As I write this, I can hear the laughter. It echoes through the halls of Caminante’s office in a wonderful imitation of the children we serve! Caminante Proyecto Educativo, or Caminante Education Project in English, has a staff of approximately twenty people moving about their schedules with a joy you must experience to fully grasp. During my first six months here, I have grown synthesized to the team's laughter and singing during surprise birthday celebrations, Dominican and Christian holidays, and even while just sitting at their desks in the office! I am incredibly happy to be their Global Ministries Intern because Caminante loves what it does and I feel fulfilled assisting!
Caminante Proyecto Educativo is a non-profit based in an urban environment twenty miles east of the capital of Santo Domingo. Our surroundings are for the most part beach resort hotels with low income housing on the other side of the highway. Boca Chica is unfortunately famous as a location for prostitution and sexual commercial exploitation. The city is one of the hubs of sex trafficking in the Dominican Republic. This is a different town at night and Caminante staff take the danger into account when we encourage children to return home at seven o’clock. Caminante also works with the local Police Department and hotel owners to observe the streets in order to better protect the boys, girls, and adolescents.
In addition to protecting children, Caminante has been working during these last six months with a particular focus on the prevention of HIV/AIDS. Caminante sent the entire team to schools during World AIDS Day on December 1 and continued throughout that week visiting schools to talk about the disease, how it is transmitted, and how it can be prevented in the first place. The team broke up into separate classrooms and I worked alongside another Global Ministries Volunteer named Andrew Davis to capture footage of the team’s activities. Caminante has a commitment to the community and Global Ministries is here to witness and share her message.
Caminante has special events throughout the year to reflect the Christian or Dominican calendar. For instance, during Christmas, Caminante held many parties and recognition events for her ministries. The week before Christmas had daily parties with me documenting the activities and laughing right alongside everyone as we celebrated a year together in Christ. During the summer, Caminante has a massive summer camp for approximately four or five-hundred kids! Caminante breaks up the camp into different sites with an overarching theme and staff in an all-hands-on-deck mode for the weeks of the camp! We always receive groups from the United States during our Summer Camp due to the excitement of the event! In fact, we receive groups all year long. Caminante is one of the most visited Disciples partners outside of Mexico due to the proximity. Come see us!
Another important aspect of Caminante’s ministry is caring for adults in the community. Caminante runs a vocational training center called La Casona Center of Training where individuals can take classes in motherhood, cosmetology, concierge services, massage, information technology, textile operations, baking, bartending, and jewelry manufacturing. All of these classes are free to the community due to the support of the Vice-President of the Dominican Republic. It is easy to encounter examples of students from these classes finding jobs in the community thanks to La Casona.
As we move through the season of Lent, please keep Caminante in your hearts and minds. Caminante faces many challenges in regards to sexual trafficking, drug abuse, and parents who are unresponsive to the needs of their children. Through it all, we strive to stay upbeat and professional as we utilize the tools at our disposal to stop and prevent future abuses upon Boca Chica’s youth. Part of the way that we stay upbeat and optimistic doing our work is by listening to the stories of the kids around us. I hear stories like the one I am about to share here every day. It is one of hope and struggle, because while the Dominican Republic is poor in finances, it is rich in hope.
This is my friend Yensi. Yensi is a Haitian teen who has lived in the Dominican Republic since before the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Yensi is in the middle of a challenging period in his life because his mother is undergoing treatments for a tumor and he is unable to attend school for lack of a Dominican ID card. Through all of this, Yensi keeps smiling and dreaming. Yensi does not read exceptionally well and therefore needs someone to sit down with him daily and work on his Spanish. Last week, whilst walking on my daily rounds around the town, Yensi turned to me with an expression of seeking and asked me for help to learn how to read. I find myself unable to think of anything else other than that face. Am I doing all I can to help those around me? Are we as Caminante serving the community to the best of our ability? If Yensi waited until he knew me well in February, how many other kids that do not know me as well also need an adult’s attention? This is why I am here in Boca Chica: to listen and respond when able. May I have the strength to do so daily.
Henry Brewer-Calvert serves as a Global Mission Intern with Proyecto Caminante in the Dominican Republic. His appointment is supported by Week of Compasssion, Our Churches Wider Mission, Disciples Mission Fund and your special gifts.
 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011, US State Department. http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/186720.pdf p. 24
Accessed February 27, 2015