is the equivalent of a technical degree and is not only useful here on our island, it is recognized in multiple countries outside the Dominican Republic. We are so proud of our adults that just recently got their Infotep degree in baking, and are excited that we now offer an Infotep course in Accounting and Administration! In August, Go MAD will be able to celebrate another 20 adults that are pursuing this degree.

Go MAD is so excited about our recent graduates in Canta la Rana! We are excited that more kids will enter Kindergarten confidently. We are excited that people can pursue careers with actual degrees to put on their resume. We are excited that the path is being paved to a better tomorrow so more people can walk down it! Malcom X is famously known for saying, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” Go MAD is excited that the future of the DR is slowly changing because people are becoming more likely to succeed in their efforts to find jobs and provide basic needs for their families. We are excited that God is in control and our communities are gradually taking ownership in their future!

Bonnie Smith, Community Coordinator

31960622_10100238218621279_7037261128031797248_n

Working Ourselves Out of a Job

Monday, June 11th, 2018 and is filed under Uncategorized

If you have ever been down to visit us at Go MAD you have probably heard us talk about working ourselves out of a job. This is something that we strive to do. It’s not that we don’t love what we do. It’s not that we don’t love those that we serve. In fact, it’s because we love those that we serve that we want to work ourselves out of a job. We desire to create opportunity for people to provide for themselves and their families rather than creating a dependence on Go MAD to provide. I am excited to tell you that we have done exactly that in one of the communities we have been working. We have worked ourselves out of the village of Munoz.

Ground_Breaking3I know that many of you that have come down love the village of Munoz. We do too! We have enjoyed so much our time working there. We learned a lot and made many wonderful friendships that continue today. For me personally, building a relationship with Pastor Ricardo has been one of the most special things about my time living in the DR. He taught me so much and I will be forever grateful for the time I got to spend with him. His death was difficult, but it was also a reminder of the importance of making a difference in people’s lives. At the funeral so many people talked about the impact he had on their lives and it was wonderful to celebrate that with his family.

Why now? Great question! We perform a census in each of our communities every so often. We do this to monitor our effectiveness and look for areas of vulnerabilities that we might be missing. Some of the teams that have visited us have helped with the census taking. Well, when we did the most recent census in Munoz we found some wonderful things. The two biggest being that Munoz had the highest employment rate as well as the highest percentage of kids attending school of any of the villages we serve. In fact, almost 100% of the children that can attend school in Munoz do. As if that wasn’t enough, we learned that a new free medical clinic was opening in Munoz. Amazing!

When we looked at the data, the new clinic coming in, the fact that there are two wonderful churches in the community and that the local ministry, Luz Por La Vida, that we have been working with that was started by Pastor Ricardo is there to keep things moving, well we knew it was time. It was not an easy decision. We loved working in Munoz, but we also knew there were other areas with more need. So, the decision was made to shift our resources from Munoz to the village of Severet. I look forward to the time I can write that we have worked ourselves out a job there.

Chantz Cutts, Executive Director

Transition

Monday, June 11th, 2018 and is filed under Uncategorized

25348852_10215262170887171_8160585037464879781_nAs many of you know Jeffrey’s adoption was finally completed on October 19thof 2017. With that done, he and I arrived in Texas on October 20th. Renee has been in the U.S. in April due to health issues, but Jeffrey and I remained in the D.R. to wrap up his adoption. Brodie and Brett have been in the U.S. for a several years attending college. As of the end of October we were finally all together in the same country. It has been wonderful to have everyone together and to be close to the rest of our family’s as well.

We have had a lot of people ask what we would do now and what is going to happen with Go MAD. We have made the decision to officially move back to the U.S. This decision was made for both personal reasons and because we believe it is where we need to be for Go MAD. We are still in a process of transition. While it seems that it would be easy now that we are all together to simply move forward, we have found that it is not exactly that simple. Those that have gone through this type of transition will understand.

Though there have been, and I am sure will continue to be some struggles, we know this is where we are supposed to be at this time. Renee is homeschooling Jeffrey and he is doing great. Jeffrey is getting the necessary medical attention he has needed, and we are so thankful as this has been of such concern. I now have the opportunity to focus on fundraising for Go MAD. This is something that the work of Go MAD has needed because It is not an easy task to fundraise and build relationships for an organization while living in another country. I would love the opportunity to share the work of Go MAD with your Church or Organization.

