Educating against all odds

Every morning is a new beginning on the roads that lead us to the educational adventure. I call it adventure, because that is what it means for us, Dominican Missionaries of the Rosary, the experience lived in La Zurza, in the Solidarity among Brothers Educational Project “Solher”.

Walking among bananas, mangoes, avocados, cabbages and, I would not like to say it, but also among mud and garbage, begins our daily educational itinerary in the market of La Zurza, Santo Domingo, National District, Dominican Republic. This neighborhood is home to a large Haitian population. In our educational center we work with 45% of children of Haitian origin. The “saints”, we usually call them, because despite the harsh reality that their families live, violence, poverty, overcrowding, marginalization, drugs, to which is added the latent threat of being picked up by immigration authorities; they are children full of energy, kind, supportive and full of love. Their lively eyes and their unalterable spirit are contagious and encourage us to take on with them the challenge of training them, educating them for life, one that can be better than the ones their fathers and mothers have been able to have. This harsh reality marks many of them in a deep and sad way, showing themselves to be rebellious, in need of love and above all to be protected from the crushing discrimination they suffer from being excluded by an educational system that is insufficient for the people of Dominican Republic and, more so for Haiti people or those who do not know how to learn.

Many of the children with whom we work every day with are burdened with wounds due to the different realities they have to face in the vulnerability of the different contexts in which they develop, specifically in their respective families. This reality leaves us filled with helplessness every day. However, that is what moves us and pushes us to be an educational center that positively marks the life of each student, to be a different space that relieves their burden. That latent pain pushes us every day to be a space where we do not act from pity, but from respect for their rights and their dignity as persons. We are moved by the continuous desire to be a school that becomes a space for sowing positive seeds in the life of each child. We are moved by the hope that we may not be able to perceive now the fruits of the sowing, but we are confident that the harvest is certain.

Our mission in education is focused on achieving, amid this reality, a space of interculturality, solidarity and acceptance of the different, where the values of mutual respect, dignity and responsibility are the cornerstones that lead us to achieve the education we want for them. It is a challenge, which we live up to because, many times, the environment and the characteristics of our center do not allow us to do everything we would like to do. However, it is our daily task to live against the current, striving to transmit a culture of peace and dialogue. To make credible the ideal that it is possible to live without violence, where we all respect each other, where we all assume our share of responsibility to achieve the change we need.

To assume in our hands the desire of change and, to work to make possible what we want for our lives, is what the Solher family intends to transmit to all those who come to our small educational center.

The work from and with the family is an indisputable option that we assume with each child that belongs to our school, we understand that there can be no real transformation if it is not done together with the family and the school. This work is one of the most satisfying, but also the most exhausting. We believe in the integral formation that involves the whole reality of girls and boys. We believe in processes, even if some are slower and others more complex than others. It will always make sense to invest energy and effort to advance, one step at a time, in this arduous educational journey.

We are rewarded every day when we see the faces of our children full of life, with a light of hope that everything can be better for them and their families.

Solher is small in terms of physical plant, but the daily work is significant. We are happy to see that we are like that small and cozy house where we all fit: staff of the center, children, their families and the community.

María Toribia and Denia,

Members of Solher’s Management Team.

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