It all started with an act of kindness – a big act of kindness. In 1997, Jose “Pepo” Abreu’s mother’s home was burned to the ground in an unfortunate accident. At the time, Abreu was overseas and could not make it back home to help his family rebuild. In his absence, his neighbors and community joined together and rebuilt his mother’s home in less than a month. When Abreu returned to the Dominican Republic, he was so touched he had to find a way to pay forward the good deed on behalf of his family.
The idea for Cambiando Vidas was born.
“Cambiando Vidas” is Spanish for “changing lives,” and that’s exactly what this organization does. Since its inception, Cambiando Vidas has helped over 50 families call a brand new house “home.” The organization helps deserving families in impoverished areas. The families are selected on specific criteria including community recommendations, income, and ownership of land.
Cambiando Vidas is all about sustainable community development. It relies on the support and commitment of the community and service-learning volunteers. The organization builds small, safe, affordable, concrete-block homes that are strong enough to survive hurricane-force storms. In addition to providing capital and labor, international volunteer teams work hand in hand with the recipient families and community volunteers who provide much of the “sweat equity.” By the end of the week-long build, this unique mix of concrete, people, and cultures reveals that people are more alike than different, and that a house is much more than a collection of concrete, metal, and wood.