Dominican Republic (MNN) — The Dominican Republic may be one of the most visited tourist destinations in the Caribbean with its pristine beaches and championship golf courses, but step away from the glimmering water and you’ll find areas of destitute poverty. That’s why Kids Alive International has been working in the D.R. for over 25 years, providing the hope of the Gospel to children and their families.
Currently serving 1,800 children, Kids Alive Director of Operations Vic Trautwein says the ministry has found its place with orphanages, holistic care schools, and community care centers.
The care centers were designed to work alongside DR public schools, offering programs each afternoon. The centers provide head-start education and support programs to teach the children how to read and write. But there’s more.
Trautwein explains, “They’re also learning about God in our care centers, and it’s holistic care, so we’re providing their main meals each day, spiritual education, medical help, and their academic education.”
The relationship between Kids Alive International and the public school system of the Dominican Republic has been a strong one, thanks to higher test scores and improved discipline of the students. And Trautwein prays the relationship remains strong in the midst of change.
“Statistically it has the worst public school system of any Spanish-speaking country in the world. And the government’s been under pressure, so they’re converting – or in the process of converting – to full day schools.”
To provide students the same quality of care they had been receiving every afternoon, Kids Alive is now in the process of establishing private schools. Trautwein says the response has been positive thus far.
The Dominican Republic offers no state-sponsored care for children who have been orphaned, rescued from trafficking or abuse or removed from dire family situations. Kids Alive has been standing in the gap for decades with three orphanages. “Almost every kid comes in malnourished. We see seven or nine-year-olds who have never been in a schoolroom, so they can’t write their own name. They’re kids that are suffering in the moment and have no reasonable living option.”
Children living at a Kids Alive orphanage may stay until they are anywhere from 18 to 20-years-old. Receiving a high school education is essential, because, according to Trautwein, “That’s the level of education that takes you out of cyclical poverty.”
The children are given an allowance, so they can learn how to manage resources wisely. Teens are given jobs within the Kids Alive ministry so they may both earn money and develop discipline. “They may be an assistant teacher for the smaller kids in the orphanage in the summer, working alongside an American college student.”
As Director of Operations, Trautwein sees all that’s happening at each of the programs. “Missionaries are sometimes the window between the worlds. We have a great Dominican staff, we have 250 nationals who are godly men and women who dedicate their lives to rescuing and transforming lives.”
Because of what he sees, Trautwein says there are two very clear prayer requests for the work being done in the Dominican Republic. “We’ll have a record number of eighth grade graduates this year and a record number of high school graduates, and high school discipleship is an area that’s not easy in the United States and it’s not easy in the Dominican Republic. There are a lot of kids entering an age where they will be making decisions for Christ. So pray for that – for excellence in our ministry.”
He says more work can be done for every program if more child sponsors step forward.
“In the DR alone, we’re trying to add 500 new child sponsors this year. On the back end, we will have about 65 or 70 qualified candidates for college next year, and we’d like to provide that education for them through scholarships.
“We’d love to see Christians move into areas of higher responsibility. That means they’re tithing more to their church, that means they’re influencing others. That’s really neat for us, when we see a young person move to that level with a real desire to help people with their lives.”
Learn more about child sponsorship here, and get involved in Kids Alive International’s efforts in the Dominican Republic and around the world.