Blanco's Kids

"Blanco's Kids" is a project that provides educational, nutritional and health support to Haitian orphans and other impoverished children. The project is a collaborative effort between the Dominican Republic Health Outreach Project, the community of Costambar in the Dominican Republic, and Canadian and American supporters.  The project is named after "Blanco," an informal leader in the Haitian community, who has devoted his time and meager resources to care for these children.  Some of the children Blanco helps are orphaned, others have been abandoned as a result of the involuntary deportation of a parent, and still others have unknown histories -- Blanco found one baby in a paper bag along the side of a road. What the children have in common is the experience of extreme poverty, hunger and lack of access to school or health care. Like all children of Haitian decent born in the Dominican Republic, they are refused birth certificates and hence have no legal status as citizens of either the Dominican Republic or Haiti. Although recent changes in Dominican law now permit Haitian children to attend public school through the 8th grade, this is impossible for most. Students are required to buy uniforms and school supplies, as well as pay subscription fees. These financial barriers are compounded by the requirement that some public schools require children to have reading and writing skills commensurate with their age and grade level – an insurmountable road block for those who have never been to school.

Most of the children Blanco takes in are homeless. He has somehow managed to find Haitian women willing to care for them, despite their own deplorable living conditions and poverty. A small number of the children have a single parent who is too ill or disabled to provide care.  Adequate food is a constant challenge. In the past Blanco was sometimes forced to scavenge the garbage of a local resort to provide food for the children. This was stopped when the garbage was found to be laced with rat poison.

Currently, 35 children are sponsored by the project. The children live in Javillar, a poor community located close to Costambar, in Amistad batey, a Dominican Haitian community situated to the west of the town of Imbert ; and, at Blanco's Place in Cafemba, a community adjacent to Costambar.

Education

The project began in 2006 when three children were placed in two small private schools in Javillar.  As political tensions increased following the 2010 earthquake, the children were no longer welcome in the Javillar community.  Arrangements were made to bus the children to a private church school in Puerto Plata.  This worked until until January 2011 when involuntary deportations of Haitians by the military and police dramatically increased.  Public buses were searched so that it was no longer safe to transport the children into the city.  At this time we were building a second building at Blanco's Place that was planned for use as a dormitory.  The circumstances forced us to convert this building, which at that time was only partially complete, to a school. Although the structure is only walled on three sides, it provides adequate protection in most weather.  The building was plastered and cement floors poured in the spring of 2012. The school currently has 4 teachers and is attended by 35 children. Nine of these children are "Blanco's Kids" and the others are children who live in a squatters camp close to the Puerto Plata dump.  The school offers day long classes and a lunch program.  Saturday English and music classes are offered for free to all local residents of the neighborhood. The children living in Amistad attend the large public located on the former plantation which, unlike the public school near Javillar, accepts Haitian kids. The project purchases uniforms and school supplies for all of the children as well as pays subscription fees for the children attending the Amistad school. 

Food and  Health Care

A feeding program was started in the Spring of 2009. Rice, beans, oil, bullion and powdered milk are purchased in bulk at public markets. Blanco packages the food and distributes it every two weeks, or as needed.

Health care is another concern. Our student groups include health professionals who conduct health exams and maintain medical records for each child. The children receive parasite medication every six months. As with all children, illnesses occur. Because of their poverty, the children are particularly vulnerable.  Although medical visits to the local public hospital and Imbert clinic are free, it is necessary to pay for all laboratory tests and medicine.  Project funds are used to cover these costs. 

Who Is Involved

Blanco is the heart of the project. He has found these children, arranged at least some form of housing for them, and monitors their well being on a daily basis – either personally or through cell phone contact. The project would not be possible without the fund raising support of SPH students, the Costambar community,  and people such as Johanne Lamont, Brad Munn and other Canadian and American friends.  Claudia Docker, a long time resident of Costambar, oversees project funds so that Blanco is able to purchase food and other essentials. The residents of the Costambar community have played a major role in assisting the project. They have donated appliances, made bunk beds and contributed bedding and clothing to make Blanco's Place a reality for the children. One resident bought Blanco a much needed motor bike. A local restaurant, the "Anchor," donated all tips to the project and hosts various activities and events for the children. This spring, the community sponsored a beach sale of used clothes and house hold goods as well as the first annual "Costambar Olympics" to help support the project.  Late last year, a Canadian couple bought a refrigerator, washing machine and small generator for the small house we built in Amistad. and..... the list goes on and on and makes the project possible.  

