VISIONS has been leading teen community service programs in the Dominican Republic since 1991. Our project partner since this program’s inception is the Lions Club of Sabana Perdida. Sabana Perdida is our home base neighborhood in Santo Domingo, where VISIONS student volunteers are welcomed as family. Our dear friends and DR family are 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, ready to laugh. In other ways, the Ramos family is unique. They are legendary in their community for their integrity and selfless service. For nearly two decades they have been our family in the Dominican Republic. They embrace us, guide and advise us, provide loving wisdom and active support. Their contributions to their own community and to VISIONS embody the commitment to service that VISIONS strives to pass on to our participants. Indeed, the service model of the Ramos family transcends the borders of their or any other country.
Santos and Lidia are long-standing members and past Presidents of Club de Leones Sabana Perdida, affiliate of the international Lions Club.
Carlos “Santos” Bonifacio Ramos owns a small colmado corner store in the Elio Franco neighborhood of north Santo Domingo where the Ramos’ make their home. He works seven days a week selling food and supplies to neighborhood residents. Somehow, Santos finds the extra time to actively volunteer in his community, and throughout the year Santos coordinates and plans projects, builds and nurtures key relationships that make VISIONS program unique. Each summer Santos leaves his shop in a neighbor’s hands and joins VISIONS on a daily basis to supervise work projects, create and develop ever-stronger ties between us and our host community. Santos is nothing less than the wise, discerning and eminently respected elder.
Ysidra Espino—Lidia—is Santos’ wife. She is an educator and coordinates philanthropic and service projects in the poorest of the poor local batey communities where Haitian immigrants and unemployed sugar plantation workers struggle to make ends meet. Lidia, mother to all, to her family and to VISIONS staff and participants as well, offering love and affection in a faraway and often challenging environment.
Santos and Lidia’s son, Alberto, was 16 when VISIONS first came to Sabana Perdida. As a teenager he worked alongside VISIONS participants to build Melvin Jones School, which also serves as the hurricane shelter for El Milloncito neighborhood. He later taught English for several years at Melvin Jones. Alberto is currently working on his Ph.D. in French and English. Alberto is VISIONS Program Coordinator during the off-season. Every summer Alberto makes the difficult choice to leave his wife, Kenia, and their three adorable children at home in order to live at VISIONS home base.
Defining the many roles Alberto plays in a VISIONS summer is impossible; his contributions are so diverse and absolutely indispensable. Like his parents, Alberto cares deeply about the betterment of his community and holds a profound belief in the power of VISIONS to positively affect the communities and our participants that come together summer after summer. To Santos, Lidia and Alberto, nuestra familia en La Republic Dominica, we extend our gratitude.
VISIONS provides community service programs for teens to volunteer abroad in many countries. High school student volunteers are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in a different culture and get acquainted with local customs.