Benjamín has been a member of Plant With Purpose's program as a Dominican Republic farmer for four years. In that time he has applied his new knowledge and practices and seen his life improve alongside his community's. We had a chance to ask Benjamín a few questions about his experience and outlook.
What challenges did you face before partnering with Plant With Purpose?
I have been a Dominican Republic farmer since I was very young, but I lacked awareness.
Living here, I had many difficulties; it was very difficult to earn. I lived in the capital for a while. When I finally decided to come back to the countryside I had no income to start getting ahead. Trying to begin working in agriculture again was a real challenge.
When I discovered Plant With Purpose in my community with such a beautiful and beneficial project for the community, I got involved in the Purpose Group and the change was immediate. I was so happy that I laughed just to see the way I was overcoming the challenges I had. Since I have been with Plant With Purpose, my life has changed top to bottom.
Mr. Benjamín, has there ever been a moment in your life when you felt discouraged, hopeless, or stagnant?
Yes, before associating with Plant With Purpose I was stagnant for a long time, I felt that I could not start, I never lost hope because I have faith in God, but I was discouraged very often.
Benjamín, in which Plant With Purpose project have you participated, and what techniques have you implemented? Which one excites you the most?
I participate in all the projects that Plant With Purpose brought to the community. Before, I didn't know how to plant the same things you normally do. Now I know how to plant coffee, sapote, and forest trees. I put into practice all the techniques that the Plant With Purpose technicians taught me. I have also learned how to grow vegetables. I feel better now as a Dominican Republic farmer.
How has the landscape around you changed?
The landscape now looks greener and more populated with trees. We are more careful with the trees and with the management of plastics in the community.
Mr. Benjamín, how has planting trees and cultivating your land impacted your life?
It has been an immense marvel, not only for me, but also for all of us who are receiving support from this institution. Plant With Purpose gives us the facility to plant trees and receive their benefits. I plant the trees on my land because they give me fruit, they provide shade, water, and we all benefit.
How has your community's understanding of your partnership with Plant With Purpose changed? Of the environment?
In an extraordinarily good way! About 6 years ago people here had no idea what it meant to plant a tree. They only planted beans, pigeon peas and corn. Now we are all planting trees everywhere and the environment looks different.
How has associating with Plant With Purpose impacted your income and quality of life?
My quality of life has almost completely changed because I have been able to have a better understanding of how to manage my income. Learning how to save has given me the opportunity to achieve things that were impossible to achieve before I was associated with the savings group. I have bought a car, a motorcycle, and I have a small business, which makes me a different man than I was before. I use the car for community service and the motorcycle to go to the hills.
Now I can give my children a better quality of life. Now I can make plans with my savings to solve the situations that arise in the family.
When looking back on your time with Plant With Purpose, what is something you have, done or achieved that you are most proud of?
I am proud of the fact that I feel prepared, that I can save money with a group in my community, and that I have learned to manage my plot and to develop more profitable products. All these things were achieved through Plant With Purpose and my efforts make me feel very proud.
If you obtained a loan through a savings group, what did you use it for? What was the most important loan you took? Was it urgent? Tell us about your small business.
The loan that I feel was most important was the one to buy the cart because I had a strong desire to be able to accomplish that for the family and to serve the community.
Mr. Benjamín, since you became associated with Plant With Purpose, has it changed the way you see and treat yourself?
Yes, now I see myself better. I feel more confident, and I put more effort into my responsibilities.
How has partnering with Plant With Purpose impacted your relationship with your family and neighbors? Do you see them and treat them differently?
As you can see I am now a different person in front of my community, my family and all my relatives. I am now able to serve in a much more uninhibited way in my community. I feel more useful.
And how has partnering with Plant With Purpose impacted your relationship with God? How has it changed?
Wonderful, wonderful! So much so that now I don't do anything without first putting it in the hand of the Lord God, I learned that in the group with Plant With Purpose. My approach to God has been great because these blessings have changed my life.
What is the greatest goal your community has achieved together?
Definitely, learning to work together is the greatest achievement that my community has achieved in the Purpose Group.
Since you became a partner with Plant With Purpose, how do you see your role in your community? How has it changed?
My role in the community has been evolving every day. My involvement in the community affairs makes me feel proud because I can contribute in many areas.
What goals or dreams did you have for your life before partnering with Plant With Purpose?
I always wanted to have a business, and have my land productive as a Dominican Republic farmer… and that is exactly what I have achieved. With Plant With Purpose my dreams have been fulfilled. I thank God for the arrival of Plant With Purpose in my community.
I pray to God that we always remain united and that every effort we make in the group is for the good of all, that is my greatest desire.
What does leadership mean to you? Do you consider yourself a leader in your community? What is leadership like in your community, and who are the leaders?
Leadership is knowing how to serve people, knowing the problems of your community and making it part of your commitment. I feel like a leader because people give me the opportunity to help them when there is a need in which I can lend a hand.
The greatest desire I have is to be able to extend to others what I have learned with Plant With Purpose, that God helps me to have the strength to serve and be an example of my community. I want us to pray for that.