History

For over 15 years, Blanco managed a small horse stable owned by Claudia Docker, a full time Costambar resident.  The stable was closed and the land donated by Mrs. Docker to Blanco's Kids. The original goal was to build a safe house for the children.  In the late spring of 2009 the site was elevated four feet with stone fill to prevent future flooding. By late August the basic structure of the two room 12 by 24 building was completed. Thanks to a grant from the Child Health Foundation, a septic system and girl's and boy's bathrooms were constructed in 2010.  The foundation and support beams for a second building were completed in December of that year.  In January 2011 three walls and the roof were finished enabling us to use the building for a school.


Current Challenges

The 2010 earthquake and recent outbreak of cholera in Haiti has increased the flow of Haitians entering the Dominican Republic.  Unfortunately, child and sex trafficking has accompanied this influx along with crime and perceptions of Haitians taking away Dominican jobs.  Fear of the cholera epidemic spreading into the Dominican Republic has added fuel to the fire of Anti-Hatianismo feeling.  Beginning in January 2011 the Dominican government began an active campaign of involuntary repatriation of Haitians to Haiti. This has had serious consequences for the Project.  The children who took public transportation from Javillar to Puerto Plata to attend a church school could no longer due so due to fear that the bus would be stopped and children deported to Haiti.  This fear was real.  On Feb. 6 the members of a small Haitian church in Javillar were forcefully placed in the back of a truck and taken across the Haitian border.  One of Blanco's Kids was a member of this group.  Blanco eventually tracked her down and was able to return her across the border.  Because of these events what was thought of as a temporary school appears to be a permanent necessity. 

Future Hopes

We are beginning to make some progress in helping the children grow to become self sufficient adults.  One goal is to to start a small agro business that would create income for the project and job's for the older children. In October, 2012 Blanco received a micro loan from a Canadian friend of the project which he used to purchase a used truck to buy, transport and sell vegetables with the older boys.  He also has expanded his livestock holdings with plans to purchase additional land.  The older girls are buying in the market in Santiago and reselling goods in the local markets after attending morning school.  Our long term goal is to buy a farm with sufficient space for a residence and school for the children and land to graze animals and grow vegetables. 


Children Lost

Despite efforts to feed and provide medical care to the children, a number have died.  Junior Emile died January 12, 2010 of secondary infections. Junior was a two year old boy who was abandoned in a cane field at birth. He was cared by a Haitian woman until her husband severely beat and physically injured the child. Junior came to the attention of Dr. Bob of Crossroads who asked us to care for him. He lived with a caring, although extremely poor, family in Javillar until his untimely death. A memorial service for Junior was held at the Anchor restaurant in Costambar.  All of the children attended. In October, Blanco found a young woman in labor and took her to the hospital in Santiago. She died in childbirth but the baby survived. We supported the child's care in the hospital and were eagerly awaiting her discharge and placement in a foster family. Tragically, the baby died unexpectedly from pulmonary complications. More recently, a 13 year old girl became suddenly ill in the night and was taken by Blanco to a local clinic.  She died of unknown causes before receiving medical treatment.

The concept for Blanco's Place first emerged when we recognized the need for a sheltered place for the children to live, go to school and play in safety. The urgency of this need became apparent when one of Blanco's kids, Angelica, was shot and killed. She was walking in the cane field to relieve herself when a robber apparently mistook her for the police and shot her in the chest. After her death, Blanco found an open school notebook on the mat she used as a bed. This is what she had written:

"I feel very glad to be poor. When one is poor one must be very cautious so that one does not think about the millions so that one does not get into too much debt, debt that we cannot pay back today we will take some time and think about progress When we look at hospitals, we see many people dying of cancer, tetanus and fevers? Those people are poor people, they have no money to buy medicine, and they have no one to help them. Is it possible that they w ill remain this way? No, no it is not possible. Let us think of ways to help the poor.  God will bless those people who help the poor".

Angelica
(1998-2008)