No child deserves to live in a garbage dump. Tragically, 100,000 children live in the city landfill in Santiago, Dominican Republic. It is called Cien Fuegos; interpretation: One Hundred Fires. It’s called this because every night garbage workers burn the trash and the fires can be seen from all around. This toxic burning causes respiratory problems, allergies, and skin rashes for the children forced to breathe the putrid smoke. The squalid living conditions are an everyday challenge for all, as they build their homes and make their livings from the trash.
For the past ten years, our church, Athens Christian Center, has sponsored a Center for the children there; a beacon of hope, offering food, tutoring, counseling from a licensed psychologist, English lessons and most importantly, Jesus. When we first opened the center the public schools were overcrowded and children from the dump were denied attendance. Our fearless Director promised the school that if they would let our kids in he would make sure their homework was always finished, that they would have uniforms and shoes, and that they would be on time. The results have been stunning! We’ve actually seen five of our beloved children graduate high school and go on to complete college. We’ve been blessed to assist with tuition as well as the cost of transportation to and from University. Any Cien Fuegos child graduating from college is an absolute miracle.
As in the US, government shut downs occurred in the D.R. during the Covid pandemic. We were asked to temporarily move out of our rented facility so that the landlord could renovate. Unfortunately, with renovations complete, the facility was rented to someone else. Our children became scattered and hungry. Many of our teenage girls ended up given to men twice their age in exchange for food. The loss of the center was nothing less than devastating.
Tom and I have just returned from Cien Fuegos, where we vigorously searched for any available building that would allow our program to reopen. It is with great excitement and anticipation that we are able to report that we have found a suitable complex (three houses all connected by a courtyard with a huge tree in the center and a space for the children to play). There is a security wall around half of the property and a large gate at the front for safety. This property will not only provide plenty of space for our current programs, it will open up new possibilities: career training for young women and even giving young mothers the opportunity to break the cycle of prostitution and drug abuse that is so prevalent in the dump. It will give freedom to provide a daycare center so that mothers can go to college and/or work while knowing their children will be cared for in a safe, loving environment. The extra housing will be rented, providing an income stream for the ministry.
The cost of the property is $70,000. I’m asking for your help so that the Center can own this property and have a permanent investment in the children of the garbage dump.
Envision with me a permanent place of hope; a place where children don’t have to play in the dangerous streets where they’re too often hit by cars; a place of refuge that the abused can run to and find safety; a place of shade, under the only tree in the entire dump; a Tree of Hope.