Go MAD will continue to work in the Dominican Republic bringing hope and opportunity to those we serve. Go MAD has a tremendous staff in the DR lead by Megan Ratnam, our wonderful Country Director. They are doing a great job running and expanding the work there.

Speaking of moving, if you donate to Go MAD via check please remember to use our new address. PO Box 2411 Harker Heights, TX 76548

Thank you to all those that continue to support the work of Go MAD. You are helping to restore hope and create opportunity for so many people that are living in extreme poverty and vulnerable to exploitation. You are truly making a difference in their lives.

Chantz Cutts, Executive Director

What I Learned Between Two Hills and a Cliff

Monday, September 18th, 2017 and is filed under Uncategorized

Renee and I decided one day recently that we wanted to go out driving looking at new areas for ministry.  There are so many small villages tucked away and hidden in the hills and sugar cane fields that you cannot see from any main roads.  Because they are hard to get to and hard to see they often get overlooked by ministries serving in the area and we really want to make sure they are getting their spiritual and physical needs met.

On this day we decided to drive through an area known as La Union and see what might be behind that large area of apartment complexes.  As we were driving I noticed a small dirt road and said to Renee, “Let’s see what’s down there.”  What we found was a hidden little area of houses with some of the most beautiful views I have seen.  The road got progressively worse as we went up and down a few hills.  The last hill we went down was pretty steep with a cliff on the driver’s side and a big hill shooting straight up on the passenger’s side.  As we came around a turn I was facing a hill that was steeper than the one I had just come down.  I tried to make it up the hill but as I got a little over half way up my tires would start spinning and I couldn’t make it.  I did not have enough room to turn around, so I tried backing up the hill I had come down but I kept sliding into the big ruts in the road and my tires would start spinning.  We were stuck!

After trying a few more times to get up each hill I decided it was time to call for help.  I really could not figure out how someone was going to be able to help us, but I thought maybe someone would have a winch and could help that way.  I called a good friend and tried to describe where we were.  Renee and I decided we better head out to the road we turned off of to be easier to find.  After a bit Waldis, our friend, found us and we jumped in his car to show him were ours was.  He drove part way and then parked and we walked to the car.  As we looked at the situation we walked up the hill in front of the car and there was a man and women sitting talking.  As Waldis talked to them they asked him why it was a problem.  He said that my car would not make it up the hill.  They told him that the small van at the top of the hill had just come up it.  He looked at me and said, “Give me your keys.”  I protested a little telling him I had already tried.  Waldis told me, “You have a big strong car…it is not a problem.”  With that he got in my car took off, much faster at the hill than I had, and went straight up it.  I stood there both amazed and embarrassed with my ego stung.

When Renee and I got in the car with Waldis I said to him, “I can’t believe you made it…I thought there was no way without something to help pull.”  He said, “Your car is powerful…you just had to go at the hill more strong and the car would take you up it.”

As we continued to drive around and laugh about our “big” adventure I begin to think maybe God was trying to teach me something.  I believe that God is always speaking to us and trying to teach us and grow us though situations.  As I thought more about this situation it hit me.  We have found ourselves in situations like this before, and may well again, where we can’t go back to something we had before, but the future we feel God calling us to is scary and uncertain.  What if I can’t do it?  What if I fall?

But don’t we serve a powerful God?  Psalm 29 says the POWER of the Lord is so mighty that His voice echoes above the sea, splits the mighty cedars, strikes like lightning bolts, makes the desert quake and can strip the forest bare.  Then it says that the Lord gives His people strength.  I think God was telling me that if He is calling us to something than He is expecting that we will trust that we have a powerful God driving us and we will not move slowly up the hill tentatively, but that we will charge forward running right at the hill with confidence not in ourselves but in the God we serve.  David did not stand back waiting for his challenge with Goliath, but instead charged forward onto the battlefield to meet him.  He was able to do this because of his confidence, not in his own abilities, but in the God he served.

