December 4, 2017

Pena de Horeb: A Light in the Darkness

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Pena de Horeb is located in Batey Mojarra, a materially-poor community in the Dominican Republic made up primarily of Haitian immigrants. Batey Mojarra is a dark place. 

“That community was known to be a place where there were lots of spiritual struggles,” said Alejandrina, Pena de Horeb’s principal. “There was a big voodoo temple where many people came to practice witchcraft. It was the poorest community in that region. But I sensed the Lord had great plans for it.”

Over the last 7 years, Alejandrina has worked hard to make Pena de Horeb a school that shines the light of the Gospel in the lives of her students – and in the broader community.

Body and Soul 

“When we arrived in 2010, we just offered education… then we came to understand something; the children will not learn well if we do not give them good health and good food.” 

Alejandrina’s realization led to the formation of ‘Make a Lunch,’ a breakfast and lunch program. 

Breakfast is milk, bread and juice and sometimes hot chocolate. For lunch, the school’s kitchen prepares a meal of rice and beans, flavoured with scrumptious meats. Lunches don’t stop with the students. The school also delivers lunch to elderly members of the surrounding community.

That’s not all Pena de Horeb does for the community. Every Tuesday and Thursday the school offers a medical clinic. “Mostly people come with stomach problems and skin rashes,” Alejandrina told us. “The stomach problems come from the types of food they eat – and because they do not have food to eat.” 

In addition to treating illnesses, the clinic teaches people about proper nutrition and how to better care for themselves. 

Pena de Horeb’s investment in the community is attracting more and more students to the school. The challenge is… there simply isn’t enough space.

Out of Room

“Last school year we had to leave 35 children out because there wasn’t enough space,” Alejandrina said. She showed us the makeshift kindergarten classroom in the back of the cafeteria – one example of how the school is managing the demand for more space. 

The school is already operating in shifts – with half the student body being sent home early to make room for students who attend classes in the afternoon. 

“If we had more classroom space, students would be able to stay in school the whole day while parents work.  We can keep them focused on constructive things, such as learning,” said Alejandrina.
Without this focus, these children get into trouble. Fights. And, at worst, drugs.

“We have a very serious need. To meet the need – we need more classroom space.” 

Alejandrina and Pena de Horeb have a plan to get the space they need. They’ve already purchased one neighbouring house – and are making arrangements to purchase an additional home behind the school. 

What the school needs now is funding. Funding to build six additional classrooms – to expand this ‘beacon of light’ to meet the diverse and very real needs of a growing community of children and their families. 

 

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