Hear from those who experienced the magic of Hondo Valle first hand . . .

Houses for Hondo Valle began in 2016 with a group of college students from New York who visited the town of Hondo Valle for a week to build a home. One home. Hondo Valle is the poorest area in the Dominican Republic, facing lack of accessible clean water, extreme physical disabilities, unreliable electricity and unsafe housing. It started with a home and ignited into a movement.

April 19th, 2018

It’s more than a bathroom. . . 

I have been to Hondo Valle twice before I decided that we needed to do something more. Traveling to the Dominican Republic my sophomore year of college during spring break shook my world. I was carefree, aware of the immense struggles people faced. Of course, I had plenty of experience with homelessness and poverty, but never to this extent. During my first trip down, with 16 other brave students from Long Island, New York, I entered a bathroom. This was the first bathroom I had visited outside of the airport, and I am thankful for the experience there that changed my life. 

The bathroom was located in what looked like a large deli on the side of the road. Now, I did not have to use the bathroom, but I decided to follow my friend because that’s just what girls do. The sight when you walked through the doorway, the smell, it scared me. Before you enter, you turn a corner and step around a woman sitting on a garbage can with a roll of toilet paper in her hands. She was selling it, sheet by sheet and pile by pile. My first thought was “Crap, there is no paper. I’m going to end up using something like a leaf.” However, this was the least of my worries. My mom, who was facilitating the trip, handed me some tissues from her bag (it takes a mother) and I walked in.

The floor was covered in a mix of water and urine and the stench in the air was enough to make your eyes roll into the back of your head. Babies cried as mothers washed the poop off their bodies in the sinks. My two friends walked in behind me, Reyna and Maggie. Reyna quickly saw the sight in turned around to walk out, uttering nothing a short “Nope!” I didn’t have to go, but I knew if I did not give myself fully to this country for the next two weeks, I would not be doing my duty (no pun intended). So I sucked it up, stood in line, and entered the next open stall. 

You know how stalls in public bathrooms, like at the mall, are meant to cover your whole body? No one is supposed to see you while you do your thing. But not in this bathroom. Here, while you squat (on a bowl with no rim, no tank top, and no handle to flush) your shoulders to the tip of your head is exposed. Everyone can see  you while you use the bathroom, which was one of the most dehumanizing thing I have ever felt in my life. “Is this the way prisoners feel?” I wondered. These poor people lived like this all the time, exposed, drained of the basic human right to privacy. 

After using the bathroom in solidarity, I let myself go to the will of God during this trip and I found pleasant surprises around every corner. That simple bathroom was a big steppingstone in my life, and the experience I had there has inspired me to do more for the people who deserve more in my eyes. 

Emily Buonocore, Co-Founder & President