A ‘life-changing experience’ led to one young volunteer seeking to better the lives of deprived boys in the Dominican Republic.
Growing up just outside Netherfield village, Ben Anson went to school at Claverham Community College and discovered a passion for the history, culture, social and political affairs of Latin America in his late teens.
In 2014, he volunteered with a charity in Honduras working in rural villages with women’s groups and climate change projects.
“This was a truly life-changing and utterly wonderful experience, which further inspired me to continue playing my part in creating change in Latin America,” he said.
After Honduras, Ben took himself to Spain to immerse himself in the culture and learn the language fluently.
At the end of 2015 secured a voluntary communications assistant role with InspireDR, a non-governmental organisation seeking to better the lives of deprived boys in the Dominican community of Cabarete.
“The Dominican Republic is a place best known as a Caribbean paradise; white sandy beaches, palms, natural beauty – simply an amazing holiday destination,” said the 20-year-old.
“However, for the majority of Dominicans this is not the zone in which they inhabit.”
The population of the Dominican Republic is mixed, ethnic heritages ranging from native islander, African, European and mixed race.
Black Dominicans are often viewed by those in power as third-class citizens, alongside those of non-white Spanish origin, and a culture of poverty has developed.
“A ‘ghetto lifestyle’ is the norm for many Dominican boys,” said Ben.
“Being involved in crime and drug abuse are issues existing in the ‘barrios’ and with a seriously poor education system, complete lack of employment, poverty and prejudice – these problems are simply the subsequent results.
“Many Dominicans have migrated to the USA, yet Spanish-speaking black men are viewed as bottom of the chain in typically racist and intolerant environments. Many young men feel trapped.”
Ben’s work for the organisation is to create awareness of the problems faced by these young men.
“InspireDR is an out-of-school learning program supporting the boys of Cabarete. Activities focus on teaching English, developing practical life skills and promoting a healthy lifestyle,” he said.
The initiative is currently renovating a new Youth Centre, located closer to where they boys live and a sports field, to welcome up to 100 boys from the community and have a bigger impact in the community as a whole.
Project founders Adam Gutman and Stefan Van der Spek have been working with the young men of Cabarete since 2014.
“InspireDR is a safe place where boys can learn values and practical skills such as English, problem solving, making healthy choices, leadership, and more,” they said.
The majority of funding for the project comes from America and Canada through partner NGOs and volunteers/donators who go to Cabarete to help the boys.
However, the team is now trying to promote the mission further afield.
“The word needs spreading,” said Ben.
“Like with all NGOs funds are greatly needed.
“To help us continue the great work at Cabarete, donations and volunteering are most valued and we welcome all those interested in changing the boys’ lives.”
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