Mario Matos, leader of the BEB Dominican Republic team, was kind enough to share his story of growing up and about his 22 year career in child welfare. He helps Both Ends Believing’s government partner, CONANI, to improve their capacity to care for children living in institutions. With the implementation of Children First Software, Mario and the rest of the team are expediting the process of getting children placed with loving families.
Please read his testimony below:
“I was born in Batey 4 (a sugar cane plantation village) in the southwest area of the Dominican Republic, close to the border with Haiti, where the main work activity was the planting and cutting of sugar cane, an activity relegated mainly to Haitian immigrants. My parents served as ministers of the small church of the impoverished community.
I grew up with 9 siblings. We lived in a small house of no more than 90 square meters, with only a living room, a small bedroom that was occupied by our parents and a small kitchen. Our community did not have access to many basic services, such as clean water, electricity, medical services, and schools. We had to travel to the nearest town, about 30 kilometers away for most needs for medical care, grocery shopping, or legal services.
As a child I don’t remember having many toys, clothes, or my own bed to sleep on. Most of our neighbors lived with the same level of poverty.
However, despite the dire poverty, I remember that we were very happy. I had a lot of time to play with the other children in my neighborhood. Our parents were very loving and made sure that we didn’t miss at least one meal a day. I remember above all that every night, we sat under a starry sky in front of the house to listen to stories that our father told us. The community was tight-knit, and I felt that each adult was a grandfather or grandmother, an uncle or aunt.
We really experienced the saying, “It takes an entire village to raise a child.” My family, with the help of the community, were a huge influence for me to become the person I am today. Not only was I provided with the basics for healthy physical growth, but also they instilled in me moral and social values that are part of my character now as an adult, which is reflected in my lifestyle. I thank God that he has given me the privilege of starting my own family. I love my wife Yolanda and our two daughters Suzie and Magda with all my being. I am happy because I have the opportunity to replicate what I learned from my family of origin.
My work for the past 25 years has involved efforts to develop communities where families can raise and protect children so they can grow up healthy and happy, reaching their full potential.
Unfortunately, many children do not have a community or a family that loves and cares for them, and they end up living, in the best case scenarios in an institution, or on the streets, and in the most horrible cases, they do not survive or end up becoming a burden to society.
I thank God that through my work with BEB, many children now have the opportunity to live with a loving family. Either because they have been reunited with their family system or because they have been adopted by a family who cares about their well-being. Regardless of the social and economic level, family is important.”
We are motivated by stories like these; because of the perseverance and love Mario has shown in his life, it extends to the rest of the team to work hard and remember our mission: that EVERY vulnerable child deserves a family.