Stainless steel. Cell phone batteries. These require nickel.
I visited a community in the Dominican Republic today where nickel is mined by a U.S. corporation. In this small community dozens of children have been born deaf mutes – some born without any ears at all and others born with additional birth defects like white hair or Down syndrome.
A university is conducting research to determine for certain if the nickel mining is causing these ailments but the locals are positive, research or not, that the mine is to blame. Chemicals used in the mining process flow into the local water supply unrestricted. Ever since the mine came to town this community’s children have been born disabled with alarming frequency.
Compassion has set up a special project, run from a church in the area, that specializes in teaching children with special needs. Compassion ministers to over 300 children there at the moment; 47 of them are deaf mute. I visited today so I could meet a boy named Gabriel who learns and plays there and tell his story to our camera and the world.
Gabriel’s father died when he was very young. His mother, unable to find work often enough, was unable to care for him. Gabriel suffered from malnutrition. His situation was hopeless, even with his extended family pitching in to help his mother.
Today, Gabriel is cared for by Compassion International. His mother works as a house servant so doesn’t live him during the week. When she’s on the job, Gabriel stays with grandmother and her boyfriend in the nicest home we’ve visited in the Dominican Republic – a house shared with another family so it can be afforded.
Gabriel’s sponsor is a young lady named Savannah. Her sponsorship gives Gabriel what all of Compassion’s sponsored children around the world receive – physical, social, economic and spiritual provision – but Savannah’s sponsorship is also giving Gabriel an incredibly unique gift: ears.
Gabriel has had one surgery already. Nine more surgeries from now he will have outer ears and doctors believe he will be able to hear. Until then, Gabriel interacts with the world around him with his hands. He can read and write at a second grade level – a little behind other nine year-olds, but excellent progress for a boy who learned how to communicate much later than his peers.
Gabriel can’t hear but God hears him. Gabriel’s mother, Mercedes, told me that when he learned how to sign he began asking her regularly if he would hear someday. Gabriel prayed he would. Soon, he will.