I'm Living Proof—And That's Why I CareDania Santana
I was beyond excited when, after pursuing the goal of becoming a contributor for Babble, it finally happened. Little did I know the opportunity would present as something more meaningful. And then I heard about Babble Cares.
Babble Cares works to create awareness on issues—from Maternal Health, Environment Conservation and Women/Girls Leadership, to Making a Difference—that are of utmost importance both here in the U.S. and around the globe.
I feel a special connection to the Babble Cares mission because I’ve lived it. My life has taken me on an amazing journey thus far, and I’ve got some great stories to share from it. As a mom blogger, you’ll read my thoughts on these pages, and I wanted to introduce myself and give you a little background.
I grew up in a poor neighborhood in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and lived there until I was 23. My journey was impacted by a few, very small opportunities that made all the difference.
Like any other poor neighborhood in Santo Domingo, Cachimán gets 12+ hours a day of power outages, many homes don’t have running water, and if they do, it may work once or twice a week. Most children have little or no access to life-saving vaccines and the illiteracy rates are alarming, 12.9% of the population is illiterate as per the most recent report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, that’s 5% higher than the rest of Latin America.
I can’t count the many nights I did my homework by candlelight. My family was incredibly lucky not to have a house fire like a few of our neighbors. And those candles we lit were often homemade, because we had no money to buy any. We’d put oil on a plate and a small piece of paper, wet with oil, served as the wick.
There are no by-law age regulations for men to be with girls. I went through puberty early and from a very young age, was subjected to inappropriate looks and comments from older men. I wanted to hide behind my clothes.
Sometimes, stuff like this is hard to take, hard to read—even difficult to write. But whenever I think of my life’s journey, I know I’m one of the lucky ones, and my experiences have given me a lot to share. Those experiences have not only influenced the topics I write about ,but also make me qualified to discuss them.
Before I was 12 years old, I had more harrowing experiences than many people in a lifetime. I’m looking forward to sharing my stories with you and reading your commentary.
Before I Was 12…
When I was a toddler, I contracted e-coli, a life-threatening illness from contaminated water.
When I was eight, my 12-year-old sister and I would walk six miles to a well to get water for the family.
We couldn’t afford to buy notebooks for school, so my sisters and I made our own out of paper from scraps dad brought home from work.
I hand-washed and line-dried my clothes—and was lucky my grandma liked ironing!
I ran errands to earn money so that I could rent a bike for 10 minutes at a time.
I showered using a bucket and a jar. When I was finished, I saved the water from my shower so it could be used to flush the toilet. And we were one of the fancier households: We had a real toilet and a ceramic tub too!
When I was 10, I heard about AIDS for the first time. A neighbor’s husband was diagnosed, and he was dead within six months.
I walked four miles to school each day—without adult supervision.
I knew a friend of the family who had tuberculosis and even though he survived, I remember he was some sort of untouchable.
I remember meeting one of my grandma’s nieces who had just had a baby. She later was deemed crazy and taken to several brujas (witches) to drive out the bad spirits. She really had post-partum depression, but was never taken to a real doctor.
I worked for hours each day with my grandma in her kitchen, helping to make different dishes she would sell to the neighbors.
When I was 12, a 30-year-old neighbor who had given me a ride tried to kiss me as I got out of his car.