A group of runners ran from New York to the Dominican Republic—in a matter of speaking, that is—to support orphaned and abandoned children in the Caribbean nation.
Thirty-seven members of the running group Born Guerrera ran a collective 1,507 miles, the distance between Manhattan and Dominican Republic, as part of a charity fundraiser that to date has raised more than $20,000. The 2-month-long running challenge culminated with a trip to the Dominican Republic to visit the children whom the runners are supporting.
“Born Guerrera is more than just runners. We are 37 women and men, in New York, California, Florida, and London, that believe that every day is a chance to accept a challenge, to be a warrior, and to make a difference,” said Daianara Grullon Amalfitano, one of the women who founded the running group in 2009. (Guerrera is Spanish for “warrior.”)
Daianara, her family, and her running mate and cofounder Jessica Abolafia visited the homes of the orphaned and abandoned children on Jan. 20 in Santiago, Dominican Republic, the same town where Daianara’s parents grew up. The children live at an SOS Children’s Village, which is home to 109 children and is one of three such villages in the Dominican Republic for orphaned, abandoned and other vulnerable children.
“When we entered the first building at the Village, I noticed a small sign on the wall in Spanish entitled ‘Our vision’. It read: ‘Every boy and every girl belongs to a family and grows with love, respect and security,’” said Jessica, a human rights attorney. “The realization of this simple, yet deeply profound intention truly resonated with me from the moment we met the amazing children and dedicated staff members of the Santiago SOS village,” she said.
The children at SOS Children's Village in Santiago play with Daianara's youngest son.
Children in the Dominican Republic are extremely vulnerable to the high rate of poverty in the country. More than one million children in the Dominican Republic live in poverty and roughly 578,000 children under the age of 15 are without parental care.
“When we talked about SOS with my sons before we left, they said they were sad to learn that many of the children had lost their parents. They kept asking, ‘Where are their parents and why didn’t they live with them?’” Daianara said. “By the end of the visit, it was clear to them and to all of us that they did have parents. They have an SOS Mother who loves them just like any parent. It was really incredible to learn how every stage of the children’s lives is very thought out,” she added.
One of the highlights, Daianara said, was meeting the little girl at the Village whom the family sponsors. “It was a magical moment to stand there with my boys and Daniela all together. She told us we were her padrinos
(godparents in Spanish). It was a moment I will never forget.”
Daianara said that she was particularly moved by how inviting the children were of her family, particularly of her three young sons. “Children have a way of reminding us that we are all the same. It was as if they had all been friends for years,” she said.
Her sons were equally excited to be there, wasting no time jumping onto the soccer field and teaching the children at the SOS village how to play the games that the family brought as gifts. “My sons were worried that the instructions for the games were in English so they wanted to make sure the kids knew how to play before we left.
“They kept asking if we could stay longer and if we could back next year,” Daianara added. “They already were talking about their ideas for next time.”
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