Friday, February 26, 2010

Final report.

I havn't been good at updating this blog. I am still missing the DR like crazy, I think this is the hardest return I've had. To share everything, like I would like to, would be just too long and probably very boring in parts! I also have so many opinions on so many things like education and organizations working in the DR, so I will save those for seperate posts. For now, i'll finnish up telling you about my final days in the DR.

We visited a community called Munoz, which is 5 minutes away from the hotel complex we were staying in. Munoz is very beautiful in landscape, it has a huge running river that goes through it, and when you walk to the top of the mountain you can see an endless sea of green-tress, grass, flowers, etc. In the center of it, is a Haitian batey. The houses are usually made out of tin or wood and some are really poorly put together. We went into one family's home, and it was two small rooms and the roof was leaking and the side of one of the walls was caving in. This is a typical batey house, not from Munoz but a different batey. This one is actually much better built than many of the homes in the bateys.

The thing that really pulled at my heart strings was the schools. Munoz is fairly large, and I should mention it is a mixed community of Haitians and Dominicans. The Dominicans live on the outskirts in rather decent homes while the Haitians live in the center. There's a school in Munoz, a beautiful primary school that when we passed it I asked if that is where the children go. Not quite, that school for for the Dominican kids. I was then lead to the Haitian schools, tiny classrooms run out of small churches and homes. They focus on teaching Spanish, and also French. The kids come and go, and after spending some time with them it was sad to see that many of the children could still not read or write.

We had plans on returning to Munoz but the rain ruined our plans ad the kids do not go to school when it rains. We did managed to keep busy with the street and beach boys!

Our days consisted of feeding the street kids, playing soccer, and reading with them to spending the day at the beach with the kids. The youngest ones collected shells to sell and they always gave me plenty to take home. We had so many in the end it filled up a big bag! After an amazing two weeks in the DR it was time to leave. The friendships formed will be everlasting and I told myself "it isn't good bye, it's see you soon." We had all our bags at the front desk and I kept my purse on me, and went to go say bye to the kids on the beach. I won't go into a lot of details(as I rather remember the good times),but I was robbed. A Dominican teen(16-18) took my purse which had my passport in it. They also took my camera, which probably made me more sad!

We had the tourist police take our information and then send us on our way. Having no where to go(as we had no money!), we were invited to stay with one of the kid's families that we meet. A one day stay, turned into an extra week stay as we sorted through everything we had to do.

I can honestly say, I am so happy that this twist of events, that started very badly, turned out how it did. My friend found her camera on the last 2 days we were there, so we took as many pics as we could of 'our family'. Let me introduce you..

This is my "comere"(co-mother) Lilia and her newest daughter, who is my God-child, Malisa! Lilia is such an amazing woman. She has a small 3 room home(2 bedrooms and one main room). Many of the shoe shine boys live with her, sleeping on the floor. In only one room they have a bed which as many as 8 kids sleep on! During our stay, they insisted we take that room and that even the young children would sleep on the concrete floor. Hospitality doesn't even seem like the right word, it was so much more than that.

This is me and Eveline!
Julie and TiRonald. TiRonald is one of the first boys I met on the beach. He lives at Lilia's but is not her birth child. Julie came to the DR from Haiti 3 months ago, and lives at the home. She helps take care of cleaning and caring for the kids. One day when I returned home I found her washing all my clothes by hand! She is such a sweetheart and loves doing people's make up.


This family is beyond amazing. They care about each other so much, no matter if they're blood related or not, they see each other as family. I can honestly say that I see them as family too!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Part 3: Meeting my sponsored kids

In the DR, I sponsor with two different organizations. My child with Children International, Nelanda, is in Santo Domingo. We planned on visiting her and then staying an extra day to explore the city but we weren't able to make that happen. She isn't in school, but I wanted to visit the school she would be going too which wasn't possible. Our plan was then to take a taxi to Santo Domingo and leave at 4am so we would arrive by 8am. It was going to be really rush, and a lot of travelling. I decided that on my next visit(which i'm planning for a month) i'll be able to meet Nelanda and also visit the city and make it worth my while.

