DANBURY, Conn. -- Danbury resident Rebecca Tate is making a difference in the lives of families in need in the Dominican Republic.
Through a nonprofit organization she co-founded called Cambiando Vidas, Tate has played a direct role in building over two dozen homes in the impoverished island nation.
Cambiando Vidas was recently recognized by the Danbury-based Dominican Club of Connecticut at an event held at the Portuguese Cultural Center in Danbury. Tate accepted the award on behalf of the organization.
Tate makes the trip to the Dominican Republic twice a year to build homes in a poor agricultural community. "The dropout rate for elementary school kids is 30 percent," said Tate, a mother of two and a Spanish teacher at Bethel Middle School.“Each time I go, I take with me 12 to 16 people, including adults and children,” Tate said. “We build the homes in a week’s time. The existing houses in the community are made of wood and have no indoor bathrooms."
The volunteers from Cambiando Vidas build a concrete block house, working side by side with the future homeowners as well as friends and neighbors. The work involves moving and filling in cinder blocks, as well as shoveling.
The completed one-level homes are 600 to 700 square feet and have four rooms and an indoor bathroom.
According to Tate, there is no need to learn Spanish or have any construction experience to volunteer. “Anybody can do it. You are doing basic skills. All tool are provided," she said.
Although the local people speak only Spanish, “We all find a way to communicate with one another while working together on the homes," Tate said.
The best part for Tate is directly helping to improve the lives of the people in the Dominican Republic community.
“You could always make a donation to a charity or organization, but when you actually do the work and see the results of it, you feel like you have made a great impact," she said. "By the end of the week, you can actually see the results of your work.
“I enjoy the process of working on these homes," she said. "These people don’t have much, yet they appreciate life so much.
"When you come home from each trip, you don’t remember the specific hours you worked on the house or the tools you used," Tate said. "But you always remember the smiles, the people you met and the experiences you had.”
As an organization, Cambiando Vidas has built 74 homes since 2007. “I have been involved in 25 to 30 of these houses in some way," she said.
To volunteer with Cambiando Vidas for a week, volunteers pay $1,200 plus airfare. This includes lodging and food.
The next building project in the Dominican Republic will take place April 9 to 15.
To learn more about Cambiando Vidas, click here or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.