Born to Serve: Carolina Returns to Her Haitian-Dominican Community

07/07/15

Kids growing up in Carolina’s community have one goal: to get out. 

That’s what her parents did. You see, Carolina comes from a community where there are almost no jobs.


In Algodon, the Haitian-Dominican community where Carolina is from, it's common to see children looking after each other all day. Most of their parents have to leave the community to find work. 
 
You might have heard the recent news about Haitians living in the Dominican Republic, and the racism they face because of a recent law that threatens Haitian immigrants’ citizenship. Many are currently living in fear of deportation*. But this discriminatory law is nothing new. Though Carolina is not afraid of being deported right now, her family’s story reveals the historical racism behind this law. And her life might be a clue to how to change it.
 
Carolina grew up in the community of Algodon. Known as a batey, this village of patched-together homes was first established when Carolina's grandparents emigrated from Haiti to work in the Dominican sugarcane fields. Hoping for a better life in the Dominican Republic, they left behind family and friends, and navigated a new language, culture, and government. 
 
But the country they came to wasn’t so welcoming. Fearing the Haitians, the government confined them to work camps, allowing them to leave only to work in the fields. Today, generations later, those who live in these bateyes are still fighting for their rights. Many have no schools, running water, or electricity. 
 
Not long after Carolina's family came to the Dominican Republic, the sugarcane industry plummeted. That’s why Carolina’s parents left the batey. There was simply no way they could support their family from within their community. And so Carolina and her siblings joined the ranks of hundreds of other children in their community, left alone with their elderly grandparents while their parents worked in far-away Santo Domingo to support the family. 
 
“I faced a hard situation,” Carolina says of the time she was left with her grandparents. There was no school in her community, so she had nothing to do all day. Carolina, the oldest, was in charge of all her younger siblings. “My family was a mess,” she says. 
 
Then things began to change for the better, in Carolina’s life and community. An organization called Children of the Nations came and built the first school her disenfranchised community had ever called its own. 


Children play outside the school COTN's sponsors and partners helped build in Algodon. Today, the government is partnering with COTN and expanding the school. 

In school, and in the Bible studies COTN staff would have with the teenagers from her community, Carolina realized she could have more than just a repeat of her parents’ story. “Everything changed, because I realized who I wanted to be,” she says. “God has been merciful to me and had a purpose.”
 
Carolina’s goals are ambitious, but thanks to her sponsors, she is well on her way to becoming one of the first few children from her community to graduate from college. She is slated to graduate with a degree in psychology in 2017. Her goal is to serve in her community and change it—giving the next generation the hope and education her parents never had.
 
But Carolina isn’t waiting until graduation day to begin serving. She has just accepted a position with COTN’s sponsorship department, and works in her community when she’s not in class. This is a way for her to earn some money to help her family, while giving back to the organization and her community. 
 
“I was born to serve,” Carolina says. “I hope to encourage my community that it is possible. By serving COTN, I can give what I received.” 


                                            Today Carolina is proud to be able to serve her community. 
 
Without the education that her sponsors provided for her, Carolina says she’d probably be living in the streets. “I’d probably have many children by now, and I would have no future,” she says. 
 
This is what Carolina hopes to pass on to the next generation, and the younger children in COTN’s program—the hope that their lives can be of value, and that they can remain in their communities and change them. “My vision is to continue rising,” she says. “I am an example. I want my community to be transformed by encouraging the youth to educate themselves.”

*COTN's staff and board of directors in the Dominican Republic is working hard to secure proper documents for all the Haitian-Dominican children in our program who are at risk of deportation. So far, none of our children have been directly affected by the new law.