If you have something that God is calling you to that may seem scary and unsure I want to encourage you to not walk forward in confidence, but to let out the battle cry CHARGE and RUN forward in confidence, Why? Because you serve the star breathing creator of the universe!!!!

– Chantz Cutts, Executive Director

Forever Changed

Monday, September 18th, 2017 and is filed under Uncategorized

IMG_3705-3138291281-O3As I think back to my trip to the Dominican Republic with Go MAD six weeks ago, it seems so far away and yet like I was there only yesterday.  I remember vividly our last night there, a Thursday evening, when Chantz asked us, “What are you going to do when you get home?”  I sat there and listened to everyone’s responses and can honestly say, I didn’t know.

Six weeks later, I still don’t know.

But I HAVE returned changed.

There are so many things that you would think would be at the forefront of my mind as I think back to our trip:  the children that we played with in Munoz and at the Bible study on Wednesday evening, the church where we witnessed God’s spirit as we participated in a Spanish speaking service, the rehabilitation facility where we met recovering addicts in the midst of godly men, the women in Ascension who passionately wanted us to purchase their jewelry, the 300 children that we helped feed on Friday morning, or (if I wanted to be selfish) the beautiful sunsets and amazing landscapes.

But these are not the things that moved me.  They impacted me…but they don’t move me to action like two significant things that I witnessed.  Two things have caused me to pray daily how I can help Go MAD on a grander scale.  Two things have convinced me that no matter what I was doing, it wasn’t enough.  Two things that continue to convince me that there is more that I must do.

The first evening that we traveled to an adjoining village, I watched an older man, dressed like an American, walking down the street on the outskirts of an urban area.  He was leading a woman behind him by the hand who was clearly from the Dominican Republic or Haiti.  She was dressed like she was headed to a party in downtown Austin or Houston.  The first thought that came to mind was, “Why does she look so sad if she is walking down the street with her boyfriend?” And then I tried to rationalize her face wondering if something had just happened that caused her to look so depressed.

Later, there was a beautiful woman in our hotel who was also from the Dominican Republic.  Like the first woman, she was also dressed provocatively and looked very lost the first time that I saw her.  It appeared as if she was gathering her bearings, looking for someone.  Although this caused me to pause, I didn’t immediately jump to conclusions as to why she was there.

The next morning, I saw this same woman at breakfast, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt and again that night at dinner.  While at the dessert table, she walked up behind me to add a dessert or two to her plate and I nonchalantly made a comment about how good the chocolate dessert was and encouraged her to try it.  As I sat down to eat and then have reflected on that moment many times since, I wonder if I should have said more.

I know that there was nothing that I could have done in my situation to help the first woman, save to pray that someone would rescue her from what I now know is a life of prostitution.

But, the second one….could I have spent a few moments to witness to her?  Could I have shared, in just a few brief moments, how important she is to God?  Could I have asked her to sit with me at the pool sometime before we left for the United States and listened to her story and showed her that hope exists?  Could I have told her that I would be praying for her every day almost 46 days later with a heaviness in my heart, praying with my whole being that I didn’t miss an opportunity to save her?

These are the things I think about now.

As I recently heard of two different sting operations where the police arrested young girls and women in a sexual slavery ring in the US, I thought of the girls.  I thought of how the girls here in the US will have access to healthcare, counseling, education, support, and even a GoFundMe opportunity.  And then I think of the women in the Dominican Republic, the few that are rescued, and how they don’t have access to these things.  My thoughts then drift to what these women think and how they continue with their lives when they are rescued from prostitution.  Who lifts them up?  Who gives them hope?  Who counsels them and tells them that God loves them and that they are valuable?

Yes, I still pray daily about how I can help Go MAD.

But the focus of many of my prayers are for these women who have so little hope.  My prayers are always for these families who get stuck in the cycle.

I may not have discovered exactly what my changed life will look like, but I do know that these women will always be a part of me and that I will forever be changed.

