From January 19-27, Bridges to Community built our first house in La Guama and also received our first group of volunteers in the new community. Bridges staff have been working in La Guama, a small community that subsists on farming, for the past two years, leading workshops with youth and community leaders and building sanitary latrines. Arriving on January 19th, our Washington D.C. IT business professional volunteers, led by Leslie Barry, kicked off our housing project in community. Working with our local mason team and community volunteers, they built the very first Bridges block house in the Dominican Republic.
The community of La Guama is extremely well-organized with proactive leadership and has been expressing a strong need for the housing project since Bridges entered the community. Concerning the housing project, community leader Ramón (Cedano) says, “There is a lot of need here…there are so many people who have inadequate housing…the housing project will change the lives of the most precarious who live in this community and will change the whole image of the community…a house is important because, if a family is going to live a dignified life, they need a good house.”
Fatima Reyes, her father Valentin (Tinguilo), and three of her children are the beneficiaries of this first block home in La Guama. A family that lives off of farming and Fatima’s meager salary cooking at the local elementary school, their old house was made of rotten wood and damaged zinc but they did not have the resources to fix their house. Mary Ramirez, one of Fatima’s daughters, says, “Our old house was completely deteriorated. The zinc had so many holes that we got wet often.” The entire family is so grateful to be receiving the very first Bridges house in La Guama. Mary says, “This new house means something so important to us; especially for my parents, it’s a dream come true. My parents had to work hard on the farm to feed us, to help us children (we are 8) go to school and better ourselves…their life has been very hard. I know my parents are so happy and grateful… and we will all feel much more protected and secure in this new home.”
Bridges was also very happy to have the Washington D.C. IT business professional volunteers as our very first group working in LaGuama. Paige Worster, a first-time Bridges volunteer who works for DevTechnology in Washington D.C., said of the experience, “Seeing how other people live, it makes you realize that in America we take things for granted. Just seeing people make things work with what they have…it makes you appreciate a lot more things…It was an eye-opening experience. I’m glad I was able to be a part of it. It’s one of those things you have to go [on a trip]…you can’t really explain it…You just get such fulfillment out of it.”
Sam Sharf, a high school senior in Tampa and second-year Bridges volunteer, agrees. He says, “In the US, people don’t take time to think about what life is like in other countries…we don’t realize that other parts of the world haven’t had the chance to develop yet. Being here and experiencing it and living it first-hand makes you want to help out and do everything you can to improve the living conditions and help the people.”
Community leaders, members, and the beneficiary family were so happy to have had the opportunity to get to know the group of volunteers. Marya says, “I have had the chance to share with the volunteers…they are all good people, and I am happy to have met them.” Community leader Ramón says, “We are so thankful…from the bottom of our hearts. I felt good working with the volunteers in the group. We, as community leaders, are excited and want to make sure everything goes well, so we have more groups come to our community.”
Bridges volunteers will build 33 houses in La Guama this year. Our next group, Oxford Solutions, will be constructing another house in the community. Community leader Ramón says, “I am thankful from the bottom of my heart to the organization for having come into our community…we hope that they continue developing projects in this community and in others in this country that have a lot of need.” Community leader Vicente agrees. He says, “We are so happy to have the project here…helping to fill this need in community. [As community leaders], we are going to work even harder to support the project here.”