As a child, Esperanza Cruz once shared a dream: a wish to become a baker, but she never thought about it again. Dreams, she was taught, were mere fantasies. They are not practical or achievable. Dreams, she realized were not meant for her world.
So she lived life the only way she knew. She received little education, married young and raised eight boys in a small, two-bedroom home made from wood and corrugated metal along a riverbank in a small community of Pedro Brand in the Dominican Republic.
“I was just working in the house and helping my family,” Esperanza said. “That was my life. I didn’t have any perspective, or even the idea there could be something bigger for me.”
That changed two years ago after meeting Luz Reyes, a case manager for the Buckner Family Hope Center at Eduardo Brito. Reyes and Esperanza first met while attending the same church in town and began to form a friendship. At that time, Esperanza’s oldest son was 15 and her youngest was 2. Reyes encouraged Esperanza to enroll her children into educational classes offered at the Hope Center.
The more the children attended, the more Esperanza could see them improving in their studies and their relationships with others. The children’s education is now a top priority.
“The most important thing is the education for the kids,” said Alberto Amaro, Esperanza’s husband. “We have this vision that our children can have what we couldn’t. Maybe we couldn’t go to school, but our children can.”
Their two oldest sons are almost finished with school and have plans to attend a trade school first and then attend a university. Esperanza and Alberto are seeing ambitions in their children they never had when they were that age.
Esperanza soon learned, however, it wasn’t too late for her to at- tend school either. She also started taking classes at the Hope Center. She learned how to make crafts and bracelets, items she could sell to help supplement the income Alberto made as a valet for the mall.
Through it all, Reyes motivated Esperanza and her family to plan for the future and continue their education. Encouraged by Reyes’ support, Esperanza shared with Reyes the dream she stifled as a child.
“Do you still want to be a baker?” Reyes asked Esperanza. “Yes,” Esperanza answered. “But I don’t know if it is possible.” “It is possible,” Reyes exclaimed. “You can do it, and we’re going to help you.” Reyes referred Esperanza to a local school offering classes in baking and helped her register. When Esperanza became discouraged, Reyes encouraged her to continue
“Luz pushed me to go to the classes,” Esperanza admitted. “She would tell me how I needed to go. She told me, ‘You have a dream, now you have a way to achieve that dream.’ She has been a big support to me because she has been here during the good and the bad and continues to push me and give me advice.”
Esperanza loves attending her bakery classes. Her eyes sparkle and she grins from ear to ear as she quickly lists the items she has learned to make. Cakes and cookies are her favorite things to bake and her family’s favorite things to eat.
Esperanza and her family partner with the Hope Center through case management where they work with Reyes, their case manager, to define goals and create a developmental plan to transform their lives and empower them to provide for their futures. Though they haven’t been in case management very long, Reyes already sees great improvement in their lifestyle and attitude for the future.
“They have understood the vision and have taken steps to work on this journey,” Reyes said. “I do not have this burden of constantly look- ing over their shoulders. No, they are working hard to improve. In a small period of time, I have seen big growth in them.”
Alberto has noticed the change too, especially in Esperanza.
“The program at Buckner has opened her eyes to see something she couldn’t see before,” he said. “I am thankful for that pushing and support. It has been a big help. Because we have eight kids, it’s not easy to provide for them and the house, but we are blessed from the Lord and am thankful for the help Buckner has provided.”
Now Esperanza is not afraid to dream big. When her classes are finished, she plans to open her own home bakery, baking treats for the local stores to sell. To help achieve that dream, Alberto and Esperanza are building a new home on a plot of land behind their current one.
It’s a slow process. Instead of sheets of metal, the home is being constructed with sturdy bricks, and they are building it themselves. All the boys help in the construction of their new home. Each brick is bought as they have the funds to purchase them. Also in the plans is a bigger kitchen for Esperanza to conduct her baking business.
“Almost two years ago, Buckner opened their doors to me,” Esperanza said. “Without knowing me, they gave me an opportunity. How I view the world and how I view myself is very different now. I am so thankful.”
Dreams are far from impossible and brick by brick, Esperanza and Alberto are proving that.