Featuring Deidre Pujols
Founder, Open Gate International
Deidre Pujols was just 21 years old when she gave birth to her first child, Isabella, who was born with Down Syndrome. As a single mother from Kansas City, Missouri, Deidre knew her life would change, but she didn’t realize how dramatically in the years to come.
A few weeks after Isabella’s birth, Deidre met Albert Pujols – who was from the Dominican Republic and grew up in Kansas City. He shared with her on their first date that he was only 18, and she shared with him that she was a single mother of a child with Down syndrome. She gave Albert information about Down syndrome in Spanish since he didn’t speak much English. To her amazement, after he reviewed this information, he didn’t leave, but embraced both her and her child. The couple was married on January 1, 2000 and went on to have four more children together.
But their story involved more than family. Albert was an exceptional athlete. Soon after their wedding, Albert was called up to the St. Louis Cardinals baseball farm team in Peoria, Illinois, and in 2001, he was called up to the Cardinals major league team. After 11 seasons with the Cardinals, he now plays for the Los Angeles Angels. He has become one of the wealthiest baseball players in the MLB.
Deidre’s focus has been God and family and one of her favorite verses was Luke 12:48 — “But to whom much is given, much is required.” She believes that we are put on this Earth for a purpose and that the blessings we have are for a reason. This belief has been the driving force behind the Pujols Family Foundation which Deidre and Albert founded in May 5, 2005.
Through the Foundation, Deidre has pursued many projects, including a launch of a website devoted to Dominican cooking and the disadvantaged women of her husband’s native country. As part of that project, Deidre launched a cookbook/calendar.
In April of 2016, Deidre Pujols travelled to different parts of the world to learn about human trafficking and other exploitations that were beyond what she knew existed. Deidre connected with NGO’s, ministries, and government officials that are part of an enormous war, fighting battles against exploitation at every level.
After gathering information from her travels, toward the fall of 2016, Deidre started to ask what she could do to help combat this global crisis. She began to wonder if she could provide access to a new way of life for those escaping human trafficking or any of the exploitation she was witnessing. That led her to establishing Open Gate International.
Open Gate International is dedicated to identifying vocational opportunities throughout the world that will provide students in need with the opportunity to gain independent economic success. Once vocational needs have been identified, Open Gate develops the program with top-tier professionals, integrate life skills mentoring and job placement assistance while providing all of it at no cost to the students to set them on a course of sustainable life success.
In 2017, as an extension of her efforts to address human trafficking, Albert and Deidre created Strike Out Slavery. They started this initiative after learning that modern-day slavery is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world, generating $150 billion USD annually. The Pujols knew that if Major League Baseball teams, players and fans joined them, Strike Out Slavery could spread awareness about modern-day slavery and help a global network of nonprofit organizations rally against it. The inaugural Strike Out Slavery event was held at Angel Stadium in September 2017, where more than 40,000 attendees learned about the issue. Two years later, Strike Out Slavery continues to expand among players and baseball fans across the nation, even the world.
On March 1, 2019, the United Nations Women for Peace Association’s (UNWFPA) Annual Awards Luncheon, in celebration of International Women’s Day, honored Albert and Deidre Pujols with the Humanitarian Award for their efforts to combat human trafficking through their organization Strike Out Slavery.
Deidre is a tireless wife, mother, and advocate who is not only helping to strike out slavery, but passing along God’s blessings to those in need.