What’s In a Name? The Story of Aguas Negras
I am always fascinated by the origins of the names of the developing communities I am exposed to through The New World Community. Last week I had the pleasure of visiting one of CLOUD Projects’ newest partner communities for some last minute preparations before the arrival of our group of University Students from across Ontario, who worked collaboratively with the members of our partner community to build a new home for an elderly blind man, who was living in a house filled with water, and no roof. The community was (known prior as) Aguas Negras.
Community names are no different than the name of a person, really. It is a representation of who we are – our identity. The meaning of our names are vulnerable to the perception of everyone we have ever met. Sometimes our names end up in the archives of history, and sometimes our names are not known beyond the borders of seclusion. Our ability to define ourselves is perhaps one of the greatest elements of free will.
The name Aguas Negras means black water. The waste from the beachfront Dominican Republic tourist district of Puerto Plata, coupled with the flow of the rivers down the mountains and the lack of government support for basic infrastructure turned Aguas Negras from a bustling community with consistent economic development just over 10 years ago, to a community surrounded literally by black water. When it rained heavily, the waste water flowed directly into the community, flooding houses and streets, carrying a wrath of damage and disease on a regular basis. The tin and wooden houses with no foundations were useless against the toxic flooding.
The community of Aguas Negras is resilient and inspiring. Refusing to pick up and move their life elsewhere, the leadership in the community, together with our partner foundation, created a long term development plan to solve the black water problem. Home truly is where the heart is – particularly when we have nowhere else to go. Through collaborative partnerships, endless community cooperation and creative problem solving, Aguas Negras used the resources they had available to make what is nothing short of truly remarkable progress. Last year, the government took notice and pitched in with resources and labor. While the black water problem has not been completely eradicated, the progress has been so extraordinary that the community can focus time, energy and resources on the deplorable housing situation and economic development activities to move towards full sustainability. They continue to chip away at what was not long ago, their only priority.
When I arrived last week, I couldn’t help but notice that the sign that once bared the name “Aguas Negras” had been changed.
As the community has experienced such great progress in the past 10 years, they made the collective decision to no longer be defined by their challenges. They believed their identity should be symbolic of collaboration, inspiration, resilience and progress. They believed that instead of being identified by problems, they deserve to be represented by a symbol of hope
Not having enough white paint to make Aguas Negras a thing of the past, and barely enough green to create a symbol for the future wasn’t enough to delay the inevitable. Perhaps the barely visible remnants of name Aguas Negras is meant to be – although not completely out of the woods yet, “Barrio Nuevo Renancer” continues to work together to defy the odds. They won’t stop until every member of their community lives with dignity.
I am proud to have the opportunity to strengthen our ongoing partnership with Nuevo Renancer, loosely translated to “A New Birth”, and to continue working together to improve the conditions and solve problems, little by little.
La bienvenida a Nuevo Renancer: Construyendo una Mejor Comunidad – Junta de Vecinos
Welcome to A New Birth: Building a Better Community: The Association of Neighbors
Last week, a group of dedicated and passionate C.L.O.U.D. Projects participants worked together with the community to build a new home for an elderly blind man, complete with a solid foundation to withstand the flow of water and rightfully, a solid roof over his head. Only 5 short years ago, this community would have been too big of a health risk to join them hand in hand.
Let’s let Nuevo Renancer serve as a reminder not to let life’s challenges define us, but to love each other as neighbors in the toughest of times, and work together to solve everything life throws at us. When times are tough, they are always tougher for someone else.
After my last blog post: Everyone Deserves a Chance, many people reached out to me asking how they can make a difference. For anyone interested in making a meaningful impact in one of our partner communities by travelling to work hand in hand or giving a financial gift (100% of every dollar raised goes directly to our partner communities), you can visit http://TheNWC.com. Thanks for reading, and keep the comments coming.