Toni Reynolds, Global Mission Intern
How would you describe the mission of our partner in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic?
Caminante’s mission is to defend the rights of boys, girls, and adolescents; to advocate for these rights by facilitating and creating spaces that educate and empower youth and families. Through educational programming, recreational activities, family and community meetings, and political activism, Caminante effectively embodies its mission on a daily basis.
How do you fit into their mission?
I have always been sensitive to the power and importance of lineage, who and what we come from and what we give to the ones who come next. In this way, investing in the future by working with kids and adolescents has been a reality of my life for as long as I can remember. From peer mediating in middle school to working as a school based case manager at a mental health center, my trainings and passions work together to harmonize with Caminante’s dedication to defend the rights of our young ones.
What led you to engage in this calling?
I visited Caminante in 2013 with a delegation of recently graduated high school students. I was changed in more than one way by the visit, so much so that the 10 days became a significant influence as I navigated my final years of seminary. Though I’m not sure what my ministry will look like in the coming years I know that I want to be global minded in as compassionate a way as possible. Developing that compassion is only possible for me if I have lived experiences to learn from. With the combination of being impacted by the work of Caminante in my first visit and wanting to be a responsible citizen of the world, it became obvious that committing myself to this mission was the best decision.
What passage of scripture carries special meaning in your daily work?
“Say then from the heart that you are the perfect day and within you dwells the light that never ends…strengthen the feet of those who stumble and stretch your hands to those who are weak. Feed those who are hungry and give rest to the weary. Raise those who wish to arise and awaken those who sleep--for you all are understanding drawn forth. If strength does these things, strength becomes stronger”-The Gospel of Truth 17:11-16
What are some of the challenges facing the people of Boca Chica, our partner, or yourself?
Some of the challenges facing the people of Boca Chica include access to basic resources to live a quality life. Many of the boys, girls, and adolescents we serve work in the streets and on the beach, shining shoes or selling candy and small snacks. They do this work before and/or after school as a way to help earn income for the family, or for themselves if they live without a family. As one would assume, this creates a challenge with regard to their education, and health. Additionally, the risk of being sexually exploited and abused is increased with the work on the streets and the beach because the tourist industry is so popular.
Caminante’s aim, among others, is to effectively reduce the number of youth working on the beach and in the streets and support families so that the pressure to put kids to work is relieved or altogether ameliorated. For this reason, Caminante is an active political advocate and helps to shape policy that directly impacts the economic, educational, and health realities of families and youth. In just these few areas, working directly on the beach and streets with the kids and advocacy, there’s a lot to get done. Caminante as an organization faces challenges similar to other community based organizations in the way of needing more people with training and time to help address the different broken joints of the system that creates this reality for children and families. Despite these challenges, though, Caminante is diligent about finding and building community leaders to help sustain the positive impact of their work.
What is a lesson you have learned from our partner that you feel should be shared with churches in the U.S.?
The most powerful lesson I am learning from Caminante is that the power of relationships is immeasurable. Everything that gets accomplished here is by the grace of trusted relationships. Whether it’s the 70 plus volunteers who help run summer camp and regular programs throughout the year, or the local businesses that donate food and other resources to Caminante, all good things are stemming from a deep root in the ground of friendship. The team at Caminante knows the names of their partners, they know their stories, they take time to connect as human beings and the “work” gets accomplished as a byproduct of the love nurtured between the organizations and communities. It can be so easy to get preoccupied with the need to complete a task that we forget to acknowledge the humanity of the people we work with. That lapse in memory rarely happens here. There is always space to hear the truth about how things are going with your family, or what’s new in the life of the person you’re exchanging with. I can’t help but suspect that this practice of taking time to really meat your teammates makes for more effectively achieved goals and needs met. The mission is never compromised by taking the time to say, “Hi, how are you?” and waiting for the honest answer to arrive.