A Discussion with a Boy from El Hogar de Cristo, Dajabón, Dominican Republic
May 22, 2017
Background: As part of the Education and Social Justice Project, in May 2017 undergraduate student Mary Breen interviewed a boy from Christ’s Home (El Hogar de Cristo) in Dajabón, Dominican Republic. The boy tells his story of coming to Haiti and being a founding member of the shelter. After finding a strong sense of community, he is ready to return to Haiti and go back to school.
How would you characterize some of the challenges at the border?
If you want to come from Haiti and enter the Dominican Republic, you need to have a passport. If you do not have it, you cannot enter, because there are people from Haiti that entered here for bad things. They do not want people to cross into here if they do not have a passport.
Can you describe your experience with the shelter? What was life like before the shelter started? How has its creation impacted you?
We were living on the streets in Dajabón. I am from Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, and I came here in 2010. When the earthquake happened, I came here. When I came here, I did not have anyone from here, and I was living in Dajabón alone. I met people that helped me by giving me clothes, a jacket, everything. I also met people that wanted to take me and help me, but I did not want this because I was a child. They also gave me food.
One day, I was in the park at 10:00 p.m. It was cold and I wanted to sleep. I was with five other boys who were looking for food. Around 11:00 p.m,, I saw an SUV and did not know who it was, so I left because I was afraid. When I saw the person, it was Father [Mario Serrano Marte, S.J.], and he said he was a priest of Dajabón. He asked where I was from, and I said I was from Port-au-Prince and came here when the earthquake happened. He asked if I had a place to stay, and I said I was sleeping on the street. He asked if there were other boys with me, and I said yes. He asked if I was hungry, and I said yes. He said to wait. He went to buy fried chicken and soda and then he sat with us. Each boy took a little and shared it. We ate. Father Mario said that tomorrow we could go to the church. He said there was a woman there, who told us Father Mario was going to help us and provide breakfast in the morning, food at 2:00 p.m., and dinner at night.
Father Mario was looking for a place for us to sleep. We always went to the church where we had a dinner prepared at night. Father Mario looked, looked, and looked for a house for us, and then he found this. We came here to set up the beds and deliver supplies here. After, we all came here to the house together. Here, there is a woman who is the cook. When we came at night, we did not have water or anything, so Fr. Mario asked a neighbor to use his patio and hose so that we could wash. Afterwards, we told him, "Thank you very much!" Father Mario looked and looked, and he found more people that work with us. There is someone who works with us from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. so that he knows who and what things come through the door, and if someone is doing something they cannot do he gives him attention. There is another person that sleeps with us here.
Father Mario looks after us, but before there were many boys. He has another house in Haiti where there are about 19 boys who are in the other house. They are in school and are given an education about how they can live with their families and how they can treat each other. Once a year a group from here is chosen to go to that house in Haiti. Here, there are things that we do. When we get up, there are a few of us that clean the house, sweep the floors, clean the beds, and many things.
We give many thanks to Father Mario, because before we did not think that if we came to Dajabón there was a big opportunity. Therefore, we have to give Father Mario many thanks, because before the people in Dajabón did not like to see us, and Father Mario did what he could to help us. Since Father Mario was speaking with us, the people did not feel good, and they preferred when we were living on the street. Father did not want this and helped us.
One day, Father had a good visit, played, and ate. We felt good. The home is paving the way. We feel very grateful for Father and the people that are working for us. We are now not able to say that we are living on the street. I do not have another mother nor another father. The mother and father of us here are these people that are working here. They treat us like they are the mothers and fathers of us. They treat us very well, like their sons. We are very grateful for the people here.The people that help us here are not the same as the people who helped us on the street. Here, they treat all of us like their sons that live in their homes.
Can you describe the education you receive here with the lectures and videos at night?
The education given to us here includes how we can live between us as brothers, and we are given classes. They teach us drawing. We have a professor named Noris [de los Santos]. During the week we receive classes, and on Saturday and Sunday we learn how to live together. Here, we have to live as brothers. One day, a television was bought so that we could see just a few videos that teach us how to share with each other here.
Do you want to go to the house in Haiti?
Why do you want to go there?
Because I want to finish my classes.
Have you studied in the Dominican Republic?
No, I was a student in Haiti. Now, I want to take more classes.
Since you arrived in the Dominican Republic, have you always had the desire to continue your education?
Do you think it is important that you spent time here first before going back to Haiti?
Why is it important?
When I am here with them, I feel very good with everything here, because I have many years living together. We live together well as mothers, fathers, and sons. When I leave, I have a lot of understanding with them. Before I leave, I will have more time with them.