– Victoria Otto, Mission Trip Team Member

New English Class

Monday, September 18th, 2017 and is filed under Uncategorized

English ClassGrowing up, one of my favorite movies was the Wizard of Oz. I loved this movie so much, I dressed up as Dorothy for Halloween 3 years in a row having to get two different sizes of the ruby red slippers (because I outgrew them) and my very own Toto stuffed animal. In this movie, we meet 4 different characters all of whom believed they were lacking something in their lives and believed the wizard of Oz could grant them these things. The scarecrow wanted a brain, the tin man wanted a heart, the lion wanted courage, and Dorothy wanted to go home. In the end, it was not the wizard who granted them these wishes, but it was the journey to Oz that allowed them to realize they either, already had in them what they believed they were lacking, or gave them the opportunity to learn the trait they were lacking. In mission work, it is easy to be thought of as “the wizard of Oz” that can grant wishes for everyone, but granting wishes is just a temporary fix. Go MAD’s priority is to help enable the Dominican people to either discover they have the power within themselves to change their situations, or to equip them with tools that can be used to better their situations. In short, Go MAD’s goal is to empower the people of the Dominican Republic. One of the ways Go MAD seeks to achieve this goal is through providing communities with English lessons.

We are excited about our recent partnership with the public school in the village of Esperanza to be able to teach English to the students! Every Monday and Wednesday our English teacher, Isachar, teaches English to the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. The students are more likely to attend class regularly, because the English lessons are incorporated into their school schedules. This allows the students to better retain the language skills and allows them to gain a more in depth understanding of the English language. Because the economy of the Dominican Republic is heavily dependent on tourism, most of the employment opportunities here that will allow a family to live above a subsistence level involve being able to communicate in the English language. By giving the students this skill, they will have a much greater chance of finding employment that will allow them to provide for themselves and their families. We can in turn begin to change their mindset from needing others for survival, to being responsible for their own success and begin to break the cycle of poverty. This is a great example of how Go MAD works to restore hope and create opportunity.

– Callie Clyde, Community Coordinator

High School Success

Monday, August 7th, 2017 and is filed under Uncategorized

Over the last 6 years we have been working in the community of Caraballo.  Caraballo is a community of 1300 people living in the middle of the sugar cane fields, 4 miles from the closest town. The community existed to work in the sugar cane fields. However in 2003 the sugar cane company went bankrupt, leaving a large percentage of the population without a job.  Having little to no education and little to no skills, other the cutting cane, this community was left in a state of extreme poverty.

When we arrived in Caraballo, we decided to make it our goal to eliminate all the reasons why people in the community struggle to find a job.

We discovered that the main reason why people cannot find work is lack of education and a lack of skills.

2014 we conducted our first community census and discovered that only 41 people had graduated high school. So 6 years ago we started to eliminate all the reasons why children cannot go to school, and we developed a plan to keep them in school for as long as possible.

There were several reasons why it was difficult to go to school and we began to work at eliminating these reason.

  1. Documentation.  Many children born in the community were born to Haitian parents. Their parents did not have the proper documentation to live in the Dominican Republic, and as a result their children were not given a birth certificate. Without a birth certificate, children are not allowed to go to school after grade 8. In 2015 the Dominican Government made it possible for all those born in the Dominican who did not have birth certificates to obtain their birth certificates. It was a huge project to undertake, but we were able to provide birth certificates to 98% of the children who did not have one. By accomplishing this, we have now made it so that all but a few children can legally go to school and finish school.
  1. School Uniforms. All students are required to have a school uniform to go to school. Although the uniforms are not extremely expensive, for families who live on less then $1 a day, the uniforms make it impossible to send their children to school. For the last 3 years, we have been raising money to buy uniforms for as many children as possible.  As a result of our efforts, we now have 95% of children between the ages of 5 and 18 in school.
  1. School Transport. High school students and adults are required to go to school in a town called Montellano, which is 4 miles away. Individual transport to and from school is expensive.  This is when most students drop out of school. We offer school transport both for the day time students and the night time students. As a result of providing transport, we will be providing over 150 high school students a way to get to school everyday. Now let´s remember, in 2014 only 41 people in the entire community had ever graduated high school.
  1. University. Last year we started a university program.  We are helping students continue their education after they graduate high school. Currently we are supporting 11 students, who have all shown diligence in their studies and leadership in their community.

Now, because our Stay In School Program has become so successful, and more children are going to school now then ever before, and because we have more students in high school then ever before, our community has now become a problem that the government needs to solve. The problem is, we have too many students in high school and there is not enough room.

