Like all my other classmates, it warms my heart to reflect and think about the incredible experiences and memories we had made on our trip to the Dominican Republic; even more specifically on Bateye 50. From the moment our bus pulled up, to the moment it pulled away the children and families on Bateye 50 welcomed us with open arms and love.
However, there is one person on the Bateye who will forever be ingrained in my mind, and his name is Santo. My friend Santo is a little bit different from the other children and adults on the Bateye. Santo, has a form of mental disability that prevents him from typical social interactions that occur day in and day out. Santo at the age of 25 should be working out in the sugar cane like most other men to bring in revenue for their families yet his disabilities prevent him from doing so. My initial thoughts when meeting and seeing Santo on the bateye, were how does the community see him and how does he engage within the community? What I would come to learn blew my mind; the entire Bateye keeps an eye out for Santo. All members of the community keep him in check to make sure he doesn’t harm himself or get himself in any situations that could injure him. In an area where they work to feed their family day by day based on what’s made from working in the sugar cane, yet they all come together to protect someone different from themselves is amazing. It’s incredible how a country such as the United States, that doesn’t have such harsh conditions, can treat those with disabilities so poorly. They can truly learn something from this small community.
Photo Credit: Bradley Groleau
Santo was beyond happy to meet new friends. The smile and excitement he had roaming the bateye to latch on to a new classmate or to giggle and make jokes as we worked on the house, will be sights and voices I won’t forget. Although most of us couldn’t understand the words he would say, one that we all smiled from was his repeated screaming of “AMIGO”, followed by the happiest chuckle you could imagine.