In the past week, I’ve felt immensely proud to be a part of the Hogar del Niño, or “the Hogar”. Last weekend was the 16th annual Hogar del Niño fundraising weekend, which is held at the internationally recognized golf resort area Casa de Campo. For those of you that watch Keeping up with the Kardashians, Casa de Campo is where they vacationed in the DR. A large portion of the funding for the school comes from people that live or vacation there. The Hogar is located about ten minutes away from Casa de Campo, and I often struggle with the stark contrast between two.
Friday afternoon I worked at our Homes and Gardens Tour, where I saw four absolutely incredible villas. I’m not sure what classifies a mansion, but I would be surprised if these did not meet the criteria. They were like nothing I had ever seen before; picture the Fresh Prince pulling up in Bel-Air. By the time I arrived at the polo tournament, I was having one of those moments where I felt the weight of the disparity between the rich and the poor. How could these villas be ten minutes away from homes that lacked running water? Each polo player had paid $225, which could pay the monthly salary of one of our employees.
After the match a new promotional video for the school was put on. As I saw familiar faces of children that I love and listened to our administrator speak about the amazing things that the Hogar does, I felt myself become a little emotional. That video depicted not just another inspirational non-profit making a difference, it was my hogar. I was there every day taking part in that mission, and I knew the kids in that video better than anyone else in the room.
I am so grateful for our donors and their incredible generosity, which literally keeps our school functioning. However, I am even more grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to serve. In preparation for this year, I was asked to think about the difference between service and charity. Dictionary.com defines charity as, “generous actions or donations to aid the poor, ill, or helpless”, while it defines service as “an act of helpful activity; help; aid”. Although these words seem quite similar, they carry significantly different meanings. Charity identifies one party as giving to another party who is desperately in need. Service recognizes that both parties have something to offer. In giving one also receives something from the party “in need”, although it may not be tangible. Perhaps both parties are in need.
In my time here, I have by far received more from the people than I could ever give them: joy, perspective, love, faith, culture, appreciation. This past weekend I listened as one of our donors explained the Hogar to small group attending an event. She started off by saying, “La Romana has poor, poor children. They have nothing.” As she went on to explain how the school was more or less “saving” these kids, I couldn’t figure out why her words didn’t sit well with me. After all she had good intentions and what she said was right, our kids are poor and many would lack basic necessities if it wasn’t for the Hogar. The problem was the way in which this relationship between the donors and the children was depicted. Our kids are far from helpless and they have so much to give. They are happy, feisty, hilarious and loving. Some of the people I met this past weekend have more money than I’ll ever have, but because of my experiences at the Hogar I’m richer than they’lll ever be. After all, I have the best job in the world because these children are here giving me more every day.
Here’s a video of their performance!