I still had my Dove kids to meet, which I was so excited about! I sponsor 6 children in the same family who are being raised, along with 11 others, by their grandmother.

We woke up at 8am, and were being picked up at 9am. The day was bright and sunny, unlike the cloudy rainy ones that we were having. We ate a quick breakfast and then waited for our lift. Eveything was on schedual and we made our way to the club, where my sponsor kids take part in activities. I was told not to tell them I was their sponsor, until after they finnished the club as they would be too excited and wouldn't concentrate. We started off by helping sort out vitamins and put them into ziplock bags. We had help from the cutest little girl as you can see below! After that we helped clean the bookshelves, and organize books by language back onto them.
Without letting the boys know that I was their sponsor, I talked with them a bit in my broken spanish. I was so impressed how hard they tried to speak english, so we pulled out a dictionary to help us communicate better in both languages. The girls, Mariely and Viviana, were both really shy but super sweet. When the club finnished, we let them know that I was their sponsor and they had these huge smiles ont their faces! The plan was then to go and eat lunch with the volunteers and then head back to their house for a home visit.

After lunch, we pulled up to their house and most of the kids were playing outside. They were so happy we were there and lead us inside their home. We were greeted by their grandmother and the rest of the family. The youngest member of the family is a little baby boy, who was around 8 months old. His hands were all cut up and looked very painful. The grandmother said that he chews on his hands as he is teething, and from mosquito bites. I had a new pack of two pacifiers by chance in my purse, and that seemed to be the perfect and most needed gift for this baby!

We said our goodbyes and as we left more children came into the home. I still cannot beleive the amount of children being raised by this grandmother! We made our way to Playa Oueste, which is another barrio Dove works in. The homes are made right on the beach, and the trash, filth, and pollution from the big boats is incredible.

(Photo from last year)

It was a great day and I was so happy to meet my sponsor kids. They really were amazing, as was their family. We got in sweaty and tired from the sun(did I mention I cleaned off moldy gourdes in the sun?) and decided to get dinner and call it a day. With dinner, we got a bit of energy so we went on the beach to watch the sunset. As we sat down we saw 5 boys running in our was our friends! They were so cute and brang us soooo many seashells! They really wanted to bring us to their home, but because of the time we said we would tommorow. We said our goodbyes, and I passed out right when I hit the bed!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Malecon:Part 2

With four of our new friends- Daniel, Jhonny, Baby and TiRonal we decided to go to the Malecon. The Malecon is right along the ocean and is a long strip of road. Next to it, it has shops, restaurants, church, etc. On Sundays, many families come out to enjoy the day and vendors sell sweet treats and kids toys, they play music, and people show off their moto skills. My mission that day was to find William. William is a boy I met on my last trip to the DR. This poor boy has it rough, his father died and his mother is in Haiti. He lives with his abusive aunt who makes him work as a shoe shiner for income. I had his photo and Daniel took it and brought it to a boy who was selling candies. The boys face immedietly lite up and told us William was only a few minutes away and he would go get him.

He came back with William, and William looked at me for a second and then ran over and gave me a huge hug. I don't think i'll ever forget the expression on his face! We went to see the fort and then just played around watching the boys do flips and other crazy acrobatics. After that, we all went out to eat chicken, rice, and boiled and fried plantain(banann peze). There was a tv in the restaurant playing Godzilla which was a big hit with the boys. After eating, we sent the young boys on their way home and with our friends from the beach went to pick up some items we needed from a departement store before heading back. By time we left the store it was pouring rain and we went to find a taxi. One of the shoe shinner boys we ate with, Tiga, was standing outside with his clothing drenched from the rain. Daniel went to talk to him to ask why he didn't go home yet(I should mention Daniel is amazing with the younger boys.) Tiga lives very far from where we were and further than all the other street boys. He is also a new boy and he didn't know any of the other shoe shinners. We decided to go out for icecream and bring Tiga to learn more about him.

The boys all choose their ice cream and Tiga got a banana split. Whipped cream, sparkles and all that other sugary greatness. But he refused to eat it. The boys thought it was because he already ate and started scolding him for making me buy him something. But Tiga told me that he wanted to take it home to his mother. We explained that it would melt, but he persisted until tears started streaming down his face. So, we bagged it up to go and all took a taxi to bring him home safely.

