Thursday, December 15, 2011

Acción Callejera

Acción is an organization, which works to better the lives of young boys living on the street in Santiago.  They do this by providing the children a safe and encouraging place for education, health services, creativity and games.  This organization not only helps children living on the street but also children in abusive homes.

One of the things I love about Acción is that there is a mixture of Haitian and Dominican children.  I think this really helps the children to understand how universal abuse and homelessness is, which is beneficial because it helps ease the difficulty of the current situation between Haitians and Dominicans.  This is what is beautiful about volunteering here, I am able to see young boys come together and form relationships, not only between each other but also with other workers and volunteers.  Watching this makes me realize the relationships the boys are forming may be the only positive relationships they have in their life.  This thought is what helps me to remain patient during the difficult times, for instance, when the boys are fighting. 

I have seen from this experience how creative children can be with very simple supplies and very little encouragement.  In the United States, most children have the highest quality items when they are doing crafts, while at Acción the children are using recycled soda bottles.  The best part of this is the children are just as creative and excited to make something. 

Through games the children really learn how to cooperate and how to play fairly.  While on the street, many of the children are able to get what they want by whatever means necessary.  At Acción the children are required to calmly express themselves in conflict situations while still having fun.  If the children fight or say “bad words” there are consequences for their actions.  The games also teach the children critical thinking skills and strategy.  

  ~written by Veronica Wolf, service partner---Jerry Forget


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Batey Deux

Looking back, I don’t think that anything could have prepared my for my first trip to Batey Deux. There are one hundred or so families there, living in dirt-floored shacks cobbled together from scrap metal. There is no clinic, no pharmacy, and until recently, there was no source of clean water. Although Batey Deux is surrounded by commercially owned rice and banana fields, work is scarce, and when it is available, pays only 200 pesos (about five dollars) for a day’s worth of grueling physical labor. Most of the inhabitants have not, due to economic and time restrictions, been able to achieve even high school level education. These problems are terribly interwoven, creating an oppressive and smothering net of poverty that maintains a stranglehold on this community.
This was poverty on a level that I could never have imagined. After my first visit, I wondered how this could happen in a world where some people, including myself, enjoy so much plenty and affluence
             Needless to say, it has been difficult at times to stay optimistic in the face of such conditions, and it has also been difficult to face the reality of my role and the role of my fellow students in this situation. We cannot, in the four months that we have here, solve the problems of Batey Deux, nor those of the hundreds of thousands of impoverished communities in the world. We are in many ways very small and weak in comparison to the social structures that place people in poverty and keep them there.
            But what we can do now is bear witness. We can bear witness to the suffering, injustice, and social violence visited upon people no more deserving of these things than we. We can open our minds to be changed by what we experience here. We can carry this experience with us back to our own country, we can become advocates for justice and social change, and most importantly, we can nurture and develop our diverse talents at Creighton, only to bring them back to the places where they are needed most, like Batey Deux. I believe that change is possible, and that it must begin with individuals and the things that they witness in the world. As the American anthropologist Margaret Mead famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has”.


Saying Goodbye

This last week has been very stressful as we prepare to leave the Dominican Republic.  Many goodbyes have been said, and it is very difficult not knowing if or when we will be able to return.  We have formed so many strong relationships, even though it has been a short time.  It feels as though the time has flown by, and it’s weird to realize that these people will not be present in our daily live.  Though their physical presence will not be with us, we have so many memories and we have learned so much from these people.  They will be a part of us forever.

Earlier this week, we revisited La Vereda and Ceboruco to say goodbye to our host families.  They were very happy to see us, as we were happy to see them!  We spent a few hours at our campo homes, visiting with our families.  Hugs were shared as we said tearful goodbyes.

We also had our last visit to our service sites.  It was difficult to say goodbye to all of the people we’ve bonded with through our time here.  We feel as though there is much unfinished work.  However, we take comfort in knowing that we have made differences in the lives of others during our time here, and that future Encuentro Dominicano communities will continue working toward our goals in the Dominican Republic.