So here is the exciting news!  The government has decided to allow the private school in Ascension to become accredited, which means they will be governement recognized. School for all students will now be full time in both Caraballo and Ascension.  The governement has decided that they will help as many students as they can with school uniforms to ensure that all students will continue to go to school.

CCP04573Now this decision, and the direction the governement is going in, is a work in progress and they asked Go MAD for our help.

  1. In order for the school in Caraballo to become full time they would need one more class room built.  So we said that we would do it, and on July 15, 2017 we completed the classroom and the school is ready.
  1. In order for the school to become full time the governement will need to provide a lunch every day. The governement will not be able to go to full time schooling until they have figured out the lunches. Because we already have a food program for the students, we have agreed to provide the lunches for the students for 2 months until the governement has worked things out.

So here is what is going to be even more exciting.  Because we have so many students now going to high school, the Governement has committed that by 2019, the private school in Ascension will be for all students Kindergarden to grade 6, and the public school in Caraballo will be from grade 7 to grade 12.  Which means, Caraballo and Ascension will have THEIR OWN HIGH SCHOOL! In a span of 5 years this community will go from only having 41 people that had graduated from high school to having their own high school. That is making a difference!

Our goal was to keep everyone in school for as long as possible, and with your help that goal is being accomplished. Because this goal is being accomplished, the government is now looking at Caraballo for the first time and working towards meeting the needs that exist in the community.

God is good!

– Megan Ratnam, Country Director

You can support Go MAD’s education programs by clicking HERE and choosing Children’s Education in the Select a Fund dropdown box.

Investing in the Lives of Girls

Monday, August 7th, 2017 and is filed under Uncategorized

In 1912, Juliette Gordon Low saw a need. She realized that young girls all over the world were suffering from lack of opportunity. Young girls lacked confidence. In this time, women didn’t even have the right to vote. She realized there was a need to prepare girls for the world by giving them courage, confidence, and character. This almost deaf 51-year old saw a need, and she decided she would try to do something. She wanted to make a difference. This is how the Girl Scouts began.

Girl Scouts go camping, hiking, etc. and you can get a badge for just about anything. (I got one once for “learning how to sew”). But most importantly, they are helpers wherever they go and seek to improve whatever corner of the world they are in. Today, there are around 2.6 million Girl Scouts across the globe in over 90 countries. They have almost 60 million alumnae, and have a dedicated mission to make the world better for the next generation of girls.

So why am I telling you about the Girl Scouts? Because I was one when I was a kid. One of my greatest mentors was my GS leader. There isn’t a program quite like the Girl Scouts in any of the communities that we serve. In fact, there isn’t a group that works with young girls at all. So, staying true to our mission—we want to make a difference in these girls’ lives and give them purpose.

CCP04816Since school is out for the summer, the kids have a lot of free time. And our two amazing pre-school teachers are taking this opportunity to pour into young girls. Elizabeth re-started our girls’ program in Canta la Rana a few weeks ago. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, Elizabeth opens the school to the young girls in our community to make bracelets, sew, and ultimately build relationships. Ester is doing an amazing job with her girls’ program in Muñoz. She has a group of about 12-15 girls that meet twice a week. Ester teaches them Christian songs and they sing together. She is teaching them to make bracelets, hair bows, and reading the Bible to them. She’s created a community that can love and trust one another and lift each other up.

Not only do these programs give the girls in our community something to do besides roam the streets, it is teaching them life skills that they can use forever. More importantly, Elizabeth and Ester are investing in the lives of the girls they are meeting with. They are mentors, leaders, teachers, and friends. In order to make the next generation better, we have to start with this one.

What are some things you can do in your corner of the world to help? What hurdles, like almost being deaf, are you having to overcome to make a difference. Girl Scouts all over the world in 92 countries make a difference daily because one woman cared enough to invest in the girls of the future. I have a good friend Brad that always tells people to “be the person that you needed when you were a kid.” I’m excited to be working in a community of people that are doing just that.

– Bonnie Smith, Community Coordinator

You can support the Girls Program by becoming a Sponsor. Click HERE and select Protect a Girl to learn more.

Next Page »