The Dominican Republic is a beautiful island that draws tourists from around the world, but the reality of life for most local Dominicans is one of hardship and poverty. The Dominican Republic is considered one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere according to the United Nations HDI (Human Development Index). Almost half of the population lives below the poverty line on less than $2 a day. The extreme poverty, sex trafficking, broken family structures, physical abuse and neglect have forced many children out onto the streets to survive.
Many children begin their life on the street by begging, shining shoes, cleaning windows, selling, and stealing. Eventually, they make the street their home and completely break ties with their families because of the physical, emotional, and sexual abuse that they have suffered from them.
The La Baliza Ranch in the Dominican Republic is home to three distinct ministries: La Villa Solana Home, a long term family style home for former street kids, the Life Navigation School, for adolescents leaving institutionalized care, and our Escuelita Elementary School.
The La Baliza Ranch (The Beacon) is located on the North Shore of the Dominican Republic between the towns of Sosua and Cabarete. The first home on the ranch, The Villa Solana, houses 12 former street children. The Villa Solana is not an orphanage, but a real home with loving parents.
Living in our family style home, the boys are nurtured by their house parents and our staff “tios” and “tias” (uncles and aunts), allowing Christian values and life lessons not only to be taught, but also “caught” as they live life together.
Once the boys become a part of our family, they live with us until they are ready to move out on their own. To ensure a successful transition, we work with the local Christian church and fellow believers to help provide the boys with the support they need until they are ready for independence.
La Baliza Life Navigation School
A large percentage of children raised in institutionalized care in the United States end up as delinquents, homeless or in jail. Though the numbers are shockingly high in the US, without benefit of the safety net of social structures, Latin American youth fare even worse. This is why Niños de la Luz has decided to open the La Baliza (The Light Beacon) Life Navigation School for Youth. NDLL has seen how desperately their own boys need basic life skills and after much research, has found that many organizations working with street kids lack the staff and funds to provide these skills.
Niños de la Luz is ready and excited to invite young people, not only from the NDLL Ranches, but from other organizations as well, to come and be guided in life navigation. The desire of all child care organizations is not only to care for the immediate needs of their children but to raise strong and confident people who will be ready to face their futures without hesitation or fear.
The Life Navigation School helps youth plot a course for their life adventure so that they can step into the unknown with more assurance. Our staff focuses on discipling, guiding and equipping these kids for successful integration into independent living. The goal of La Baliza is to give former street kids from various institutions a chance to look to the future with excitement and not apprehension, and to view their future as an adventure just waiting to be lived out. But they’re going it alone and this weighs heavily on their minds. It’s essential that they first discover who God is: their father, their provider, their ￼hope. By experiencing faith, the boys will learn that there is no need to fear as long as they look to God as their ultimate provider and friend.
How will La Baliza equip these young men?
Discipleship is at the core:
- Helping boys discover who God is.
- Building up their confidence and identity in Christ through deeper knowledge of Him and his Word.
- Challenging the boys to strive for excellence, to live a life of integrity with strong morals and values based on their Christian faith.
- Encouragement to go out strong, with the confidence that it is God who carries the burden of their future and their lives.
- Helping boys discover who they are and what their strengths are.
- Aptitude testing and career counseling
- Goal setting instruction, both short and long-term goals for their education, careers, ministries and families.
- Participation in recreational adventures such as scuba diving, hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking and surfing to promote team work, a sense of accomplishment and general exposure to new interests or talents they might discover.
- Teaching boys to give back to their communities in the form of service or ministry.
Equipping makes it happen:
- Teaching kids how to obtain and maintain employment including preparing a resume, filling out job applications, interviewing successfully, developing on-the-job skills and work ethics and communicating effectively with employers.
- Teaching them how to locate and maintain affordable housing.
- Teaching them money management and budgeting.
- Teaching them communication, conflict resolution and parenting skills for their own future families.
Escuelita La Baliza
They say that poverty is fundamentally the absence of choices and opportunities. Many children in the Dominican Republic don’t have the opportunity to go to school due to poverty. They are needed to work and take care of the immediate needs of their families. They face a future of desperation that leads them into prostitution, crime, or harsh working conditions.
The Escuelita La Baliza began ten years ago with the discovery of children in their neighborhood unable to attend school due to poverty. They were invited to visit the La Baliza Ranch two days a week to be tutored by the residential missionaries. It was quickly discovered that most of the kids, even those around the ages of nine and ten years old, did not know how to read, do math, or even name their colors. Seeing the extent of their need for education, it was decided that NDLL had to do more.
What started as two days a week turned into everyday, and more and more children began to come. Eventually the parents, who had never had the opportunity to go to school, also began asking if they could attend. The one room schoolhouse eventually grew to 25 students from the ages of 4 to 40 and the Escuelita La Baliza was born.
Today the Escuelita continues to school the underprivileged children in the neighborhood as well as the boys that live on the property. The school is dedicated to helping children that have had little or no education. They are taught in an accelerated manner with the goal of getting them up to the appropriate level of education for their age. With the one-on-one attention that they receive and their appreciation for the opportunity to study, the students that have later transferred into the local schools have been at the top of their class.
Our continued hope is that with a proper education and a strong faith in Christ, our students will be equipped to pursue other options despite their impoverished beginnings.