World Water Day in the Dominican Republic
posted by Kristen Dalton at 03:26pm on 03/30/2010
This has probably been one of the most meaningful and emotional weeks of my year as Miss USA. I got the chance to travel to the Dominican Republic in light of World Water Day to help clean the banks of Los Pomos River in Bayaguana; plant trees; distribute water jugs, dispensers, and cleaning tools; and attend an educational seminar that taught people in the community how to keep their water safe and clean. But that is not all.
Why is doing this and recognizing World Water Day so important? Because every 15 seconds a child around the world dies from a water related disease, most of them being under the age of 14. I joined contestants from the Miss Dominican Republic pageant and a group of children who are sponsored through Children International to clean the river, and we picked up tons of trash. But the most disturbing part to me was the amount of broken glass on the river bend, where children could easily get hurt when going to take a bath or get the water they need for their families. It was a good feeling though to be cleaning Bayaguana's main water source with the children who actually benefit from this river, and who can set an example for their communities on the importance of keeping it safe and clean. There were some true leaders in this bunch. What really blew my mind is the fact that children bathe in this river, fill buckets to use as their family’s only resource for drinking water, and the water is stored in bins outside where it is exposed to animals, bugs, and pollution. The people drink from this and children die from it. Meanwhile, I am upset because I can't get the water pressure I want from the shower in hotel rooms when I travel - are you kidding me?! This was a great reminder that what some of us see as basics in life are actually luxuries to others and we should always be grateful.
The most heart-wrenching part of the trip for me was going to the villages to see how these families live, and I must say I was not prepared for this horrible poverty. On average, there were about 8 people per family that shared one tiny bed with no mattress, and some of the children slept on the dirt floor. Children were walking around with no shoes or clothes on - some with injuries that were never cared for because there are no resources for these families. I met one little girl named Caide who is just 4-years-old. She is the most radiant ray of light you will ever see. She walked up to me and grabbed on to my hand and would not let it go. My heart melted when she looked up at me and smiled, and I knew I had to do something to help her. I became her Madrina, which means “godmother” in Spanish, by sponsoring her through Children International. For $22 a month, she can now have access to medical care, dental care, an education, nutritious meals and, most importantly, hope. I believe education is one of the key factors in eliminating poverty, and I pray that this little girl will believe in herself and have dreams so she can have a promising future.
If you want to do something to give hope to a child around the world, visit www.children.org to see how you can help. Become a Madrino or a Madrina!! You can see pictures of my trip with Children International in my photo gallery.