Norbertico’s Dream

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Arroyo Seco School and GarciaThe Arroyo Seco school and community centre was built by hand – many hands from around the world. It started with one man’s vision to educate a community and it has done that. But it has become about more than that. It has become a place of hope, signifying a future that people dared not even dream about until now. It is a place where people have come to learn how to work together for a future for themselves and their children, something they never had before.Arroyo FunSeven years ago, when Garcia found that little community of 80 families in the outback of the north coast of Dominican Republic, he was shocked that hardly any adults knew how to read or write. Their children were also uneducated and they were plagued by all of the evils that accompany ignorance: violence, intolerance, and exploitation. He started with the adults, teaching them to read and write, and in time he convinced them of the need for them to invest in their children’s future by making education a priority for them. When Vaden and I found them three years later, we had no idea how far reaching the dream would take all of us – perhaps most of all, Norbertico.Arroyo WorksiteNorbertico is an unmistakable part of Arroyo Seco. As the only paraplegic in the community, he is a little hard to miss. But there is something about his eyes. Yes, they are kind, but they were also shy – as if to ask you if you would notice him and let him know you cared. And when you did notice, it was always worth it to watch his face light up with the pure joy of being loved.At the age of 3, on a motorbike with his dad after dark, they were side swiped by a drunk driver – and Norbertico took the brunt of the hit. He was paralyzed from the waist down, left without any hope of ever walking again. Difficult under any circumstances, but as one of 6 hungry children to feed at home that survived on less than $2 a day, he was sent to live with his grandmother in her rickety house, perched on a mud hill off the road. Though she is without an education and unable to read or even write her own name, she loves Norbertico with her entire being and when the opportunity came to go to the school that we had just built, he was one of the first students signed up. At the age of 11, he had his first day of school and it became the first day of the rest of his life.Arroyo WorksiteNorbertico’s world became full of learning, friendship and involvement in a community of people who, through education, began to seek ways to understand him and help him succeed. And that is why this past Monday, as I sat in front of Garcia and heard about Norbertico’s story, I could still have hope. Recently, Norbertico had begun to pass blood – and lots of it. His family had been unaware that his kidneys had been irreparably damaged by his accident many years ago. As his body grew more frail he also contracted dengue fever. The community came together to help, and collectively sent him and his grandma to the Santiago Children’s Hospital. Here, this past week, they have been informed that he has holes in his kidneys, and the only hope is a kidney transplant. His family has to buy blood for him, at the cost of $60 per pint, and this is only possible because of the sense of community that has developed in Arroyo Seco through the school that Hero Holiday participants have built. Our LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) staff has also pooled our resources together to help Norbertico, as we believe in him and believe in his future. He is a gift and he deserves to know that. Currently, Norbertico is being assessed for a transplant and will hopefully be a recipient of healthy kidneys very soon.Arroyo ClassWithout one man’s willingness to dream of what could be, we would never have found out about a little outback community in Dominican Republic called Arroyo Seco. Without the hundreds of Hero Holiday participants we would never have been able to commit to building something that could completely transform a community. And without the support that has built up around that school, Norbertico’s family would never have made it this far. He is not alone through this and he is loved – because he belongs.This is what hope looks like and this is how lives are changed. This summer, we are working in Arroyo Seco, helping to build a kitchen for a meals program that is much needed and we need you! You can be a part of something that is changing lives and building futures. Check out how to join us in Dominican Republic at

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: March 14th, 2010