Ninos de Cristo
Since 2009, Deborah Sigmund, Founder of Innocents at Risk has been taking supporters and interns to visit the children at Ninos de Cristo Orphanage in the Dominican Republic. Ninos de Cristo is an orphanage that provides children with computers, books, a school, and a chapel. What is even more important about this orphanage, is that Ninos de Cristo provides a family and a permanent home that love and support the children of the Dominican Republic. Every year, Deborah Sigmund and the Innocents at Risk interns and supporters organize supplies and gifts for each of the children in the orphanage. While visiting, the interns and supporters get to create special bonds with the children and are humbled by the children’s excitement and appreciation for their presence. By visiting and helping frequently, Deborah Sigmund assists the founder of Ninos de Cristo in helping to keep children off the street.
News from Niños de Cristos
Innocents at Risk’s Founder Deborah Sigmund Visits Ninos de Cristo Orphanage in Dominican Republic
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From Innocents at Risk 2015 Mission to the Dominican Republic
August 3, 2015
After weeks of fundraising and reaching out to their supporters for donations, the Innocents at Risk team was finally embarking on their annual trip to the Ninos de Cristo Orphanage in the Dominican Republic. The founder, Deborah Sigmund, first visited the orphanage in 2009 and has been going back ever since. “The first time I saw Ninos de Cristo, I fell in love with the children and promised to come back,” said Deborah. “The founder, Sonia, told me that if I bring help, she would be able to keep taking in children from the street. I have kept that promise.” On July 16, 2015, Deborah and her four interns, Hannah, Louisa, Bo, and Erin, departed from the Reagan National Airport early Thursday morning with complimentary tickets from American Airlines. After a quick layover in Miami, FL, the girls arrived at their final destination, the beautiful city of La Romana. Soon after arriving, they made their way to the Casa de Campo hotel, where they immediately began planning the visit to see the children. The girls organized their supplies and gifts that they would carry with them to the orphanage the next day. During the week prior to the trip, the team had picked out and bought a gift designated for each of the kids. Now, with everything organized and ready, they were anxious to finally meet the children they had heard so much about.
As the van slowed in front of the orphanage gates, the team could immediately hear the excitement of many girls eager to meet them. Before arriving at Ninos de Cristo that day, they had stopped at the local Jumbo to purchase snacks and drinks for the kids. As they began to carry in bags of cookies, fruit, and juices through the gate, they were approached by many helpful girls, each insisting on carrying the groceries for them. After generously carrying the bags, the girls ushered the team inside the orphanage. Situated in the heart of La Romana, Dominican Republic, Ninos de Cristo houses around 150 orphaned girls, whose ages range from 1 to 18.
Guided by the young hosts, the team weaved through a sea of smiling faces to a long, open pavilion lined with picnic tables. After gathering everyone together, they opened their many bags and distributed the gifts. Items, such as clothes, games, coloring books, lacrosse sticks, purses, and beauty supplies were handed out one by one to each of the girls. Though the gifts were simple, everyone was so appreciative. “The squeals of delight and expressions of sheer joy on their faces as they received their gifts were absolutely remarkable,” said intern Erin. “I remember one little three year old in particular as she raced up to receive her new teddy bear. As soon as we gave it to her she clutched it to her chest with immediate adoration and snuggled against it.”
The remainder of the day was filled dancing, games, chatting, reading, and lots of laughter. Though they all talked and played together, each of the interns made special bonds with a few of the girls. Immediately after arriving, two of the orphans, Naomi and Lucia, glued themselves to Hannah. Though they did not speak the same language, the girls were content with sitting on her lap, playing with bubbles and taking selfies on her phone. Bo also made an immediate connection with an eight-year-old girl named Yeimi. Thanks to their mutual interests, the two struck up a conversation and ended up spending the rest of the day talking, painting, and dancing together. “She was focused on painting in a drawing of Princess Sophia in her new coloring book and took my hand in hers to show me how to paint,” said Bo. “Her goofiness was adorable and we had a blast learning dance moves from each other.”
In what seemed like no time at all, it was time to leave. After exchanging a series of “Hasta Mañana’s” and hugs, the team was on their way, excited to return again the following day.
