New Jersey woman provides book bags, mental health classes and ‘light’ to kids in the Dominican Republic

Emerald Pellot

Dando luz translates to giving light in English and that’s exactly what Nicole Reyes aims to provide underserved children in the Dominican Republic. Reyes founded Dando Luz in 2016 to donate book bags with school supplies to kids in need. 

“I just knew that many of these students, they weren’t equipped, right? They didn’t have the supplies that they needed,” Reyes told In The Know. “They walk a great distance to get to school. Their access to internet is also very limited. They live in homes where sometimes electricity just comes for a very short amount of time, or they use hand-me-downs from cousins or relatives.”

Dando Luz has since donated 1,000 book bags to these kids. Meanwhile, Dando Luz also provides sanitary pads, underwear and toiletries to an all-girls orphanage in Santo Domingo. But for the founder, the supplies weren’t enough. Reyes started to teach mental health classes in 2019. 

“It’s just important for them to be able to recognize and process in a healthy way the feelings that they’re experiencing,” Reyes told In The Know. “The topics that I cover in my classroom is self-love, healthy relationships and friendships, racial discrimination and how it affects our mental health, sexual harassment and much more.”

Reyes was born in New Jersey, but her family’s heritage is from the Dominican Republic. She named Dando Luz after her grandmother Luz Azcona. 

“You know, it feels like my ancestors are proud of me for me to just be there and to be giving back precisely where my family is from, where my parents grew up, where my grandparents grew up,” Reyes told In The Know. “And it’s rewarding. I believe that the work that I do honors Caribbean heritage because I am helping build our future leaders.”

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