There lives an angel and her name is Miguelina. She is one of the most inspirational people I know.
Her life is dedicated to serving others through education. She believes that the path out of poverty (including her own); an existence of few choices and few resources, is paved through learning.
I would like to share with you the story about Miguelina because it can inspire us to do more with what we have and teach us that keeping the faith works!
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Karen Parsons I am Founder and President of Successful Solutions Life Coaching.
In 2002, my husband and I fulfilled our dream of moving to a tropical island. The Dominican Republic has now been our home for the past 6 years.
When I moved here I could not speak Spanish, so I asked around and several people told me to go to the Coral Language Institute in the Dominican Village. The Dominican Village is where many of the local Dominicans live, just slightly inland from the beach town in which I live. They live there because most of the locals cannot afford to live across the street on the ocean side where expensive condominiums are going up at dizzying speed.
When I first went to the school I met Gustavo, the head of the language school and Miguelina his wife who was to be my teacher. As soon as I entered the school, on the dusty dirt road of the Dominican Village, I was so glad that I had decided not to attend the touristy and expensive language school that I had also been referred to. This to me was authentic, the real thing, I was going to learn Spanish from real locals!
Little did I know at the time that Miguelina and I would forge a very special relationship that continues to this day.
First, I have to give you a little background on Miguelina. She grew up in this same Dominican Village. She was the youngest of 18 children! Since she was a little girl she would ask herself the question, “what do I want to do with my life?” She knew that she didn’t want to live the same type of life as her parents or the people in her community; most of them couldn’t read or write and were very poor.
Even at her young age, she was able to see that there were other possibilities. Instinctively, she knew that if she could educate herself and learn English then she could change her destiny and the destiny of the people in her community. She said, “no one else was helping them”.
She wasn’t sure exactly how she was going to do it, but she knew she needed money to help achieve her dreams. So at 8-years old she started selling apples, oranges and avocados on the side of the road.
She continued to work, go to school and save her money. She was an excellent student who worked very hard.
When she was 13 years old she began in her spare time to teach her nieces and nephews the little bit of English she had learned.
At age 15 she started to teach other children after school (school in the Dominican Republic is only 3 1/2 hours per day) and received 10 pesos per child per week, which is approximately 30 cents, but some parents couldn’t afford to pay even this.
Regardless, Miguelina kept at it, all the while sensing that the younger children of her community were missing out on a very important opportunity to learn. There was no such thing as pre-school, so she decided to start one.
I don’t think Miguelina set out with the intention to become one of the most inspirational people in her community but she did know exactly how she was going to help others, by educating them.
She asked her dad if she could use an old property that he had so she could teach the children there. He agreed and in two small shacks with leaky roofs, dirt floors and discarded appliances in the playground, the Escuela Centro de Ensenanza Coral was born!
The Dominican Republic School
Life continued, she graduated high school, got married and started to have a family of her own. The school was still going strong, more and more parents were enrolling their kids in the preschool. Unfortunately, Miguelina had to start turning them away as the two shacks couldn’t hold any more students.
However, Miguelina’s dream didn’t end there, instead, it expanded. She decided to build an elementary school with classes through to grade 6 with real classrooms and resources. She and Gustavo had managed to save enough money to buy some land next to where they lived and whenever they had any extra money they would buy cement blocks.
Slowly, one block at a time construction began and then stopped when they had no more money, and then began and stopped again, and began and stopped again. It was a heart-wrenching process not knowing from one week to the next if they would have enough money for the next stage of construction.
Even though the odds of building the school seemed stacked against them, Miguelina was undeterred. She had an unwavering faith in the “Higher Power”. Through her hard work, dedication and generous support of a few dedicated foreigners who have been touched by Miguelina’s quest, she received enough money to finish the school!
The new school opened in September 2005. Even though the building was mostly a shell, with no windows and doors, the beauty of the dream and the obvious learning that was taking place was apparent as soon as you walked through the door.
The first day of school at the new Dominican Republic School.
Since September 2005 the school has had windows and doors donated. All of the classrooms are colorfully painted. There are four working toilets instead of the original one. A new school playground was donated and the school now has 12 teachers and a full-time volunteer!
Of course, it is not utopia; everyday presents a new challenge. Fortunately, a sponsorship program that Miguelina and I implemented a few years ago is helping. It came about because many of the parents whose children go to the school fall on hard times, they lose their job, they become disabled or in several cases the father dies and they no longer have enough income to pay for the tuition.
My friends and family who have visited the school all agree that Miguelina is a living angel and in every case, they have shared the story with their friends and asked them to sponsor. The sponsorship program has been a success thus far. Many are empathetic to the plight of the Dominican children and want to help.
Miguelina, the angel of Dominican Republic School.
These are indeed very lucky children who will have a far better chance of changing their future and the future of their country with their education.
2008 graduation was a joyous occasion with all students moving onto the next grade with the exception of two children who will be moving forward in January. This is no small feat when you consider the Dominican Republic’s dismal track record in education.
According to a report released during the Global Education Forum, most students in the Dominican educational system aren’t getting the basic educational tools needed to succeed. When Miguelina accepts new children into her school from the public school system, often the children don’t even know how to read.
I had the privilege one night at the request of Miguelina to help some of her English students at the Coral Language Institute (the language school her husband runs out of one of the classrooms). I was asked to interview ten of her students, a group of young women aged 15 to 25, and then give her an assessment on how they were conversing in English.
Wow, to listen to what these young ladies wanted to do with their lives was inspiring: lawyers, doctors, police officers, tourism and more and they all believed they could do it! You have to understand that these young women mostly come from parents who have a very little formal education past grade 6 and started having babies in their teens because they didn’t know any other way. Also, prostitution is legal in the Dominican Republic and the inherent beauty of Dominican people makes prostitution an easy choice for them.
That night really opened my eyes to the difference that Miguelina was making. Through her example of aspiring to be more, she was teaching her students that there can be more to their life than prostitution or have babies in their teens. Her commitment to education is an inspiration to these children.
She is a very busy person with four young children of her own, she runs her school, she is a teacher at the school in the afternoon and teaches English at her husband’s school in the evenings. Even with this schedule, she managed to finish her degree last summer. She now has her Bachelor of Education and is now pursuing her Masters and travels 4 hours every Saturday to attend University! She is the only one in her family to finish high school!
Miguelina and her family live very humbly; any extra money goes into subsidizing the school for the many children whose parents cannot afford to consistently pay the US$18.00 monthly tuition.
Her next goal is to build a second floor on the school so she can accept more children. They had begun construction but unfortunately ran out of funds. I am confident that with their track record so far, they will succeed!
Dominican Republic new private school.
I was compelled to share this story with you because most of us have so much but yet we complain that it is not enough.
Miguelina has done so much with so little.
Can you imagine with our resources what we could achieve if we wanted to?
I know that many of you are trying to create a better world for yourself and others but keeping the faith can be very difficult to do when life seems to be throwing so many roadblocks in your way.
I can tell you with confidence, from personal experience and the knowledge gained from my clients’ experiences, that if you want to achieve your dreams keeping the faith is the only option!
On a long journey of human life, faith is the best of companions; it is the best refreshment on the journey; and it is the greatest property.
– The Buddha