As the group drove back on the second and last day at Ninos de Cristo, they found it hard not to feel a heavy cloud hanging over them. They didn’t want this to be the end of the visits to the orphanage. Pushing this feeling aside, however, they greeted their new friends and picked up right back where they had left off. As a treat for the girls, the team provided a lunch of fried chicken and French fries. The rest of the day proceeded with roller-skating, kickball, dancing, and more laughter. After having a blast playing tennis, intern Louisa and Naomi spent the rest of the day together playing sports, dancing, and braiding hair. “Once, when I mentioned I was thirsty after a game of kickball, Naomi seized my hand and pulled me through the orphanage to the kitchen,” said Louisa. “She took my empty water bottle and carefully filled it. While I drank, she watched me and held out to the water tub, ready to pour more. Her willingness to serve was humbling and inspiring. I felt so special and loved.”
When the time came to pack up and leave, the team reluctantly said their final goodbyes with hugs, kisses, and heartfelt words. “It was heartbreaking to watch the now familiar walls of the orphanage vanish behind us as we drove away,” remembered Erin. Before returning to the hotel, the team made a stop at the boy’s orphanage, the second of the two Ninos de Cristo campuses, to give them their gifts. The boys were waiting for them when they arrived and were eager to show the group their home and athletic field. Though they couldn’t stay long, the team loved spending time with the boys, who were each so welcoming and respectful. After taking a few group photos on the camera and saying a round of goodbyes, it was time to head back to Casa de Campo. For the most part, the ride back to the hotel was silent, though not for a lack of words. They each shared a quiet understanding that this time was meant for an individual reflection on the impact these last two days had left.
Throughout the visit to the orphanage, the team was continuously overwhelmed with the level of gratitude displayed by the girls at Ninos de Cristo. “They appreciate all that they have because they know what its like to have nothing,” said Erin. Now, since finding solace at their new home, the orphans have the ability to see the world as a place of opportunity and new beginnings. They have set goals and developed career paths that they previously thought were unattainable. Jordania, who is 15 years old, is practicing to be a professional boxer and just recently won the 2015 National Child Boxing Championship. Dalusia, 18, aspires to be a nurse when she is older, despite a harsh background of abuse. Naomi, who wants to play professional tennis, showed the interns her impressive backhand as they played together on the court. The list of similar courageous aspirations is endless. When they do finally move on to accomplish their goals however, they never forget the orphanage that they grew up in and frequently come back to visit. This fact alone sends the strongest message. The girls, though some are now models, lawyers, and Olympic athletes, remain humble and grateful for the place and the people that raised them.
Though in different ways, the Innocents at Risk interns all benefited from meeting the Ninos de Cristo orphans. “It’s ironic, really. We had come on this mission trip with the idea that we’d be helping the children, yet it turned out that they had helped us just as much,” reflected Louisa. The kids had shown them what it looks like to live with immeasurable joy and appreciation, and for that, they are forever grateful. Though leaving on that last day was tougher than they could have ever imagined, the interns remain comforted by the place in which they were leaving their new friends. Ninos de Cristo is a permanent home. It is provides the children with a school, library, computer room, and chapel to worship in. Above all, it provides them with a family that loves and supports them. There, they are free to dream, learn, and appreciate all that life has to offer.
From Innocents at Risk 2012 Mission to the Dominican Republic
Innocents at Risk’s 5th Humanitarian Mission to the Dominican Republic
Posted by Alexa Price, July 19, 2012
11. July 2012
We hauled suitcases full of clothes and toys for the children of Ninos de Cristos through the DC metro and airports and got some strange looks from security as wands lit up and trucks rolled around. We have finally arrived in the Dominican Republic! We talked about our Flight Attendant Initiative with the American Airlines flight attendants throughout our journey and were thrilled to hear their knowledge and to see their eagerness to help in trafficking prevention.
La Romana is paradise. That is the sole way I can explain it. The island breeze was the most perfect (and necessary!) break from the stifling Washington DC heat that seems to be particularly unforgiveable this summer.
Our lovely house manager left us a bowl of fruit as a welcoming gift when we arrived to Casa de Campo. We cut it up and shared a laugh because we encountered a bit of trouble identifying some of the fruit. It was so much larger and colored differently than the fruit we typically buy in the United States.
I had just told my fellow interns that all I had wanted for dessert after dinner was a mango. When we cut into the fruit to try to figure them out, one turned out to be a bright pink papaya filled with black seeds. The other turned out to be a mango, my favorite! What a nice surprise!
That evening, Deborah told me about a fabulous surprise of her own. She headed to Jumbo, a Dominican grocery store that sells just about everything, to order lunch to bring to the Ninos de Cristo orphanage the following day.
Two very special young people from Ninos de Cristo, Esther and Yachaira, surprised her. Deborah had first met the girls in 2009. At each of her trips over the past three years, she had become more attached to them. She has watched them grow into beautiful, confident young women.
