by Miranda Wauson
Pancho Mateo is a small batey that sits on the banks of the Camu river. Looking at a map of the Dominican Republic’s North Coast, you won’t find this ‘city’ of around 5,000. Bateys were initially started as camps and living quarters for Haitian sugar cane field workers. They eventually grew into communities of permanent residents, and in some cases came to include Dominicans, as is the case in Pancho Mateo. The village struggles with the same infrastructural difficulties that plague the Dominican Republic: unstable electricity and long blackouts, clean water shortages, and high unemployment.
In 2005, Makarios entered the village of Pancho Mateo, with the goal of impacting local kids through education and a message of hope in Christ. Classes were offered in a small house in the middle of the village, and a 12 year old boy named Francis “Cakito” Batista began to attend. That decision that would affect his life both as a youth and as an adult, leading him to eventually come on staff with Makarios full time. Now 22 years old, Cakito serves as Makarios chaplain and primary disciplinarian. Reflecting on the changes he has seen in Pancho Mateo over the years, he sees progress and hope.
“Education has made the neighborhood better,” he says. “There are more opportunities, and because of the efforts of Makarios parents feel more committed to their kids. There is someone holding them accountable.”
Cakito has dreams for the future of Pancho Mateo. “Right now there are a lot of people sitting around doing nothing. I want people to live believing there is hope. Especially teenagers, knowing they can go to university, have different jobs, have a career.”
Though Makarios eventually moved to a larger property across the river in Tamarindo, the ministry continues to serve the community of Pancho by employing teachers and serving more than 50 students enrolled in Colegio Makarios. Cakito is actively involved in his community, working with the New Life Christian Church, heading up a basketball league for local youth, and running a summer soccer camp. Each of his jobs provide ample opportunity to share a message of hope in the midst of suffering.
“Living so close together, there are conflicts. In spite of that, I am able to preach the gospel not just with words, but with actions. We feel like a family, and it’s evident when you walk down the street. People here love you and make you feel special, even though you are broken. You don’t have to be rich or important to be loved, you just have to be yourself.”