Opening the Doors to Inclusion

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In the Dominican Republic, social services for persons with special needs are limited. It can be difficult for Dominican people with special needs to find inclusive and dignified jobs. Access to health care and education are often another challenge for them.

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Gaston Working on the farm.

Studies from 2018 by several United Nations organizations found that nearly 141,000 Dominicans are registered as having at least one disability, of which more than a third of those age 15 years or older could not read or write. Over 92% of persons with special needs between age 5 to 21 do not attend school, while over 8 out of 10 persons with disabilities aged 18 and over are outside the labor market.

Currently, we have 26 people with special needs living in our home. They receive care that is appropriate to their conditions. Whenever possible, they are prepared for inclusion into adult life. One great example of this is Gaston, a young man who learned valuable skills in the NPH home.

Gaston is now a 19-year-old young man. He was 9 when he first arrived at NPH, with his three sisters. Gaston’s mother had died of an illness, while his elderly father was unable to take care of the children. Though his sisters are completely healthy, Gaston has mental disabilities that limit his social and educational skills. However, this does not limit him from always wanting to learn something new. He is a big baseball fan who dreams of one day becoming a baseball player. In 2021, Gaston finished his high school at our school, where he received special instruction and attention for his condition. Gaston then immediately after began his year of service on our farm.

Our Agricultural Area covers 143,000 square meters (35.3 acres), producing 30% of the food consumed in the home, including meat, vegetables and fruit. Everyone who works in the agricultural area enjoys Gaston’s presence and positive vibes. His colleagues describe him as tireless and helpful.   Carlos Lievano, the area supervisor, says that he wishes he had more boys like Gaston because he always completes the duties assigned to him. Carlos tells us, “Early in the morning, Gaston visits all the residences to look for food waste for the pigs that he can pass to a companion who oversees feeding the pigs. He then helps to take care of the plants in the greenhouse. Gaston also helps to deliver food to the home’s kitchen. He is always willing to help where needed.”

Gaston enjoys harvesting chinolas (passion fruits) since they remind him of baseballs. He explains, “I have fun when I have to count all the food. The larger the harvest, the better.” Gastón understands that everything that is produced on the farm goes directly to our home’s kitchen. Therefore, he is happy when there are large harvests because he knows that they help ensure that all his brothers and sisters will have more than enough to eat. Gaston ends by explaining how important he feels for the work he does. “I am so glad to help feed the children,” he says.

Gaston can participate and make an impact in Dominican society thanks to the support and treatment that he has received from NPH. Most Dominican special needs kids never get that opportunity, so you can change a life today by making a contribution that supports programs that will reach other youths like Gaston.