Esther and Yachaira helped Deborah pick out a few extra gifts for the youngest children at the orphanage. The three spent the rest of the afternoon catching up with one another and planning out our service to the orphanage. There is nothing quite like a reunion with an old friend, is there?
These girls, along with the rest of the young people at the orphanage, can only be described as an embodiment of hope, goodness and strength. They have a exceptional ability to rise up against the odds in pursuit of their dreams, all while smiling and welcoming us into their culture.
13. July 2012
Ninos de Cristo possesses an incredible sense of community. I have never felt so welcome and included. Upon entering here, we felt a burst of life and sunshine. Immediately, a fifteen-year-old named Madeline took me by the hand and introduced me to all of her girlfriends.
It’s amazing how easily we all became friends. The children look after one another and always seem to be giggling. Their energy was contagious. The girls performed several dances they had been practicing for weeks for us. They were very talented. And not to mention adorable.
Madeline, my newest best friend, pulled me into the dance tried to teach me. She promised I was getting the hang of it, but I think she may have just said that to be nice.
Afterward, Innocents at Risk distributed pizza and drinks for lunch. The children sat perfectly quietly, without touching their food, until we said a prayer. The staff is surely doing something right, we all agreed.
We were also thrilled to have had enough support from back in the United States to bring clothing for each of the 187 children. One young boy pointed out, “Clothes aren’t gifts.” Valid argument, I decided. But luckily for him, we brought toys the next day.
The kids were so sweet and excited to share their gifts with one another. We played baseball, took hundreds of photos, and sang and danced all day long.
I was so, so excited to return the next day.
14. July 2012
I’m on island time!
Maybe it’s the weather. Or the sunshine that seems to gently wakes you through the window each morning. I’m not sure which, but I just love how friendly people are in the Caribbean. We drove past a beautiful oceanfront home one afternoon. The family living there was standing out front. We called out, “Can we move in with you??”
And wouldn’t you know, they answered, “Yes, of course!”
Maybe we should have taken them up on this offer. Or definitely.
I truly love this place. I could spend every day at the Ninos de Cristo Orphanage. I was just so drawn to the creativity, positivity and love that circulated through the compound. These types of experiences are so restorative and uplifting.
Two of the girls I became very close with shared with me stories of their past along with their future dreams and goals. Because of this along with many other reasons, I have so much faith in Ninos de Cristos. The children living here are empowered, ambitious and simply brilliant. The future of the city of La Romana is in great hands.
The kindness and warm nature of everyone we encountered was unforgettable. Ninos de Cristos is not a typical place. It is very special. Every child and staff member has an inspirational story of their own. Each person is part of an extraordinary family.
As I was leaving, Kasandra, an eighteen-year-old I became particularly close with said to me, “You are my sister.”
We had an incredible two days at the orphanage. We made lifelong friends and gained so much insight about the life of Caribbean youth. Ninos de Cristo is a wonderful institution filled with wonderful people. I pinkie promised several of the girls I would return, and I really, truly mean it.
15. July 2012
My life goal is to write a book. Actually, not just to write one, but to write a book that is interesting enough to be turned so that the cover is facing the people walking around the bookstore instead of just the spine. This, a roommate of mine told me once, is when you know you’ve truly made it.
I’ve never really been able to come up with something moving enough to fill enough pages to write a book.
But there is nothing quite like two flights, a long layover and two cups of coffee to get a girl thinking.
What I would love to write, more than anything, is the story of the children and staff at Ninos de Cristo. I was so moved by their strength and resilience. I was so moved by the amazing bond they share and the many challenges they have overcome. I feel so humbled for knowing these individuals.
The staff and children were so appreciative of our support. Sonja promised, “If you keep returning, we can keep reaching out to more children.” Working with this orphanage means becoming an integral part of a rewarding, sustainable project.
When Sonja, the phenomenal (and perhaps superhuman!) woman who runs the orphanage daily, walks into a room, the children all run toward her calling out, “Mom, mom is here!” The facilities were so clean and well kept. Sonja and the other staff members of the organization greeted us with embraces and kind words. I will never forget their hospitality.
It is important to remember why we travel to La Romana to see these wonderful children. Ninos de Cristos is a permanent home. Child trafficking has turned adoption into a dangerously lucrative industry. Some of the children at Ninos de Cristo have been victims of trafficking themselves. This cruel reality calls for Sonja to bring in more children very frequently. She does so with open arms. The support of the Charlie Decker Foundation and the Mandell School in New York has been crucial for these additions.
