As we were walking down the street of a small village within Barahona in the Dominican Republic, we met a woman living in a humble home with her family. She had constructed a metal box out of scraps found discarded near her village, Algodon. On top of the box, she had a fire burning, and inside there was a large pan of yucca bread baking. It smelled delicious.
This is precisely the type of person that the Acton Institute Poverty Initiative understands to be the hope of her community. Taking the little she had to construct an innovative oven, she now bakes bread and sells it to earn a living that can support her family. She is an entrepreneur.
I tasted a bit of her bread, complimented her on how incredible it tasted, and she lit up. I could see that she takes so much pride in the work she does. This bread is the work of her hands, and to see people enjoying what she has produced gives her a purpose in her work. Several of us purchased loaves of bread, and she was so grateful, not because we had taken pity on her, but because we affirmed her dignity and creative capacity. She provided us with a good and earned an honest wage for doing so.
Her work stretches beyond our minor interaction, of course. She contributes to the micro-economic system within her village. She sells bread so that she can purchase rice from a local farmer and clothes from a neighbor. In doing so, her community becomes increasingly self-sustaining, less dependent on donations and government assistance. Complete independence won’t happen overnight, but it is the goal, and her community is working toward it each and every day.
Children of the Nations (COTN) is one of our PovertyCure partner organizations and they are present in this community. They help establish schools and health clinics that allow the community to grow by “raising children who transform nations.” The goal of this organization is not to take root here, but to instead establish a base that will allow the community to flourish, which will allow COTN to be less and less present. As people in the community continue to work — including the woman I met — the community will become more and more self-reliant and COTN will no longer have to be as involved.
The people of Algodon are already transforming their community. After the children grow up and go on to higher education, they return to the village. Some have become doctors and are now coming back to work within their own home and community.
Others, like the woman I met, wish to lead their children by example and empower them with education and opportunity. She wants to be invested in their future and the future of Algodon, and she has the gifts to make it possible.
Image: Algodon, Children of the Nations (permission)