Johanna Ryan, VisionFund’s Global Director of Impact, meets an unofficial but true community leader Francisco, a VisionFund client from the Dominican Republic
Twelve years ago, Francisco was a young man with a vision. His neighbours called him crazy as all they saw was him on his motorcycle, carrying rubbish: hundreds of plastic bottles; old refrigerators, bathtubs, washing machines, damaged water tanks. Francisco hauled all of this from the streets of Santo Domingo to his home north of the city amongst coconut palms, broken roads and countless children.
Recycling and reusing the city’s waste was a key element of Francisco’s grand and cost-effective plan to start a business breeding ornamental fish. With all three of his children sponsored by World Vision, Francisco found out about business training, which then led to a loan from VisionFund to build his dream.
Francisco’s tanks of fish
He applied for a loan to dig a well to access fresh water and then added a pump to draw the water up to fill his fish tanks and the plastic bottles that he uses to breed the fish.
Francisco’s ornamental fish
The river running through the community is smelly, slow flowing, and full of debris, so drinking water must be delivered to the area via trucks, which can be unreliable and expensive. Francisco’s well is a source of free water for his neighbours. Although this water is good, it is not good enough for drinking, so Francisco plans to build a small treatment plant to provide potable water to the community, charging only a small amount to cover his costs. He says, “I’m not interested in profits. It’s what the community needs.”
Francisco loves to show the system he has rigged up to spray water onto the road for the children to play in when it’s very hot. About 25 to 30 children play and bathe in the cool spray whenever he does this.
His concern for the children led to his creation of the “parachute” to collect malarial mosquito larvae from stagnant pools anywhere he finds them, whether outside the homes of his neighbours or in front of the hospital. This is food for his fish.
It is no wonder that he is well-respected in his community. His neighbour Reyes, who is confined to a wheelchair and living in a one-room dwelling at the bottom of a bumpy (and for him unnavigable) hill, says, “Francisco is a humanitarian, he helps everyone with anything, and he shares what he has – cocoa, oranges, avocado, everything he gets. The water pump helps a lot of people who need water. He fills my tank whenever it is needed, and he comes to help me if he thinks I might need anything. People come from far away to see Francisco. And he never asks for anything. He just gives things away.”
L: Francisco with his neighbour Reyes. R: Children playing in the neighbourhood
Francisco and his wife Suleica left school at 14, but are both now about to finish their secondary studies, encouraged by their teenaged daughters, Franceli, 15, and Sailin, 18. They also have a son Frandi, who is 11. When Sailin was 14 she featured in a World Vision video about child sponsorship.
Francisco wants to continue to earn a law degree so that he can help his community to have fair access to all that they need. He already works in a government programme to help adults learn to read; and another to help elderly people secure official documents like identification cards.
Francisco says that he wants us to know and tell his story to encourage others. VisionFund “helped me to realise a dream, to make something come true, when everyone thought I was crazy.” He had been turned down for a loan from banks, but “VisionFund had faith in me.” It does not matter, he says, how much his income has grown. The real story is that everyone in the family is reaching their potential, are in good health, and are able to help people in the community who do not have their advantages.