Tiga has 5 siblings, 2 which have died and 3 which are in Haiti. His father also died, and he stays with his single mother. His mother, although I don't know how, has lost both her legs and is unable to work. Therefore, this amazing little boy works shoe shinning and begging to help keep him and his mom fed.


We visited the Malecon frequently, and became so attached to all the shoe shinners there. They each have a story that will completely break your heart, but just by being around them, you would never know it. They are funny, smart, quirky, and just like regular boys anywhere. They shoe shine, and also receive the occasional hand out. None of them were in school, although some went on Mondays to local Haitian schools. We brought some creole-english children's book, and paper and pens and had a bit of an outdoor lesson. They absolutely loved the books, and even though the stories were simple they really got into them. Some of the boys were able to spell a few specific words, and others were not able too. One of our "beach boys" who is 14, was not even able to spell his own name. It was easy for us to imagine an amazing future for this boy as he is caring, a leader type, and ethusiastic to learn new things. But seeing him struggle to write a three letter word, was more heartbreaking than many many things.

These boy really want to be in school-good schools. There were some who couldn't afford to go to school because they are required to pay school and uniform fees- often times less than $5. Boys such as Tiga, are also the breadwinner for their families. He would not be able to provide for himself or his mother if he was in school. I would imagine some would also quit school, as it is hard to go into a program when you are so used to working. It will take time and alot of effort to be able to not only put the boys in school, but keep them there and provide the needed aid to their families so they do not have to work.

I'm back! Part:1

I returned home from the DR a week later than planned, as my passport and camera were stolen. I'm more upset about the camera as it had all the picture I took from the two weeks I was there, including all the amazing friends I made! Let me tell you about them.

We arrived in the DR to rain. The following day, we were lucky to get a bit of sunshine so my friend and I decided to have a beach day and prepare for the rest of the two weeks. As we were on the beach we noticed three young boys, two 9 years old and a 12 year old selling shells. They were very shy and we walked over to them. They looked Haitian so I asked them if they were and if they spoke Creole. 12 year old Peter(Baby) and 9 year old TiRonal arrived from Haiti 3 years ago while 9 year old Ramoun was born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian parents.
We went to get them some food from the hotel and then two more 15 year old boys showed up. They are Daniel(Jesnel) and Yamaica. We soon learned that the boys loovee to sing and dance, so we played around taking videos and letting them watch. It was getting late by now so we parted ways, and they gave us all the seashells they collected that day.(I have a suitcase just from shells..)They asked to come see us tommorow for lunch and we agreed for 12.

The next morning when we woke up, it was pouring! It continued like that all throughout the day and we planned to go visit a school but were informed the kids wouldn't be in school because of the heavy rain. We decided to check to see if the boys came at 12:00, but figured they would be at home because of the rain. To our suprise they were all waiting there right near the bottom of the beach. They asked if we wanted to play baseball, and we agreed. We walked all the way down the beach completely soaked. We then crossed a river that went to my chest to get to the other side. Wet, wet, wet. Neither me or Cat(friend) could even complain the boys smiles wouldn't leave their faces and everyone was just so happy despite the miserable weather. We played baseball with a plank of wood and seaweed for bases. Cat hit home runs and I couldn't even hit the ball. The cutest thing was they would tell me to run to home base and convince me that I hit it all by myself :) That day we met some more boys, all Haitian who have been in the DR for different amounts of time. One boy that stands out is Alexis. He is 14 years old and always tried his best to speak in english and talk about school. If he didn't know a word in english he had to figure it out. He attends a local school on Mondays were he is learning to read and write. If given the opportunity, I bet Alexis would become top in his class in a real school, he is just soo bright. Alexis is like many of the boys, from Haiti searching for a better life with no family. After spending 3 weeks it was obviouse that the boys have created their own family with eachother. The same day on the beach we bought some "kokoye e pistache" coconut and pistachio candies from a boy selling it on the beach. I split half with Cat, and bought four for the boys that were with us. They immedietly started cracking them up into dozens of pieces and shared it with other friends. They didn't have to do this as the other boys weren't even close but one boy named Jhonny told me " he is my brother, everything that is mine is his and everything that is his is mine." And for the rest of my time there, that saying was true everytime.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Update on the uniforms

