Someone you should know ...

Albania Mateo Olaverria, the principal of Centro Educativo Espíritu Santo.

Albania Mateo Olaverria with
Sister Pat Stringer, OP

Albania is the youngest of a family of six children. She is eight years younger than her closest sibling and for many years after the death of her father lived alone with her mother.

After graduating in 1990 from the high school in Los Cacaos, Albania came with her mother to the Cruce looking for work opportunities. She found a job in the Free Zone in a clothing manufacturing plant. Having a somewhat fragile physical constitution, Albania chronically suffered from fatigue and digestive disorders.

Impressed by her intelligence and interpersonal skills, we offered her an opportunity to prepare to become a teacher. She was very interested, but quite concerned about the security of this offer. She said, “I am the sole support of my mother and I cannot afford to lose my job in the factory for an opportunity that may not be permanent.” We assured her that the offer was firm. She enrolled in Loyola Technical Institute with a scholarship and earned her teaching certificate.

Even in her the first year of teaching Albania had the ability to relate to the students with love and respect. The supervisor Milagros Paulino often spoke of her creativity with admiration.

Albania continued her education, earning a degree in administration from the university. After twelve years of success as teacher of first grade, she was chosen by her co-workers to be sub-director of the elementary school. Today she is the director and is responsible for 1,300 students and a staff of 36. Effective and supportive, she calls out the best from each person.

Albania is very well known and respected in the community of Cruce de Arroyo Hondo. She chairs the committee on Community School Relations. This committee does a great deal of work accompanying the population in their struggle for water, electricity, and a clean environment. She was chosen for two consecutive years to represent the Fe y Alegría Latin American schools in their national conferences in Brazil and Ecuador.

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The Feliz Family

José Feliz and family

We met José Feliz when he was 20 years old, newly arrived from Ocoa and trying to eke a living out of a small plot of land. Another farmer heard that we were looking for high school graduates willing to become teachers and suggested that we interview him. We did and were very impressed with his intelligence and lack of hesitancy to jump into something new. He enrolled in a scholarship program at Loyola Technical Institute, earned his teaching certificate and continued on to graduate from the university with a degree in mathematics.

In his first years of teaching José was rather shy outside of the classroom, but fired with enthusiasm to educate. Often we could not find him in a room full of children because he was sitting in the student chair with a little one on his knees. He always looked for the child who did not grasp the idea right away.

After a few years José married Maura and began his family. He and Maura built their home with their own hands. When the children were no longer babies, José encouraged her to begin work on her university degree. Today Maura is a first grade teacher in Centro Educativo Espíritu Santo and José is chair of high school mathematics in the same school. Their children are among our most excellent students.

This family is our closest neighbor. We can count on each one of them to call on the community to respect the school and protect it from vandalism. Maura is always ready to share on various committees, has sewn many of our Mardi Gras costumes and continues to support José in his political activities.

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Liliam came to our door one day asking for work. Having heard much about Centro Espíritu Santo, she wanted to be part of it. She was so convinced that this was to be her future that she actually moved with her husband and three boys from Ocoa into the Cruce.


Liliam, however, was born with a cleft palate and was very difficult to understand. This did not dismay her in any way. She was determined to be part of this new endeavor. We encouraged her to think of a specialty which would not involve direct teaching because of her speech patterns. Finally we agreed that she would make the perfect librarian. She, in a flash, began preparations to enroll at the national university in the library science department. Meanwhile, one of Sisters from Adrian, a specialist in library science, spent three months with us and taught Liliam the Douay decimal system. Liliam was a fast learner.

Two years later a group of plastic surgeons came to the capital and offered free surgery. She and two of our little girls had successful surgeries. After the surgery, Liliam began speech therapy. Today, it is very easy to understand her. She has her degree in library science and manages our 5,000-plus collection of books. Part of her role description is to guide the students in their research, to maintain and organize the collection, and to direct activities which motivate the habit of reading. She does all of this with great skill.

An experience which she loves to share concerns the disbelief of her professor. One day the students’ assignment was to chronicle their daily activities at their respective jobs. Liliam chronicled her activities, mentioning the classifying of the collection and the creation of a card catalogue. (Remember, we did not yet have computers in our little town; we hardly had electricity and still have neither internet signals nor land lines.) The professor read her list of activities and refused to believe that such a library existed outside of the capital. Liliam insisted. Finally, after consulting with us the administration, she decided to have the next class in our library with Liliam presenting the material. Sure enough, a bus from the university showed up and Liliam gave the class presenting the Douay decimal system. Of course, she was the star of the day. And continues to be one of our stars.

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Iluminada Familia

Iluminada is a tiny, extremely shy women who speaks softly with the diffidence of one who has no confidence. She came from a very poor barrio outside of Azua with her husband, two children and no resources, only the desire to find medical attention. Her second child, Alfredo, was born with a heart defect. The family had no way to find the resources necessary to help him. The one thing that Iluminada knew was that she was going to feed her children and she was going to get the open heart surgery that Alfredo needed.

Iluminada and family

Iluminada began approaching our health committee for help. She needed medicines, food, and money for transportation to the doctor. She also needed better living conditions since the family was living in a lean-to attached to the wall of an excavation left from gravel extraction. The more the health team explained that they did not give money, but would help her find the solution and agencies that would help her, the more Iluminada demanded that there was no more time. She insisted that because we were representatives of the Church, we had to help her. Jesus said so. Besides some of the team were nuns, and weren’t nuns supposed to help? Because of her constant presence outside the doors of the health center and her never-ending, although whispered, insistence, the committee found ways to supply the medicines that her son needed. Sure enough, after some months, the Heart to Heart organization came to the capital to do free heart surgeries. We were able to do all the preparation needed and get Alfredo to the hospital.

He had successful surgery, but because Iluminada was giving birth to her third child on the same day as the surgery, it was the health team that had to fill in for her and later attend to the baby.

Today, Iluminada is finally satisfied. Her son, now 9 years old, is healthy and doing well in school. Her husband has never found enough work to put food on the table, but Iluminada has been present every day to help in school. She is responsible for watering the garden and sweeping the floors of the early childhood center. For this work she receives a stipend, enough to feed the children. She has become a welcome presence and has acquired a great deal of self-confidence. With the help of those who grew in their respect for her, she has been able to move her family into better living conditions. She is someone you should know. She is the valiant mother.

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