Do good, and good will come to you: The Story of Claudia Martinez

Claudia Martinez - The original newspaper article

How we discovered Claudia Martinez

As some of you know, I worked in the Dominican Republic. I arrived days after the Haiti earthquake early January this year, and flew back to Rome last week.

I already told you a story from my time in the Dominican. Something else happened during my stay, something to be know of “The story of Claudia”.

When we set up our office in the Dominican, we called in staff normally working in other parts of the world. One of them was Anisa. I worked with her back in my Dubai days, where we considered her “the mama” of the office. While she was probably the shortest of us all, she had the biggest heart of the bunch. Anisa is the person who considered the office as dear to her heart as her own home. She is the one coming in early to put a flower on people’s desk, goes around with soup when we  – once again – have a long day… And come up with the craziest ideas, born in her big heart.

I called in Anisa to help us in Santo Domingo…. where she immediately resumed her ‘mother-ing’ role, and looked after us like we were her own. For the coffee, the fresh fruit and the occasional “time for you to get out of the office, you have been here long enough!”.

In the early days of the emergency, she wrote me an email, titled “Gesture of generosity to appreciate a local Santo Domingo hairdresser”. (and I thought: What now?):

Peter,

I read the attached article in Gulf News on 23.01.  It really touched me that here is a soul who is reaching out to others in her best capacity, physically, financially as well as emotionally… as she is doing it with her heart.
I am sure she herself penny pinches but has a heart of gold and filled with generosity to reach out and bring a smile on another human being.

So I cut out the article and was going to ask any one of our staff who would be in Santo Domingo to trace her. I wanted someone to give her a small donation from myself. This would then enable her to continue spreading the happiness and cheer to a lot more other ‘Haitian patients’.

But then I was asked to come her myself. I was in a state of shock …. Was this a calling for me to come over personally and seek this woman out or what?

Well, I cut out the article and from the time I have arrived I have requested Amelia and Elizabeth to help me trace this lady – Claudia Martinez. Which has not been easy.

Eventually, Elizabeth managed and has spoken to her and we have her phone number. Claudia is willing to come to the Hotel and meet with us. So my humble request is can we keep a small box for a collection? Have a write up stuck up above the coffee station with the box and staff can pitch in as they feel best.
With the donation and our best wishes she can then continue with her ‘good deeds’?

An opportunity for the our staff  to reach out and bring some happiness and support to the less fortunate…..

Thank you,

Anisa.

I read the article Anisa attached. It was a piece from Gulfnews, one of the local newspapers in the UAE. It told the story of Claudia Martinez, a Dominican lady who volunteered to help some of the Haitian earthquake victims in the main Santo Domingo hospital. She helped by… doing their hair. As the story said: “Her task may seem trivial, but she believes restoring a bit of beauty and humanity to people who have lost everything and survived deplorable conditions is important.”

A story that speaks to one’s imagination. We collected over US$300, and finally met Claudia in March. She came over to the office together with the hospital volunteers’ coordinator. I introduced her to the staff in the office, and we engaged into a lively conversation. Claudia, a single mother of two, was not aware of the newspaper story. “One day, a guy at the hospital took some pictures and asked me some questions, and that was it”, she said. Nor did she realize it was picked up by Agence Presse, and got republished in many newspapers all over the world, from the US to the Middle East, Pakistan and New Zealand. And she had no idea how she had inspired others.

We emphasized the money we collected was for her, and to use it for something she wanted to do. Asked what she wished for, she answered: “I wished I could learn how to read and write. I wished I could give my kids a proper education”. That was quite a challenge as she could barely make ends meet, and her eldest is speech impaired. But still, she volunteered most of her time at the hospital. “It is heart-breaking to see how little those people in the hospitals really have”, she said. “I feel rich compared to them”…

Anisa and Claudia

Anisa (L) and Claudia (R)

We sat outside for a long while, with staff from the office joining into the conversation, and Gaby patiently translating between English and Spanish. We got to understand the hospital is the largest in the Dominican. Often patients were brought in, and left there. Many did not have a change of clothes. Kids without anything but a pair of pants. Their families simply did not have the means to take care of them. Neither did the hospital. Claudia asked if we wanted to come over, to see for ourselves. Which we promised to do.

Since then, “our project” continued: we donated several parcels with used toys for the kids and basic clothing for the patients. But then another thing happened unexpectedly: Just incredible how things go sometimes…:

A few weeks after I met Claudia, I was in North Italy, on a short break with my family. Frau Preindl, the owner of the hotel, knew I worked in the Haiti emergency. Just as we were leaving, Frau Preindl said “wait!”. She grabbed an envelope and put it in my hands: “Here, you will know what to do with it. Go and make a difference. You know, we seldom realize how lucky we are. We have all we need, so the least thing we can do, is to share some of it.”

It was not until I got back to the Dominican, three days later, I realized there was a real significant sum in that envelope. And I did not have to think long what to do with the money…

Stay tuned for Part II of the story.

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