POSTED: Thursday, September 12, 2013 - 7:30pm
UPDATED: Friday, September 13, 2013 - 10:24am
GONZALES, LA (THECREOLE.COM) — Santa Rosa may not sound familiar. To many, it’s just a name, just a place. To one group in Ascension Parish, it’s more than that. To them, it is everything.
Santa Rosa is a small village nestled in the Dominican Republic. It’s not much to look at, but it’s home to people in need and one group is attempting to fill that need.
Gonzales resident Jeremy Cameron traveled to Santa Rosa almost four years ago as part of a church mission trip. He thought he’d go, do a bit of work and come back to the parish better for the experience. What he didn’t expect, was to fall in love with the place and its people.
The trip turned emotional for Cameron as he took in his surroundings. People lived in squalor, with little to no means of improving their situation. Tin shacks with holes in roofs were what these people lived in, sometimes with as many as six people in what most of us would consider small for the size of our kitchens. Cameron couldn’t believe his eyes.
“It was heartbreaking,” he said. “I just kept thinking more could be done for them.”
Cameron returned to Gonzales a changed man and thought that if he were to elicit help from his friends, his employees and his family members, they could return to the little village and truly do something for the community of friendly faces.
The group booked their flights and brought along their handyman skills for a return trip to Santa Rosa. They built a school, the first in the village, and they began fixing maintenance and cosmetic problems on the villagers’ homes.
That, though, wasn’t enough for Cameron. He had bonded with this community far away from his home. He had formed relationships with new found friends.
He planned a return trip to the area, this time with his family. He wanted them to understand his feelings for the area and to share in the experience of helping those less fortunate than ourselves.
While on this trip, Jeremy and his wife Christi fell in love with one little girl from the area, Yennifer. She had nothing and expected nothing. She shared with other children of the community what little she had, even if it meant she would go without. There was no explanation for why this little girl in particular stole their hearts, but she did. To the Cameron’s, she was family.
“We first met Yennifer at the school we built, and her bright eyes captured our hearts,” recalls Cameron. “We soon learned that she was one of the over 260,000 orphans in the Dominican Republic. She lives, along with 40% of the population, below the poverty level, in a shack made of discarded sheet metal.”
The image of Yennifer living this way has been the driving force behind both Cameron’s non-profit organization, Standing by Santa Rosa, and his newest fundraiser, Operation Building Blocks.
Cameron is raising funds to build the first of what he hopes will be many homes for orphans throughout the community.
“We need 1,500 masonry blocks to build the first one in Santa Rosa,” he said. “$5 is all it takes from the people of our community to help another one where people are suffering daily. We want to build Yennifer and the other orphans a home that will keep them dry when the rains come. We want to build one that will keep them safe.”
Cameron would love to take on this struggle himself. He understands that this village is his passion. He also understands that many will question why he doesn’t focus on those in need right here at home. To that, he has an emotional, honest response.
“When asked why anyone should care about what happens in Santa Rosa, I think about Yennifer,” he said. “It’s a big world out there, and I firmly believe we have a responsibility to make positive changes when and where we can. I’m asking for the community to consider helping us to give the children of Santa Rosa not just a brighter future, but the possibility of a future. I think it’s a small investment to make a difference that will last for generations. Poverty is a global issue. We have to start somewhere if we want to change the world.”
The Camerons are planning a large-scale trip to the village to begin work on the home in November, and Cameron asks anyone interested in making a donation or tagging along for what he feels will be the experience of a lifetime, to e-mail him at Jeremy@lastcallllc.com .
They will also be hosting an Operation Building Blocks garage sale this Friday and Saturday, September 13 and 14 beginning at 7 a.m. It is being held at 225 Inflatables, 40472 Hwy. 621 at the corner of Hwy. 621 and Amy Lane. Lots of infant, children and adult clothing can be found along with kitchen small appliances, books, movies, home decorations, furniture, tools and shop equipment. All money raised will be used to fund the November trip to Santa Rosa along with supplies needed for the trip.
“It’s a big world out there,” said Cameron. “I want my children to see that our actions affect the world, not just our own communities. I want Yennifer to know that although she may not live here with us now, she lives in our hearts. We are thinking of her and want her to live a life understanding that people can and do care.”
For more information on Cameron’s organization, log on to Facebook and visit Standing by Santa Rosa, https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Standing-by-Santa-Rosa/247315632075634.