Last Tuesday, March 1st, I had the honor of assisting the inaugural celebration of the foundation “El Ser Libre y Feliz”. Andres Velez, the president and founder of the organization, together with the United Nations Development Program in the Dominican Republic (UNDP DR), chose the international “Zero Discrimination Day” to gather a group of people from the community together with some key figures in the foundation for a special evening with a special message: Help for the Escuela de Educación Especial Padre Sebastian Cavalotto (Special Needs School Father Sebastian Cavalotto), which currently has more than 150 students with special needs.
Upon arriving at La Marina, we were immediately overwhelmed by the amount of people that were gathered together to celebrate the foundation and who in turn will play an important role in the lives of the students.
Ruth Fernández, who represents the United Nations Development Program in the Dominican Republic, gave a welcoming speech during which she reaffirmed their full support to the foundation. She reminded us how we all play a big role in creating an environment and culture of tolerance and respect for diversity, and how important it is for every person in the world to feel loved and accepted.
“We are confident that we can achieve a world without stigma or discrimination, in which each person is able to express themselves freely and reach their full potential. Along with people with disabilities, we can move the world forward without leaving anyone behind.” — Ruth Fernandez, United Nations Development Program in the Dominican Republic
After these beautiful words, Begdy Fanilva Belen Hernandez, Director of the Escuela de Educación Especial Padre Sebastian Cavalotto, explained that around 7.5% of the Dominican population has a disability which holds them back from having a normal job and developing a future for themselves. From this group, 42% doesn’t have access to medical insurance and most of them live in houses with concrete walls and zinc roofs. “In the school, we are working hard every day to change these numbers and create a livelihood filled with acceptance and respect, where the children and teenagers can be excellent students and are able to grow and develop without obstacles into adults with potential, who will have professional careers, and manage their own businesses.”
Andres founded this organization two months ago, and explained during his speech what motivated him to dedicate himself to this project. For decades he, along with friends and family, have participated in preparing the school’s annual Christmas party, making it memorable for the students. During the last event, they observed the latent urgency to raise additional funds to improve the school infrastructure, educational program, psychological evaluation and follow up, parent education, updated training and education for therapists, sanitary infrastructure and other programs for the benefit of the children in La Romana and their families. This in turn will help them live a productive and independent life elevating their self-esteem. He also thanked the UNDP for this new and long lasting partnership.
“Every human being must have etched in their mind and soul that they are FREE, useful, valuable, have opportunities and the right to be HAPPY.” — Andrés Velez, Founder of “El Ser Libre y Feliz”
After listening to these beautiful and powerful words from the people behind the foundation and the school, and seeing pictures of the school and children, we are all determined to help this group who is unfortunately not always able to stand up for themselves. The event was closed by the beautiful voice of Adolfo Rodriguez Lorenzo (Adolfo La Voz) who surprised us with a performance of salsa and Spanish music.
For their ongoing sustainability, the foundation will have the following activities: sponsored raffles, sponsored fundraising dinners, sports events, seek Godfathers/Godmothers of classrooms and students, donations through their web page. If you would like to participate in any of these activities, or want to know more about the organization, see the contact information below.
The following collection of pictures were taken during the inaugural celebration on Tuesday March 1st, in Pepperoni La Marina, Casa de Campo by Enmanuel Lara:
“El Ser Libre y Feliz”
Andres Velez, President
Phone number: (809) 390-4905
William Vélez, VP and Communications Director
Phone number: (809) 756-0196