The Ark is a refuge for at-risk children and youth, and even more so during this pandemic. Our kids have been quarantined with their house parents on the campus since March 19. Despite this, when surveyed, the vast majority express gratitude for their time together!
The lockdown has brought many challenges, and staff have had to be very creative to make sure everything gets done. Our older youth have stepped up to fill the service roles usually carried out by the support staff, including cooking, cleaning, and yard work. Many have spiritually matured during this time, and one was also baptized.
Directors Fred and Kasandra O’Brien keep a healthy and active weekly schedule, including classes taught by house parents on the school campus, complete with PE and devotions. Other activities include making new foods such as pizza, playing board games, and growing vegetables.
Celebrated on the last Sunday of May, Mother’s Day was a hit with the moms who enjoyed gifts and special pizza. And one afternoon, God provided the entertainment in a powerful downpour complete with large hailstones!
The country remains under curfew, mandatory mask use, and enforced travel restrictions.
Many hands make the work light. Peeling and chopping for “ensalada de rusa” (Russian potato and carrot salad) allows for a time of laughter, conversation, and deepening relationships.
Children gather around the kitchen table to complete assignments, help each other, and socialize!
House parents teach a class at Constanza School, giving the children an outing to the school next door! Keeping regular routines has helped everyone maintain healthy habits throughout these weeks, and this "new school setting" has been a blessing.
While most Dominicans believe getting caught in the rain is a sure ticket to illness, at the Ark, rainstorms are viewed as God’s blessing and an afternoon's entertainment.
“Cosecha” – harvest! Many vegetables are grown in Constanza, but sadly many hired to harvest the crop are unemployed now. These two boys are happy to dig up potatoes from our garden.
The kids are grateful to have a large playground in sharp contrast to the little open space in the barrios where they come from. Most barrio homes have only one or two rooms without a play yard. Intentional and free time during the day has helped everyone stay healthy.
When surveyed last month, many of the kids said they wanted to learn to cook new foods. The boys took on making pizzas – a very special treat in the DR!
During COVID-19, house parents and directors alike have taken on teachers' roles. Here, Site Director Fred enjoys throwing hoops during the physical education class.
Right as quarantine hit in March, the basketball court in Constanza School got a new roof. In May, the Ark Constanza kids used the closed school facility to have their private classes, and more importantly, to have a change of scenery. The kids are now able to enjoy playing in the sun and rain.
Mother's Day celebrations! These lovely women were celebrated in many ways, including a special pizza meal. House moms are some of the most tireless, patient, loving, persevering, and joyful women on earth!
Math can be challenging, but with the help of teachers, house parents have taken advantage of the quarantine to work with and encourage those who've struggled with math.
A generous US donor sent hundreds of these masks – thank you! Since the Ark is locked down, kids practice using masks correctly and learn COVID-19 prevention practices. As the strict quarantine is lifted over the next few months, the kids will venture out with mandatory masks required by law.
God’s awesome power is experienced during a storm. Kids revel in the novelty of catching the rare hailstones.
Living and playing close together has deepened bonds and in some cases brought healing to broken relationships. House moms Yoanna and Isabel enjoy connecting with the kids over a game of Parcheesi under the shade of a tree.
Maintaining regular routines during these challenging times has been important for the well-being of the kids and staff. Daily devotions are a cornerstone of this routine.
Site Directors Kasandra and Fred live in the Ark compound and have regularly scheduled days with different houses to provide respite for the house parents. Kasandra and Pedro* bond while washing dishes together. (*Name changed)
Pastor Rafael and his wife Sandra, Constanza School social worker, blessed the Ark by living inside the walls for the first six weeks of quarantine. Many kids have experienced spiritual growth, including Lisa*, who decided to be baptized! (*Name changed)
The directors and house parents are using the quarantine to strengthen connections with children and between site families. Games and fun activities are all a part of building unity.