Day 6: “Bats and Balls for the Street Boys” – a request from Rodney’s heart

Here is an email I sent back to Laura Gorretta, development officer at Hiram. It is an appeal for baseball equipment that shares some stories of our times here along the way.

Hi Laura,

Things are going so well down here in the DR. With both our science education and Nursing projects, the number of children showing up to see us is swelling daily. We now are seeing nearly double the number we expected for each day (for example, yesterday, both groups served over 100 children each). And the room was packed yesterday too for the microfinance group’s presentation to local working adults.

One of the groups in greatest need down here are the “street boys,” with whom we have developed a direct and close relationship through their guardian from Caminante, Julito. These kids are mostly Haitian (ages running from 5 to 15 or so) and the number of them Caminante is serving has swelled since the earthquake in Haiti. Some work the streets all day (mostly shining shoes) at the behest of their parents and some quite literally live on the streets. Let me tell you a couple stories about them, because I think they capture what we are seeing here:

meet Victor Manuel!

A couple days ago, a little boy named Victor (9 years old, maybe) showed up early in the morning at our hotel because he heard “Julito is going to give me vaccines and clean my teeth.” He was so excited. Of course, the reality was he was going to be seeing our Nursing students later in the day (and they did see him).

Last night we heard that the police had rounded up many of the street boys. Why? Because the police found them carrying coloring books and they assumed they must have stolen them. The police weren’t buying that some “Americanos had given them to them.” Of course, they were in fact gifts from us. Our Nursing students give out a small medical kit and a coloring book to each patient they see. Luckily, Caminante has a relationship with the local police and they called Julito. He had to come in and verify the story and gain their release. It’s heart-breaking to think that a simple coloring book is grounds for suspicion for these children.

So, this is all a very long-winded (but I think necessary) prequel to my request. I know we have at least a couple direct contacts with the Cleveland Indians organization. Might we convince them to get the team to donate baseball equipment (whether used or new) to Caminante? Julito works hard to occupy the street boys every day, providing both education and recreation. Without official paperwork, the boys often can not get into school (part of what Caminante does is to get this paperwork created and processed for the children, but this takes time). Of course, even once in school, most kids are still only getting about three hours of schooling a day.

Post-game picture!

Last Saturday, our group from Hiram got to play a baseball game with the street boys and everyone had a great time. Cristina Marques took a portrait photo of every boy in a swinging stance. We could send along copies of these photos as a way to sell this idea and also to give the Indians a very tangible sense of who they would be helping (I could imagine a before and after photo; maybe they could be wearing an Indians jersey in the after photo). The recent investment of other major league teams in the Dominican Republic might be another hook.

Really, we’re just talking about 10-20 gloves and a few bats (of course, cleats and uniforms would be a real bonus!). We’re only here 8 more days, but if it were somehow possible to announce such a gift while we were still here, I think it would be a real gift to our students to see the reaction of the boys to the news.

I could see this as a real PR boon for the college, the Indians, and Caminante.

Thanks for listening,
Rodney

p.s. I just discovered this: just about 10 days ago the Indians opened a major training camp about 10 miles away from where we are located (Boca Chica)! The camp is aimed at serious major league prospects, so this opportunity would be something rather different (showing a commitment to the local community, as opposed to scouting for talent). I had seen the camps for the Marlins and Mets, but didn’t know the Indians were here too (these camps are located in the Batey, that is, the slums in the old sugar fields; the contrast between the facilities and the neighborhoods nearby is incredibly striking). Plus, another hook is that several Indian players are from the DR.

The boys enjoying a treat (Johnny cakes) after beating our team 18 to 5. Yes, that was the final score.

The Johnny Cakes are basically deep fried dough. They loved them!

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