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El Ser Libre y Feliz is an organization dedicated to assisting children with special needs and disabilities in the Dominican Republic. Andrés Velez, the president and founder of the recently launched organization, along with his family has been a longtime contributor to the annual Christmas party of the Escuela de Educación Especial Padre Sebastian Cavalotto (Special Needs School Father Sebastian Cavalotto), but recently noticed the need for improved infrastructure and more educational programs for the parents, therapists, and children. We reached out to Andrés to give our readers an opportunity to learn more about him, their devoted organization and mission for the future.
Why is El Ser Libre y Feliz an important cause to you?
Caring for children that have special needs is a fulfilling experience. Being able to bring a smile and hope to a child who has no control of his/her wellbeing and future. With this foundation we will be able to get more resources and help from many different sources for the Cavalotto Special Needs School. This is key to be able to improve the lives of more than 150 children, their families and the teachers.
What is your role in developing the foundation?
As President of the foundation, I am responsible to follow up on the planning, development and completion of the pilot project, which is the Cavalotto Special Needs School. Currently, I attend meetings sponsored by the UNDP (United Nations Development Program) and private sponsors. I meet with volunteers to plan activities. We are currently developing a plan for the pilot project, which should be completed by the end of the month. I will be responsible for organizing the fundraisers and promoting the school.
During the inauguration of the foundation you said: “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.” How does El Ser Libre y Feliz communicate this message to the children?
Currently we are working in diagnosing each child to establish personal and medical profile for each child. The children are treated with love, smiles and hug each day. A key goal of the project is to create a sense of wellness and high self esteem in each child.
After recently launching, what developments has El Ser Libre y Feliz made thus far to the Escuela de Educación Especial Padre Sebastian Cavalotto?
The Foundation has one month of operations. Every week a Psychologist and aids travel twice to La Romana to work with the teachers and students. We currently have connected the school with charities and individuals who are offering help to the children. Regarding the infrastructure, the improvements will happen in summer, due to the amount of work required. We are working on fixing the immediate needs. The psychologists have identified from the 152 children and teenagers 4 students who will be able to go to a regular high school and very likely to college.
Can you expand on the programs in place towards assisting students with overcoming difficulties in their social environments?
Right now we are establishing their needs and identifying the sources to seek donations and technical assistance. We have professionals sponsored by the UNDP visiting each week the school and working with the teachers and psychologist. These professionals are identifying each child’s need, both educational as medical. The aid will be provided as needed, and we will work with the parents as well, to assure the children are in a non-risk environment.
Have you noticed since creating El Ser Libre y Feliz a positive sense of confidence and growth among the students?
The morale in the school is rewarding. The students, the teachers and parents are happier with every day that goes by. They know that there is a group of professionals from various countries working on the planning phase to bring wellbeing to their lives.
How has the community response been to supporting the foundation?
The community has been supportive and many have approached us asking how they can help.
What is your vision for the future of El Ser Libre y Feliz?
The vision for the future is taking the progress from the Cavalotto School to other schools in the Dominican Republic. It will take about two years to complete this pilot project.
During the inauguration, Begdy Fanilva Belen Hernandez, Director of the Escuela de Educación Especial Padre Sebastian Cavalotto noted that over 7.5% of the Dominican population are disabled, and nearly 1/2 of those live without medical insurance and in very poor living conditions. With the help of El Ser Libre y Feliz and the United Nations Development Program in the Dominican Republic (UNDP DR), they are fighting discrimination, fostering a culture of respect for diversity, and providing an opportunity for students to grow and become successful professionally upon graduation. Support these goals by contributing to El Ser Libre y Feliz today!
“El Ser Libre y Feliz”
El Ser Libre y Feliz is aimed at helping poor institutions dedicated to educating, protecting and developing children with disabilities or who are at risk. Their vision is to lower discrimination to facilitate children and young adults ease into society. Their desire is that they can lead productive and independent lives with a high self esteem and grow without limitations in an environment of acceptance and respect.
Andrés Velez, President
Phone number: (809) 390-4905
William Vélez, VP and Communications Director
Phone number: (809) 756-0196