Monday, December 18, 2017

A Miracle in the Making

Barrio Blanco Daniella Cabarete Dominican RepublicLittle Daniela reaches her arms to the sky with a big white smile and stars in her eyes. She is healthy and happy, trying to get the attention of someone who will pick her up and give her a hug. She laughs that unmistakable laugh of a happy child. Only two years ago, Daniela didn’t look this happy. She would stretch her arms up to be picked up then as well, but her eyes were tired, her nose constantly running and the smile was hard to lure out in her face. She would cling on to anyone with an iron grip, begging whomever it would be, not to let go. Her eyes would express desperation.

Daniela lives in Barrio Blanco, a village in the center of Cabarete. A village where most people feared to visit, or even talk about. A village where the children knew only of poverty and struggles, where the nights were spent in flooded shacks, on wet and moldy mattresses, if any at all. A village where every day brought fear of not finding enough food for the children and families, fear of diseases and lack of medical attention. Fear of crime and abuse became an every-day reality. Fear of having their land turned in to a parking lot for the town kept them on their toes as they struggled to find ways to keep their homes. Today, life is different in Barrio Blanco. The shacks have been replaced with 39 new homes. Where there used to be garbage dumps, a school and a clinic have seen the light of day with strong cement buildings and an infrastructure bringing the village closer to being self-sustained. Barrio Blanco is a village with a miracle in the making. A new beginning has been given to Barrio Blanco and little Daniela.

Ron Zauner founder of Providing Opportunity in Barrio BlancoIt all started in November 2010, when Mr. Ron Zauner, a retired business man from Oregon, USA was contemplating on how to make a difference in someone’s life. After having traveled to Cabarete on a regular basis for the last 19 years, his heart found a place in one of the local villages. The village was Barrio Blanco, a squatter barrio founded by Senor Jose Blanco 24 years ago, who one day rode in on his horse and found this land by the lagoon, where he decided to settle. Today, with the help of Ron Zauner and his foundation “Providing Opportunity for Self Improvement” (POSI), Blanco is finishing up his new home. What was a shack assembled by scraps, divided in to a few rental sections assembled by more scraps is now a solid 2 story concrete building, with enough space for himself, his son and a few renters. Blanco’s home is one of 39 new homes built by the Barrio Blanco people, with help from POSI and a number of donors from around the world. These donors saw the need, although they never visited Cabarete or the barrio, but through Ron’s hard work and the proof given by the hard working residents, the idea of giving the poorest families in BB new homes and a better health situation turned in to a major project that is now seeing the end of its second round of building. Initially, only 10 families would get new homes. 10 turned in to 39. “A miracle”, is the instant response from the Barrio Blanco people.

Amparo and Kari Barrio Blanco“The first time I realized what this project means to us in the barrio was when the first rain showers hit the village after the completion of Project 1 and the first 18 houses. Every time it rained, I had to put cinder blocks on the floor to keep my feet somewhat dry, but with all the holes in the scrap roof, most of my house would be wet anyway”, says resident Amparo Burgos. Amparo would constantly try and come up with solutions to how her children could stay dry. How to give them a dry mattress, free of the health threat of green mold. “I started crying of joy when I saw the rain outside and my house still dry on the inside. I can’t believe it still, the changes that this project has brought to the barrio.” Amparo’s house was one of the first houses to receive donors and set an example for other donors to step on board on the Providing Opportunity project. Founder Ron Zauner was sure he would stop after reaching a total of 18 new homes, a school and a clinic in Project 1. But life wanted it differently for Ron and the barrio people that through sweat and hard work became his family.

Happy people in Barrio Blanco“How can I stop when people call me up to offer money to build more homes… Who am I to stop this progress that I think is meant to be. I think we have proven to them through all of this that anything is possible with faith and hard work. On top of having donors approaching me after seeing the first results, I discovered that we had earned the trust of the people”, he says with tears in his eyes. “Can you imagine how you would feel if someone approached you and told you that they will tear your house down, move you in to a temporary home of more scraps while we help you build a brand new house that you only thought existed in fairytale-land? And you have to do the work yourself, but we will pay your daily salary of 10 dollars. We had no security to offer, but we could offer work for the people and our word that this was for real. Many didn’t believe so until after Project 1. In Project 2 we have seen a new trust, a new motivation and a new determination amongst the Barrio Blanco people. We are all proud!” Ron adds through the tears of joy running down his chin. Project 2 has brought another 21 homes and a bigger and improved clinic. The people have the mayor’s word and legal documentation that no-one will kick them out, and they have a bright future ahead with access to education for both adults and children, with a solid medical clinic to keep them healthy. Hopefully, Daniela and the others not receiving new homes so far will one day sit on their new porches sipping a tasty Dominican coffee under the sun.
What the future will bring remains to be seen when Project 2 reaches its finish line on June 22nd, but one thing is for sure; a miracle is in the making in Barrio Blanco, Dominican Republic.

Learn more about the Barrio Blanco project on the Providing Opportunity Website

barrio blanco



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