Cabarete Shoeshine Boys Dare to Dream Big

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The Government of the Dominican Republic committed to set aside RD$3 million (US$187,481) in 2001 to execute programs to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. The first lady of the Dominican Republic formed a task force to eliminate the worst forms of child labor throughout the country.

In 1999, IPEC and UNICEF conducted a joint training of 160 labor inspectors. The Ministry of Labor, with the support of UNICEF, also held workshops on the legal aspects of child labor for its inspectors. The same year, the Ministry of Labor took steps to increase public awareness of child labor laws, including dissemination of brochures at regional meetings with employers, and the airing of a video entitled “El Menor en el Trabajo.”

According to the US Ambassador Hertell, the U.S. Department of Labor has donated more than US$ 535 million in funds to fight forced child labor in the DR since 1995 and that the funds have taken 27,000 kids in the DR out of forced hard labor.

Yet, all these efforts are still not enough to help the most needy children, who are left behind to fend for themselves.

There are heated debates on whether the tourists should support the street kids by giving them money and gifts because they pity them; in fact, many travel companies are stopping that practice and they will not allow their travelers to give money, pencils or gum to the poor, because they don’t want the association.

There is a healthy balance between enabling and giving. Poverty is about many things – not only the money – it is about the head and about the heart. To give responsibly is to make an attempt to engage all three. This may mean giving your spare change away to a hungry child, making a lasting friendship with him, or it may also mean connecting a child to an organization that will be able give the street kid an opportunity to complete a high school education, or maybe even teach him a trade, so he can learn to provide for himself.

There are many non-governmental organizations throughout the DR that work to eradicate child labour and provide support in the areas of education, health, fitness, recreation and arts, but most are located in the large cities. Yet, ILO statistics show that the largest proportion of working minors in this country of 9.4 million is concentrated in agricultural and rural areas.In the DR, Caminantes, based in Boca Chica, Accion Callejera, which is in Santiago and Muchachas y Muchachos Don Bosco, in Santo Domingo are three of the biggest organizations dedicated to helping street children. Also, organizations like Yo Tambien, The Nina Consortium, Ninos del Camino, Quedate Con Nosotros, Casa Acogida, and La Pastoral Juvenil all work in cooperation with the Consejo Nacional para la Ninez (CONANI) to help educate and provide health services and some form of housing for as many children as they can. But a lack of resources or the children’s unwillingness to stay makes the cycle hard to break.

Specifically in Cabarete and the surrounding area, there are a handful of amazing organizations that deeply care about the local children and have made a difference in the lives of thousands already.

The goals of the Mariposa Foundation include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, and ensuring environmental sustainability, among others.The DREAM Youth Program, Estrellas Jovenes, offers innovative solutions that target students at risk of dropping out through offering programs with literacy and leadership components that tackle the various needs of Dominican youth.

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