Being a kid is never easy. It only looks like child’s play.
While the Dominican Republic is not strictly speaking a Third World Country — geo-politically it actually belongs to the First World — it is still a developing nation. Despite harboring untold riches that even Columbus had swooned over, low-income families struggle to offer their children a decent future. Politics aside, unless there is someone to encourage and inspire the kids at an early age, their future doesn’t hold a lot of options.
Inspire By Action
Adam Gutman saw this and decided to act. Hailing from Florida, he moved to Cabarete in 2013 and soon took notice of this lack in encouragement. It’s not so much education that is missing. The DR has a fairly decent public education system that does give opportunities to the less affluent members of Dominican society. Anyone with an ounce of inspiration or desire to further their own lives, can. College and university-like education is available and a lot cheaper than in the US as well.
No, the problem is not education, Adam realized. What is lacking is a desire to grow, the desire to take that education and make something of themselves. A sort of educational stagnation had developed, brought on by what the former Dominican president Juan Bosch called a low social self esteem. In Cabarete Adam met Stefan van der Spek who observed the same phenomenon.
“They lack role-models,” Stefan says. “It’s not meant in a bad way, but often the role models they have aren’t the best.” Adam and Stefan got together and decided to be role models and inspire the kids in their local community. Another NGO — the Mariposa Foundation — was already doing a great job helping the girls in the area, but nobody was able to focus on pre-teen boys.
Thus InspireDR.org was born. Only a few months old, the organization took it upon themselves to encourage and inspire by action.
Day By Day
Early morning the small group of boys that Adam and Stefan are mentoring arrive at the small class room they have rented in the center of Cabarete. Right now their number hovers around only 11 boys between the ages of 9 and 11, but that is due to their current budgetary limits. While the classes are free, there are still expenses that Adam and Stefan are paying with from their own pockets and random donations by local businesses and patrons. Teaching volunteers have also begun to show up, offering their time for free to teach and chaperone.
The curriculum is geared towards inspiring and fostering a sense of order and focus. English as a spoken language is a priority, since it can encourage the boys to broaden their minds, but it also includes more physical engagements.
Swimming, karate, yoga, soccer, even basic kiteboarding is part of the classes, depending on what donations and free offers the local businesses decided to give.
A big change came in mid-2016 when actress Kristen Bell, known for her work on Frozen and the TV series Veronica Mars among others, offered to do a charity event for InspireDR. Through the charity organization Crowd Rise, she and her husband Dax offered to go on a double-date with the winner of the contest, with tickets going at $10 each.
The event was a game changer, with tickets selling out quickly. The donations that came in were enough for a complete turn-around. Thanks to Kristen and Dax, InspireDR was able to rent a new, larger location, bring in more staff and thus help more boys.
But the mission continues. In their new location Adam and Stefan see more possibilities and the need for help continues. If you are in the Cabarete area and would like to volunteer, click here. If you want to just donate something, click here. Alternately there is a wishlist of things needed to further the lives of these boys.