El Mundo Mejor Orphanage
MONTHLY SHOPPING TRIP.
2013 Editor’s note! Since this post was written the management has changed and Carlos and his wife are no longer employed there The orphanage is still there and you can still visit – see info at end of this post…
March 4th 2010: Every month between the 1st and 4th Punta Cana residents Mike Fisher and his wife Tania do a monthly food shopping trip to stock the kitchen of the El Mundo Mejor Orphanage in Higuey. “El Mundo Mejor” means in English “A Better World”. This month PuntaCanaTV joined them.
We set off on the 40 minute drive to Higuey where we went to the large supermarket Iberia. Here the prices are much lower than in Punta Cana. The shopping budget of 100$US per month must feed 17 growing boys and two adult careworkers plus cover other sundries like washing powder and cleaning products. Invariably it is not enough and is topped up from Mike & Tania’s own pockets.
Editor’s update: the orphanage used to receive 100$US per month from Beyond The Beach Children’s Foundation in 2010. From 2011 onwards it no longer has this support and it relies solely on the generosity of any donations it might receive.
Look who we bumped into in the supermarket – Punta Cana Mike who was stocking up on his favorite Belgium chocolates. Many visitors to Punta Cana will already know PCMike from his unique excursions.
Shopping mission accomplished we headed out to the orphanage a 10 minute drive away. The orphanage building, Villa Cerro, is named after the Higuey barrio (neighbourhood) it’s located in. On arrival we were warmly greeted by the two care workers and the children who eagerly gathered round to help unload the shopping. I was struck by the charmingly polite and welcoming manner of the children, for sure they’ve met a few gringos in their time but nothing in their manner was forced or fake. Mike also brought along a suitcase full of goodies for the kids, donated by a recent Punta Cana vacationer, which went down a storm.
The orphanage is run by care keepers Carlos Espiritusantos and his wife Ernestina Silvestre. It currently homes 17 boys aged between 4 and 14. In the past there were as many as 26 boys living there. Most of the kids have been abandoned by their parents. But here they have a chance to be part of a loving family.
The younger children are schooled on the premises and the older ones attend school in Higuey. Apart from academic studies the children are taught moral values with discipline and affection to put them on the straight path for their journey into adulthood. By the age of 18 they will have learnt a trade and be able to work and live independently.
Carlos gave me a guided tour of the premises. The rooms had recently been spruced up and painted by Mike & Tania and Rod & Rachel (frequent visitors from Canada). The whole place was clean, light and airy and surprisingly tidy – no clothes left lying on the floor here. The kitchen now has a bigger stove which makes cooking much easier for Ernestina. Some boys were helping to wash dishes – they all have house duties to perform. There is a large dining area, a classroom come TV room (complete with huge TV screen! an incredibly generous gift from a Bavaro resident), a small quiet study room, two large bathrooms, two dormitories and Carolo’s and Ernestina’s small, humble bedroom with another room ensuite where the 3 youngest kiddies sleep.
Upstairs on the flat roof are a couple of old fashioned washing machines (twin tubs). I can’t imagine how long it takes Ernestina to do the weekly load for 19 people. Also up here is a rudimentary workshop where the boys learn woodwork and furniture renovation skills. Yefrey, the oldest at 14, proudly showed me the wooden money box he’d crafted.
The care workers Carlos and Ernestina are originally from San Pedro de Macoris. They have 3 children of their own who are all grown up now. They are only rewarded 5000rd (140$US) a month for their work. They do it out of love and devotion to the children. They are Christians in the true sense without judgement or condemnation of others, perfect role models for their young charges. They very rarely get a day off, and only one of them at a time can visit their family back in San Pedro whilst the other stays and cares for the boys.
After spending a few hours talking and hanging out with the kids it was time to say our good byes and head back to Punta Cana. It was great for the soul to be surrounded by so much laughter and enthusiasm for life, definitely a morning well spent. To all you unsung Punta Cana vacationers who’ve helped these kiddies in the past – we’d like to let you know your support has a real and positive impact on these youngsters.
The orphanage exists on donations from residents and tourists. It’s uplifting to know there are people like Mike Fisher & Tania who quietly go about giving their time and attention to helping these kids and many others in the Punta Cana community.
To see more photos of our day at the orphanage see our PuntaCanaTV Facebook Page warning: site contains photos of some seriously cute kiddies
Visting the orphanage on your own:
If you want to meet the children and visit the orphanage we recommend you organise your own transport / taxi with IBK Servicios, they have reliable and professional English speaking drivers who are very familiar with the orphanage and who will also take you for a tour of Higuey if pre-arranged eg. to see the Basilica and the market. Round trip costs around 50$US for a mini-van and driver and takes around 4-5 hours in total. They’ll collect you from your hotel, drive 40 minutes to Higuey where you can tour the Basilica and market, stop at Iberia supermarket to buy supplies for the kids (the drivers can call the orphanage to find out what food & supplies are needed that day). Then visit the orphanage to deliver your donations and meet the kids and carers.
Contact IBK’s owner Bronly de Jesus on:
Tel: 809 299 0582.
IBK drivers will also collect donations if you are using them for your airport transfers.