By returning twice a year, Innocents at Risk has maintained a sentiment of trust with the children of Ninos de Cristo. Our visits are not only about gifts and sharing laughs. Keeping up this relationship fosters a sense of faith and stability for the children. In between visits, we send letters back and forth to keep in touch. This interdependent relationship is essential for growth.
I don’t think I can find words moving enough to explain my experience or the stories of the children at Ninos de Cristos. I don’t think I can explain to you how fulfilling and inspiring my time in the Dominican Republic was. I suppose my book will have to wait. But, in the meantime, please visit innocentsatrisk.org if you are interested in learning more about the Ninos de Cristos Orphanage and supporting our mission in the Dominican Republic.
I believe we all need to experience a place like Ninos de Cristo. Please join us next time!
Innocents at Risk’s trip to the Dominican Republic
Posted by Alexa Price, July 10, 2012
This, my friends, is the overture to a very illuminating journey. I am writing in anticipation of Innocents at Risk’s trip to the Dominican Republic to serve the 187 children of the Ninos De Cristo orphanage.
To begin, I must thank American Airlines for generously donating our airline tickets, as well as the wonderful members of Christ Church in Georgetown for their contributions to our cause. Innocents at Risk has served this orphanage twice a year since 2009, becoming more attached to the amazing staff and children of Ninos de Cristos upon each visit. Director and founder Deborah Sigmund said to me, “Every child is a life. For Innocents at Risk, this is a lifetime commitment.”I really cannot explain how much I appreciate our supporters as well as my internship with Innocents at Risk. It seems I have been blessed with a series of once in a lifetime opportunities all in one summer.
For quite a few reasons, I am extraordinarily grateful to be making this trip. I am looking forward to having the opportunity to share in laughs and struggles and to hear stories and learn a bit about what it means to be a young person growing up in the Dominican Republic. To share the wonderful donations from the clothing store, Cloud 9, as well as a many other kind supporters of our organization. To peek into an existence entirely unique from my own and to experience the comical bonding moments that language barriers always seem to produce. To be humbled, to feel immersed in culture, and to feel inspired.
I’ve attached a song that always seems to come up on my iPod shuffle when I’m travelling: Life in Technicolor by Coldplay.
My favorite line declares, “Every road is a ray of light.”
Keep this thought in mind; no matter the roads you take this summer. Perhaps my favorite part of travelling is the ability to look back on my time away and recall the tangible and fruitful outcomes of the journey. Let the memories you make always remain luminous. And please wish us luck as we embark on this unforgettable adventure!
From Innocents at Risk 2009 Mission to the Dominican Republic
In October 2009, Innocents at Risk identified two orphanages in the Dominican Republic, Ninos de Cristo and Jackie’s House, for Airline Ambassadors to co-partner with Innocents at Risk. Ninos de Criso, located in La Romana, houses, protects, loves and cares for children who are abandoned, orphaned and abused. It acts as a permanent home for survivors of child trafficking. Currently Ninos de Cristo shelters 140 children, of which 80% are female and who range in age from 1 to 18.
Jackie’s House, located in Santo Domingo, also provides shelter and care for approximately 35 children, most of whom are physically challenged. These children are victims of all kinds of abuse, and often have parents who have been imprisoned. Without the protection of Jackie’s House, most of these children would probably be victims of sex trafficking.
Innocents at Risk, along with Airline Ambassadors, will be fulfilling our third mission to the Dominican Republic June 4-7. A group of 35 individuals, mostly part of the Mandell School in New York, will fly to Santo Domingo and spend two days each at Ninos de Cristo and Jackie’s House. We will sponsor lunches for the children for two days, build a hydroponic garden, organize song singing events, purchase groceries, and provide in-kind aid (such as feminine hygiene products) and health aid (such as medicine and vitamins), as well as monetary aid. We will also bring back three children who will stay with families for 2 weeks. As part of their stay, they will be helping out at the Mandell summer camp for a week.
The organization faces many monthly operational expenses, which are only partially covered by a private donor, and therefore at times, the staff and children find themselves in difficulty. Innocents at Risk’s twice yearly trips have been a tremendous help, but there is still so much to do and we cannot do it alone. To donate to the Dominican Republic projects, please refer to our homepage (www.innocentsatrisk.org) or to the American Airline Ambassadors’ website (airlineamb.org). Donations of any amount are appreciated and vital to these children, and they are 100% tax deductible. Thank you for your on-going support of us! Together we can stop the travesty that is human trafficking.
For further information, please contact us at 202-625-4338 or firstname.lastname@example.org.