All the uniforms needed, that I mentioned about in my last post, have been provided for!
Is it bad that I am still not done packing!? I have 2 large luggages for donations, one is mostly filled with soccer jerseys and the rest is for other donations.
I've been following the forecast in Puerto Plata and it's been really rainy. I hope that this will clear up by time I get there! Meanwhile in Santiago it's completely clear and sunny skies and in Santo Domingo the same thing. I'm really excited about starting the soccer program in Munoz. It was last minute, my old highschool had collected jerseys for a project in Uganda but were unable to ship them there, and instead they gave them to me for the DR. Hopefully we can set up a few teams. All i'm missing is soccer balls, so i'm going ot pick some up in the DR.
The biggest thing im focusing on this trip is to look at the education system. I won't be able to figure it all out in two weeks but hopefully i'll learn something! I'm also going to do as much exploring as I can in Puerto Plata and Santo Domingo.
I leave for the airport at 4:00 am so it's time for me to sign off. I'll try and keep this blog updated as much as I can!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Dominican, in 3 days.

I leave for the Dominican in 3 days. I can't beleive it, and I feel so excited but unprepared! I always feel unprepared before trips, I was completely having panick attacks before Uganda thinking that I was missing something or something I forgot to do.

Last time I went to the Dominican I completely feel in love with everything about it, but there was something about the Haitian batey I visited that completely captured my heart. Life for Haitians is definetly hard in Haiti, but many new struggles arise with life in the Dominican Republic. The discrimination reaches everyone, even the children. I have collected some Creole-English books and French books for some schools in the bateys. The schools were started mostly by local Haitian pastors and community leaders who want to make brighter futures for the children. Ofcourse with no government support and families stricken by poverty, it's an uphill battle.
The school has a strict dresscode and children without a uniform cannot attend. There are 16 children in one particular school in a community I will be visiting called Munoz. All 16 children do not have a uniform. The uniform consists of a checkered dress shirt and pants for boys or skirt for girls. Because they do not have this, the children cannot attend school. Ofcourse as you all know my thoughts on education- this has to change! If anyone would like to help me purchase uniforms that would be great. I wish I learned about this need sooner so I could of tried to get all the children uniforms, but as many as we can get will help some great kids, and best of all put them in school!
The cost is 170 pesos for both boys and girls, which is around $5. Although it isn't for a sponsorship program such as with CUS, I will take a picture of each child who receives a uniform and collect some info on the child, because that $5 is putting them in school!
To make a donation please use the donate button on this page which says "Dominican Uniforms!"

Star Fundraiser for Apac

I hope you will all help take part in the star fundraiser for Apac! If you have not already read about it, let me explain how it works.

To build the school there's ofcourse a bunch of materials that we need, in total the cost is around $5,000. This will build a temporary 7 classroom school where the children will have classes, learn life skills, and receive meals.

The children at CUS have sponsors and with all the ongoing projects, the donors and sponsors have become extended members to this community. Often times people start up projects that end up failing for a number of reasons. This includes corruption, lack of training, little resources and many in need, and lack of community involvement and support. CUS has always served the poorest children in the community and has been fortunate enough to have amazing support from the international community to do this. Because of this support, the work the school is doing has earned much respect in the community which is crucial.

In Apac the story is a bit different. Northern Uganda has been ignored by the international community for the entire two decades of war. With this school, we hope to help bring the community together for positive change. We also want to invite you, the donors, to be part of this community!

To do this, we are selling stars for every item the school needs. Right now for example we need 6
people to buy stars at $5 each to purchase poles. When you donate to buy a star, please let me know your name, color of the star your would like(2 color options), and your photo(optional), and country or city you live. All the stars will be put together and then hung up in the classrooms in Apac!

For more info go to

Right now we need 6 people to buy stars at $5 each.