Nelson Suarez Collado

We are so proud of the progress of our students every single day at The Cigar Family School. Today, we are putting a very well-deserved spotlight on former student Nelson Suarez Collado. Nelson is a student from Bonao in the Dominican Republic, who graduated 5 years ago and is currently working as an intern at the hospital in his community. He is on track to become a neurosurgeon – the 5th one in the Dominican Republic. We asked him if he wouldn’t mind sitting down with us for a brief Q and A. Nelson conducted the entire interview in English, despite the fact that his first language is Spanish, and his answers will warm your heart!

Q: So Nelson, when did you graduate from the Cigar Family School?
A: 5 years ago.

Q: And what have you been doing since?
A: I am working at an internship at the hospital. I work with all patients. For example, if we need to do something for the patients if they are ill – any kind of sickness – we take care of them as the general doctors of the hospital. Anything they need so they will feel fine.

Q: That’s amazing. So did you always want to be a doctor?
A: Yes. Since childhood, I have had the dream to be a doctor. But my social situation and the economy of my family was very bad. I talked to my mom and said, “I want to be a doctor!” And she said, “that would be great…that would be excellent but you know that we are very poor and we don’t have money and this is very expensive. But if you want to do it, you can if you believe, then ok!”

When I was younger the only thing I could do – the only thing society offered you was working. There was no studying. Every young person just worked because the school that we had [before Cigar Family] didn’t have many other grades, just 8 grades. After this schooling ended, we would all work. I wanted to be in medical school but at the time I couldn’t. I was seeking work at the tobacco company of Carlos to help my family – [Tabacalera A. Fuente] was the only thing we had to help our family. There were no other sources of opportunity.  So I said I will work at the tobacco company because I can’t study medicine because there was no school for continuous study. So many people said, “Nelson, you cannot study medicine because this is very difficult, very expensive and you know your father doesn’t work. Your mother works, but she cleans and this is little money.”

But then the Cigar Family Foundation came; Eric, Carlos, etc. They made this thing possible. When they created Cigar Family I was very happy because in this school I could continue to study. I knew that my family had no money but [Eric and Carlos] said I can do it; it’s working hard and studying very hard. Every day I studied very hard. I knew that this was my dream. If I would be good at this school, I will have opportunities to go to medical school. When I graduated [from Cigar Family School] my qualifications were higher than many others when I applied for more studies. Many people…Eric and Carlos…helped me with scholarships to go to the University for medical studying and now I am here!

Really when you love something…you just need to go ahead and go for this. Well, I am very happy!

Q: That’s such a great story. Your family must be so proud.
A: Yes my mom is very excited. Every day she told me you look beautiful with this coat. She always said if you really want it, you can have it. I also have a 19 years old brother at Cigar Family School who is proud. And the people in the town call me Dr. Nelson. That feels very good. I am the first doctor from our town. When people see me they say, “Hello Doctor how are you?!” Before, I was a little boy without shoes…without clothes…and now it’s very different.

Q: So the whole community has really be involved in your life too?
A: Yes. They call me when they are sick or if they feel bad in their head for example or if they have high blood pressure. I like it because I can say, “Let’s speak about the problem,” and I find out how they are sick and I can help them see the right doctors for why they are ill. There are no other doctors for the community so they are happy that I am there.

Q: Is that your new dream? To work in your community?
A: When I finish the specialty training to be a doctor, I want to work around the community in Bonao. Because the people have given so much to me…so much love and many other feelings. And I said this cannot be in vain. The effort of Carlos and Eric and the foundation cannot be in vain. I need to be in the service of the community. The country needs people like us who want to do big changes for the country. In many ways the country is bad and the people who get education want to go to other countries. But we need people who want to stay and change the scenes in the country and stay with the people in the community at Bonao.

Q: Do you have any messages for the people who donate to the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation?
A: I want to say that everything Cigar Family does for the children is real – I am an example. Before I didn’t have any opportunity to study anything but I had the dream to be a doctor and I could not. But AFTER cigar family I AM a doctor. Cigar Family brings me everything. My only responsibility is to study. That is big. I would tell them to believe in this because this changes the life of the people in Dominican. Our communities are very poor and many people need this to continue because Cigar Family helps the people through the school.

When I was young, my mother – she doesn’t know how to read. But she always teaches me and pushed me to study. She told me if you want something, you can do it. If you want to be a doctor you just need to do it. Cigar Family also teaches me this; this is the objective of the school…you can do it more than you thought. That you CAN do it.