Not a Typical Childhood

Not a Typical Childhood

By: Brandy Campbell, with Adones Martinez in Dominican Republic   |   Posted: February 12, 2007

Since Reynaldo Guzman and his family do not have electricity or running water, he is responsible for watching after his younger brothers while they bathe in the river near their home.

HATO MAYOR, Dominican Republic  Ten-year-old Reynaldo Guzman looks around the small, empty shack with its thin walls that shudder in strong winds and flimsy roof that leaks whenever it rains. As humble as it looks, this was once home to Reynaldo's family but now it's just another memory. Without the money to pay rent, the family has to move once again. Reynaldo has become adept at packing up his few belongings and strapping them to his back, always wondering what the next move will hold. Will he make new friends? Will his mom and dad find work? Will his family be safe?

The Obstacles of Poverty

Reynaldo has not had a typical childhood. His mother, Ursula, and stepfather are often unemployed, and while they search for work, the young boy must stay home from school and care for his three younger siblings. But through the love and support of the Hato Mayor Student Center, Reynaldo is overcoming the obstacles of poverty set before him.

A thin, intelligent boy, Reynaldo loves going to the Compassion-assisted child development center after school. When he's there, even for just a few hours, he can be a boy. He works on the computer, tosses a ball with his friends, and listens attentively as a project worker tells him Bible stories. When Reynaldo has to miss school, tutors help him with his studies so he doesn't fall too far behind his classmates, a luxury most families in the Dominican Republic can't afford.

Unlike many young boys, Reynaldo enjoys doing his homework and studying math problems are simple when compared with the unstable life he must go home to.

"My favorite subjects are addition, Spanish and science," says Reynaldo. "I like that we get to play ball and sing at the center. I go there as much as I can."

Changing a Family

Although life at home is still difficult, Reynaldo's entire family has benefited from the Hato Mayor Student Center, where his mother and stepfather have attended parenting classes. His mother, who for economic reasons had to give up a daughter when Reynaldo was just a toddler, recently gave birth to a baby boy, a little brother who Reynaldo helps his mother care for.

"Our center has held several talks for the children's parents about child abuse and violence, which Reynaldo's parents have attended," says Victor Mateo, Project Director at the Hato Mayor Student Center. "And since Ursula has given birth to a new baby, the project has given them a mattress as well as new clothes for the mother and baby."

A Life of Faith

Despite the challenges he has faced, or perhaps because of them, Reynaldo's faith has remained intact. He prays often for his family and eagerly shares Bible stories with his little brothers.

"At the project they teach us that we need to believe in God and that Jesus is the way and the truth," says Reynaldo. Big lessons for a little boy.

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