Building Community & Family in D.R. Summer Programs

VISIONS has been leading teen community service programs in the Dominican Republic since 1991(!). One of our primary project partners since this program’s inception is the Lions Club (Club de Leones)—three of these Club’s members have also been important & dear friends since 1991—Santos, Lidia and Alberto Ramos.

The Ramos Family—Santos, Lidia and Alberto
In many ways the Ramos’ are characteristic of Dominican families—warm and outgoing, loving, hard-working, humorous. In other ways, the Ramos family is unique, certainly very special. They are legendary for their integrity and selfless service in their own community and in VISIONS, as well. For more than three decades the Ramos family has been our family in the Dominican Republic. They have embraced us, guided and advised us, providing loving wisdom and active support. Their countless contributions to their community and to VISIONS embody the commitment to service that VISIONS strives to pass on to our participants and the communities in which we work.

School principal and Alberto Ramos

Indeed, the service model that the Ramos family embodies transcends the borders of their country. All three family members are long-standing, active members of the Club de Leones, and all three have served as President. Alberto was even named the DR’s “Lion Member of the Year” for his contributions in service and leadership.

Carlos “Santos” Bonifacio Ramos is respected as a pillar of his neighborhood and is dedicated to serving others. VISIONS participants know Santos for his smile & laugh, as well as his knowledge of the worksites and construction projects. Throughout the year Santos coordinates and plans service projects, builds and nurtures key community relationships that make VISIONS programs unique. Each summer Santos joins VISIONS to supervise the work, creating ever-stronger ties between our host community and us. Santos is nothing less than the wise, discerning and eminently respected elder.

Lidia, Santos & granddaughter

Santos leading a volunteer worksite

Ysidra Espino—Lidia, as she is known, is Santos’ wife, and past Directora of Melvin Jones School that was built by VISIONS in the early 1990s. Lidia, too, is an active community volunteer and coordinator for philanthropic and service projects in the poorest of the poor local batey communities where Haitian immigrants and unemployed former sugar workers struggle to make ends meet. Lidia—mother to all—not only to her family, but to VISIONS leaders and participants as well, offers affection in a place far away from home.

Santos and Lidia’s son, Alberto, was about 16 years old when VISIONS first came to his neighborhood (VISIONS originally was based in Santo Domingo). As a teenager he worked with participants to build Melvin Jones School that serves also as the hurricane shelter for his community. He later taught English for several years at Melvin Jones and was VISIONS summer director for more than 15 years before transitioning to a year-round career that no longer allows for summer breaks.

Defining the many roles the Ramos family plays in a VISIONS summer is impossible; their contributions are so diverse and absolutely invaluable. These three individuals care deeply about the betterment of their community and they hold a profound belief in the power of VISIONS to positively affect the communities and our participants that visit each summer.

To Santos, Lidia and Alberto, we extend grateful thanks for being part of the VISIONS family!

VISIONS in The New York Times