Esperanza International


Founder's Story

A Dream Coming True... Esperanza International is the story of what can happen when people believe in an idea and act to make it come true.

In 1985, Dave Valle, then catching for the Seattle Mariners, decided to play winter ball in the Dominican Republic. Like many North American baseball players before him, Dave didn't know exactly what to expect while living, and playing, outside of the United States.

The reality of the Dominican Republic was not long in coming.

After his first game there, Dave, and his wife Vicky, walked out of the ball park and were immediately surrounded by eight or nine young children. At first Dave thought that this was normal. Back in the States ball players frequently are met by kids gathering autographs for their collection.

But Dave quickly realized these boys and girls didn't want his signature. Instead, they were hungry and hoping that Dave and Vicky would give them food. The young boys and girls were from the poverty stricken communities near the ball park where thousands of families live in makeshift shacks.

They are among the poorest families in the Dominican Republic. Soaring unemployment, illiteracy, malnutrition and inadequate healthcare are just some of the barriers keeping the children, and their families, trapped in an ongoing cycle of poverty.

As parents, and as people who take special interest in kids Dave and Vicky were deeply troubled by the condition of the boys and girls. That night they spent many hours talking about the children and made a commitment to themselves that, as soon as they were able, they would return to the Dominican Republic to do whatever they could do to make a difference.

In 1995, Dave and Vicky founded Esperanza International as a response to their commitment.