Published Fri, Sep 03, 21. Written by Kelly Flannery.
When the COVID-19 pandemic threw the world into chaos, many governments tried to provide aid and relief to their citizens. But what if you weren’t a citizen of any country?
Many of the children we serve in the Dominican Republic would have been left to face the pandemic alone. They are stateless.
These individuals were born in the Dominican Republic (DR), but because their parents, grandparents, or even great-grandparents are from Haiti, they aren’t recognized as citizens.
In the eyes of many in the Dominican government, they do not exist.
That means more than 133,000 people in the DR don’t have access to any public services like education, medical care, clean water, or government aid. They can’t vote. They have no rights.
This keeps them in a vicious cycle of poverty that is nearly impossible to escape.
Imagine being told you don’t belong in the only home you’ve ever known. That you also don’t belong in the country your ancestors are from. That you aren’t worthy of the care and compassion the other people around you are shown. What would that tell you about your worth? How could you feel any sense of dignity?
In the DR, one of the most dire secondhand effects of the pandemic has been the food and hunger crisis. While Dominican citizens received food from the government, children and families who are stateless have not.
This affects many of the children that Children of the Nations (COTN) serves in the DR. About 50% of them are stateless.
COTN usually receives funding and meals to feed these children through the school system. But this support went away when schools closed during the pandemic.
Francisco, our country director in the DR, says that during the pandemic many of the parents weren’t able to leave their homes to find work—it seemed that there would be no way for them to feed their families. But “Thanks to [Children of the Nations], during the pandemic the children had food on their tables every day.”
Thanks to your generosity, not one child in the communities we serve has gone hungry during the pandemic. You helped feed 1,451 children and their families throughout 2020.
You also provided clean water, hygiene kits, medical distributions, health checkups, and more to keep children and their families safe during the pandemic. Without your help, the children would have no access to these resources.
The problems Haitian-Dominicans face are a big part of why Children of the Nations came to the Dominican Republic. Now, you are changing the lives of thousands of these children—children like Luisa.
Luisa grew up without any basic services. She could not dream of attending school—her community had none. “In the past,” she shares, “it was very difficult to study because we did not have a school and we were discouraged to study.” But that changed when COTN came to her community and built a school. Finally, Luisa could get an education and dream of a better future.
Now, she works as a teacher for COTN and is an inspiration to the children in her community. “Many children say they want to be like me in the future, a teacher,” says Luisa.
COTN also serves Haitian-Dominicans through our medical clinic. Because of this clinic, children and their families who can’t afford medical care are able to receive the life-saving surgeries, medicines, and treatments they need. Hundreds of surgeries are performed there each year through the help of visiting surgical teams.
Because of you, lives and communities have been transformed. But there is still much more work to be done.
The DR has been hard hit by the pandemic, and they had another severe spike of cases in June. During this spike, schools had to return to virtual learning, ICU capacity filled up, food prices skyrocketed, and some of the children and staff were infected. The challenges of this pandemic aren’t over yet.
But with you by their side, these children will have the physical, educational, social, and spiritual care they need to become the next generation of leaders. These children will know they matter, they are worthy of care, and they belong right where they are.
P.S. To help children in the Dominican Republic, donate to the Dominican Republic - Most Urgent Funding Needs fund.