Lindsey and Mithra

La Fiesta a La Vereda

La Fiesta a Ceboruco

Santa Lucia in Cien Fuegos- Nat and Sarah :)

            Hello! This is Nat and Sarah speaking! Throughout this semester, we have been blessed to be able to spend time with, teach, and love hundreds of children at our service site: The school of Santa Lucia in Cien Fuegos. Cien Fuegos is an urban slum right outside of Santiago where many families are living in poverty and searching for jobs to provide for themselves and their families. You can obviously see the poverty all around you wherever you go here, but meeting and loving the children that live in it brings poverty to a whole other level.
Every Monday and Wednesday we would go to the school for three hours and attempted to teach some English. Little did we know, this task would be a lot more difficult than it sounded. In the beginning of the semester, Sarah saw a statistic that stated that primary education in the Dominican Republic is rated 140th out of 142. We have unfortunately seen this statistic become a reality throughout this semester. At Santa Lucia, most of the teachers are indifferent to being an educator, the children are more concerned with fighting than learning, the school lacks proper facilities such as a bathroom, and pencil sharpeners and other random necessities are nowhere to be found. The children have so much potential but there is a lack of concentration and mental focus, making it hard to succeed. When they are punished for their lack of attentiveness, they are hit and yelled at. Education is such a valuable asset and we seem to take this for granted in the United States. Here in the Dominican Republic, good education is unfortunately a privilege, and is commonly the only avenue out of poverty. It is disheartening to see little to no progress in the education of these wonderful children because we understand why their learning is crucial.
            Another frustration that we encountered was the realization that coming to the school to teach English two days a week was not enough for the children to remember and learn anything. There was no repetition, practice, homework, or quizzes, and we would go to a different classroom every week. We finally understood that our purpose at Santa Lucia was to focus on loving the kids around us, forming relationships with them, and showing them how much they are worth. These relationships enabled us to encourage the children to work hard in school, behave, and always work to the best of their abilities. Our time with these amazing individuals helped us realize that our mission at our service site was not only to teach a tiny bit of English to the kids, but to also create bonds that will last a lifetime.

            Encuentro Dominicano has been an amazing experience for us, and we have learned so much. One of the main ideas from the Dominican Republic that will stick with us throughout our lives is the concept of being with those you are serving as opposed to simply looking for an idealistic end. By serving in this manner, you receive more love than given, and this type of love is irreplaceable. Through the school, the campos, and throughout our time in the Dominican Republic we have experienced this love, which only makes us hungry for more. We are very blessed and grateful to have formed relationships with so many wonderful people, and we wish we could spread this love in a similar way.  



            Hospicio was my service site this semester.  Hospicio is a home for old people who do not have the money or abilities to live at home.  These residents pay nothing at all or just a little bit if they are able.  A lot of Hospicio relies on donations, and therefore they don’t often have a lot of money to do activities with the residents.  Shelby and I, therefore, were there to find things to do with the residents.  We talked, colored pictures, played dominoes and sometimes we got to do therapy exercises with them too!  My favorite part about Hospicio was getting to know the residents.  Everyone has a story and everyone has different talents.  I loved listening to these stories and finding unique aspects of each person there.  There are a lot of people who have really made this experience an amazing one..

            Pepe- Pepe is one of the main men at Hospicio.  Pepe works every day all day out in front of Hospicio picking up leaves and trash, keeping everything “Linda” (beautiful.  Pepe loves telling us about his life.  He will tell you he is 115 years old, but he is really only in his 80’s.  Pepe lived in New York for some time, and he finds it really interesting to hear our experiences too.  Pepe was the first one I really connected with this semester because his Spanish is most easily understood, and I could have some really good conversations with him.

            Juanita- What is awesome about Juanita is that I can rarely understand a word she says.  That, however, is what makes her awesome.  Juanita gives the best hugs and loves doing whatever we do.  She has drawn pictures with us, danced and sang for us on her walker, and has taken us to church.  Juanita makes my day with her hugs!

            Aridia- I won’t ever forget Aridia’s voice saying, “BA BA BAH, vamos a bailar.”  Translation- ba ba bah, we are going to dance.  I love seeing her lean up on her walker and shake her little hips.  Aridia makes every activity fun.  She is super sassy and makes sure everyone knows that she wants to rule the roost.  She reminds me of the popular girl in high school that everyone knows about.

            Sarah- Sarah is an amazing artist.  You say the word “pintar” (color) and she is there in a flash.  She loves spending time with us, coloring her pictures and then writes her name each one and asks us how she did.  She is so talented!
            Our Haitian friend- I don’t really know his name, but I will never forget the first day I talked to him, in Spanish of course, for an hour straight.  He was born in the capital of Haiti, but moved to the Dominican Republic early to work.  He had been here since and very rarely got to visit his family at home.  It was amazing to know he can speak Kreyol and Spanish!  I learned a lot from our friend as he explained his assimilation coming from Haiti and to hear that he has been treated well at Hospicio given that the Haitian-Dominican relations are not the best.

            Obviously this is just a short list of the long amazing people Shelby and I have met this semester.  Everyone has taught us so much and we hope we have brought them some joy too.  We will miss them so much and hope we can return to visit soon!