WestJet Hero Holiday 2013 – Dominican Republic

This fall, 50 WestJetters will be returning to the community of Nuevo Renacer (formerly named Augas Negra) to participate in WestJet’s third Hero Holiday. On this trip, in partnership with Live Different, WestJetters will build five homes for families in extreme poverty in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.

The fortunate WestJetters going on the trip were notified of their spot in April and, since then, have been fundraising to reach the required financial amount needed to participate. To help them with their goal, WestJet has contributed return flights to Puerto Plata and Boeing has contributed $1,000 per person towards their fundraising goal.

Up to this point, these WestJetters only knew that they would be returning to the community of Nuevo Renacer to build new homes for five deserving families. The WestJet Community Investment team has been working closely with Live Different to determine who the five families would be and we are pleased to announce that they have been selected! Below are the stories and photos of the families who will be receiving new homes through the Hero Holiday program this November.

The Lopez Family
Lopez Family
Raul lives in one of the worst homes that we that have seen. He has three children: Elilly (20), Rollin (16) and Chilean (12). Currently his home is in such a bad state that his children are unable to stay with him. It is not unusual for his home to be flooded with black water, leaving it full of bacteria, mold and mosquitoes. Raul works as a bike mechanic in Puerto Plata. He works hard to earn approximately $100 per month. His dream is to be able to have his children over and play sports with them on the beach. After spending time with Raul in his home we were sad to see that someone was trying to live in these conditions. Despite his challenges Raul has chosen to face life with a very positive attitude.

The Pena Family
Pena Family
Lucia Pena is mother of two great sons, Ezequiel (21) and Ariel (22). Within the past few years they lost their father. Since that difficult time they have bonded together in taking care of one another. Lucia works by cleaning the local church, Ezequiel is learning to be a barber and Ariel is working on completing his secondary education. A couple of the difficulties they face in their home are rain coming into the rusted roof and that they are unable to control the amount of mosquitoes due to the water around the home. In the midst of their challenges, it is easy to see what a tight bond they have together. While spending time with the family Ariel shared with us his drawings and they were truly amazing. The Pena family hopes to have a healthier home to live in together.

Juan Pueyo
Juan Pueyo
Juan Pueyo (36) is a security guard in Puerto Plata. He has lived in this home for most of his life. He speaks about the rats that constantly give him problems, as well as the water that comes in his roof and up through the floors. When speaking with Juan, he shared the difficulties he faces, but he also shared his love for his animals. Juan has a business raising ducks, geese and chickens, mainly for their eggs, but he also sells the birds as well. He raises the birds in his backyard and he loves to teach his neighbours how to take care of them. Juan shared with us that he has a niece named Penelope (18) who also lives in very poor conditions. He is very excited to be able to take her in his new home and help provide for her.

The Guzman Family
Guzman Family
This family does not currently live in the house that is on the land in Nuevo Renacer. There’s almost nothing left of their old home. Through years of storms and floods, the family had to move away from their land to rent in another location. Ramona (41) takes care of her daughter Gabrielle (8) while her husband Kiloman (46) makes a living ocean fishing. With his job, it forces him to be away for weeks at a time. Ramona shared that she wants to be able to feel safe in a new home while her husband is away. Gabrielle is in grade one and loves to ride her bicycle. The Guzman family is currently glowing with excitement thinking about having a new home.

The Emilio Family
Emilio Family
Manuel Emilio (51) is the father of this family. For the past few years that we have been building in this community, Manuel has always been around helping build other people’s homes. He has always jumped right in, worked hard and was happy to see others get a new home. This time, it’s his families’ turn. His wife Senada (41) and his two sons Juan (23) and Saudi (22) also live in very poor conditions. Manuel works cleaning sewer drains in the city, Senada sells juice in the community and the boys work in the local market when they can. One thing that is very evident is how much they love their dogs. They have three dogs that are very much a part of the family. The Lopez family also raises birds in their backyard to help support themselves. Their current home is in a very unhealthy state.

“In Aguas Negras/Nuevo Renacer there are five families who all live as neighbours in very difficult conditions, said Cole Brown, Live Different’s Manager of Operations, Dominican Republic and Haiti. “Here they support one another through all the challenges they face. Four out of the five families are related in different ways. Together they have many animals that they raise to support themselves. Our goal with the November WestJet crew will be to see them all receive the healthy homes they need and deserve, as well as to create the proper facilities for them to care for and tend to their animals. Once these five homes are completed, WestJetters will have built 15 homes, refurbished a basketball court, helped to bring 24-hour electricity to the community, and provided the boulders for a retaining wall in Nuevo Renacer through the WestJet Hero Holiday program.”

To learn more about the Nuevo Renacer community and WestJet’s participation in the Hero Holiday program, please watch this video.