The Kids of Los Salados
On Presidents Day we found ourselves in Dominican Republic driving around one of the most dangerous and often (purposely) forgotten neighborhoods in Santiago called Los Salados finally visiting 'El Comedor'. Los Salados is a town where drug spots are plenty and the violence is akin to the showdowns in the old west. It's not really a place where tourism is booming, the sound of guns and 'puntos' is home to the kids there. We visited the group of children that we usually donate school supplies, bikes or whatever they currently need to make it. This was the first time we were going to meet them in person and both my wife and I were super excited.
We were greeted by a small group of kids as they worked on an art project, respectful little ones placed in bad circumstances. While sitting there we saw the good the bad and the worst and it bought us a moment of sadness mixed in with joy. After the group finished their name plate project we had a chance to interact with a few and while some immensely shy, you can tell these were good kids deep down that got dealt a shitty set of cards. It was lunchtime and some of the older school kids were starting to arrive in their uniforms (blue shirts and khaki pants), as they came in they passed by giving us the innocent curious side glance wondering who we were. We had a little girl immediately come to us and said "welcome to 'El Comedor', I hope you enjoy your time here", one kid even asked me what team I was from in the NBA... I chuckled and told him I was just tall but I don't think he believed me. There was also Andy... quite a handful but the overall opinion was that he was Autistic, we didn't know for sure because his mom didn't have enough to take him and get examined but the signs were there.
As the two dedicated cooks were preparing lunch for the kids (rice, beans and insanely delicious coleslaw, donated water) my wife and I fixed up the bags we bought the children with school supplies and candy or merienda. Before eating there was a prayer and then down the hatch it all went, we sat there wondering what breakfast they had if any or what was their previous meal. To sit there and see these kids eating and appreciating every single grain of rice was heartbreaking because it showed how little they have and how much we have here. After lunch was done they sat on a long bench and we started to give out the little bags we brought, they lit up and damn near made us tear with happiness. To know that we can give and add something positive to these kids is amazing, to see it in person and their vivid reactions is a true blessing.
After the baggie giveaway kids were being kids, they were running around, trading candy with each other and the ever-present "he doesn't want to share it with me!" haha. Andy stomped on a few Hersey Kisses thinking they were bang snaps, little boys were trading the Avengers pop rock candy for different heroes, some came back for more candy obviously and all was well. They all said thank you and after hanging out for a while longer they started to go back to their reality, us wishing we could keep them in this temporary happy state longer and sad to see them off. We left with a few more questions, hopefully future answers and glad we saw them in person, now it's time to get more of what they need and send it over! We have been blessed with our fortunate lives and to help others that are worse off only makes sense, if you can do the same or even a little, do it because it will make a difference no matter how little you think it is.
We ALL need to do our part in this world for a better future and realize when we have it good.