Friday, November 29, 2019

Student / Chap Takeover: Day Five YEAH!

Last Day at Papita!
by Betty

Today was a long and hard day at construction, but we got through it! It was such an accomplishment to help everyone finish the house. When we arrived, we started working on getting dirt and rocks to help fill up the rooms. Some people were also painting inside. It was very refreshing when it started to rain, but that didn’t mean we stopped working--we pressed on! Then after lunch, people continued to work and a few others helped distribute food and hygiene kits to everyone in the batey. That was a really eye opening and emotional moment, as we saw firsthand everyone’s living conditions and realized how grateful people were when they received the packages. All day everyone tried their hardest and worked their best to make sure this house is done so a family can move in. With a special ceremony, we were able to formally dedicate a completed house to its newest residents.  (They'll officially move in next week, as soon as the cement floor is dry and safe!) Knowing a family can now move into their forever house makes me feel extremely happy.



Rick & some of his "minions"

Ten Year Anniversary
by Jenni French, DRST chaperone

Ten years ago, in the wake of the massive earthquake that happened in Haiti in January 2010, the leadership at Watkinson School said yes to sending a team to work in La Romana. The Dominican Republic Service Team was born.

Today, we celebrated ten years of service of the Dominican Republic Service Team in the most fitting way possible; we served a catered meal to all the residents of Batey Papita, the site where we have been building hurricane proof homes for the last four years.  The residents there are our friends and, in the wake of Thanksgiving, it was a powerful moment to provide a hearty meal to people who never have enough to eat.  It was also special because the whole team took part in the celebration!  This morning's med team saw 111 patients and then drove 45 minutes to join the construction team for our celebration at Batey Papita.

Of course, the meal was accompanied by music and dancing, clowns on bicycles, bubbles, and adults visiting despite English/Spanish/Creole language barriers. 

Ten years ago, I never could have imagined the thousands of people who would decide to engage with this work. Thank you just doesn't seem to cut it. On behalf of the people of La Romana and the surrounding bateys, I say thank you to the 20 adults who agreed to chaperon and lead this trip over the years. Thank you to the hundreds of travelers who have put sweat, smiles and hugs into the work in the bateys. And thanks, too, to their parents who trust and support us with this endeavor. Thank you to the thousands of donors who have donated money gifts, hygiene items, meds, and shoes. Know that your gifts have eased suffering and transformed lives out on the bateys. We LITERALLY couldn't have done any of it without all of you.

Here's to the next ten years!

La Fuerza Azul feeding residents of Batey Papita

Lining up!

And enjoying a healthy, delicious meal.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Student Takeover: Day Four YEAH!

Breaking Ground and Skin

By Connor

As soon as we arrived to Batey Papita, we went straight to work. Different groups worked to paint roofing and to move rocks to fill the seemingly endless holes in the house. Many of us showed strength, working both alone and together. Even when we fell along with our wheelbarrows, we always got right back to work.  Some of us experienced fire ant bites, and some of our tools were broken. Nevertheless, we were always thankful that we were able to help.

Carson, hauling a casual 90lb bag of concrete

Cora & Betty: the definition of teamwork

It isn't a work day without a team selfie

Med Clinic @ Batey Higuey
by Elijah

Today, different than most med clinics, we went to an urban area of the Dominican Republic. As soon as the bus stopped, little kids who were playing on the streets were already waving to us with a big smile on their faces excited to see us. Just as the bus made its final stop, we saw a woman holding a newborn, and she literally passed the baby through the bus window so we could hold the baby!* As we exited the bus, I was very excited for the day knowing that I was responsible for blood pressure, which is my favorite job. After we set up the room, we started to see our first patients. At this clinic we saw many kids and newborns. Everything went very efficiently from the bug juice (anti-parasite liquid) to the food bags that we gave out the the patients. With every patient that sat down in front of me, we had a warm conversation and they were very grateful knowing we were helping them. Seeing their gratitude made me realize how lucky I am to get the opportunity to do all the things in my life including coming on this service trip. I have so many opportunities and things in my life that I take for granted, and this trip has opened my eyes to see what goes on in the bateys in the Dominican Republic. One moment that really stood out to me today was when we were leaving the meeting clinic and Bella and I gave out the rest of the toys to the kids. We gave them slap braces and stickers. The look on their faces after getting the toys showed how happy they were to have a toy that most of us had as young kids. This Thanksgiving I am so grateful for many things including my family, friends, and so much more. This trip has showed me so much more than what I know and how I can impact the lives of others. I hope everyone can realize that. Happy Thanksgiving to all!!

*New rule effective immediately: No accepting babies handed to you through the window of a bus. - Arielle

Elijah playing ball

Sadie holding her first baby EVER

Thanksgiving Celebration
by Arielle

After a quick shower, we headed to Casa de Campo dressed in our best.  Casa de Campo is a wealthy resort area, and frankly, wealthy is an understatement.  It is a gated community comprised of tree-lined streets, perfectly manicured lawns, and resorts with all the amenities.  The home that we rent for the evening has a huge open floor plan, four large bedrooms, and a pool out back with a hot tub.  The contrast between Casa de Campo and the bateys where we work could not be any starker.

Many of our interpreters joined us, and they even brought with them some of their family members.  It was such a privilege to meet their parents, significant-others, and children.  Our feast was comprised of an incredible spread, including turkey, pork, gravy, mashed potatoes, rice, bread, and salad.  Although Thanksgiving is not traditionally celebrated by Dominicans, our interpreters were definitely in the spirit... On the whole bus ride to Casa to Campo, they played a song in Spanish featuring one line repeated with gusto: COMER PAVO (translation: EAT TURKEY!).  We loved being able to share our traditions with them and seeing how graciously they celebrated alongside us in the spirit of generosity and gratitude.

After dinner and dessert (cakes and fruit), a bunch of students jumped into the pool.  Not long after, a dance party erupted in the backyard; when "Danza Kuduro" came on, no one could hold back!  Jenni busted out her dance-teacher-moves and had everyone--students, teachers, and interpreters alike--dancing in unison.  It was a really special moment for all of us to come together!

While our evening was full of laughter and play, it's still really hard to see so much wealth concentrated in one area, when we spend the whole week exposed to the depth and breadth of poverty in the Dominican Republic.  It's also really hard to enjoy so much delicious food knowing so many people this week that we have met experience food scarcity on a regular basis.  I'm hopeful that tonight reminded us the importance of appreciating what you have while simultaneously striving to improve the lives of those less fortunate.

With our bellies and hearts full, we can't wait for one final day of service tomorrow!  

Carson, Avi & Rick - first to the table but last to eat
Keeping that spirit of service alive!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Student Takeover: Day Three YEAH!

"Boulder Day" @ Batey Papita
by Cora

Our team at Batey Papita works everyday shoveling, pickaxing and wheelbarrowing our way to finishing a home. The homes we build are hurricane proof for the safety of the workers! Our goal for the day was to finish filling the subfloor in the biggest room of the home. How do you finish a subfloor, you ask? First, you fill it with big rocks and then top it off with dirt. The problem was that the rocks we needed were buried deep into the ground and were too big to carry. So we had to dig them up and then split them until we could carry or roll them into the house. There were a couple of them that took hours and hours to get free. We were able to fill the room almost all the way! 

The team worked straight through lunch because we all planned on going to the beach in the afternoon. At about 12 the whole team was exhausted but we all came together to finish the last third of the floor in less than an hour!! The previous two thirds took all morning! We packed up for the day and headed back to El Casa Pastoral. 

A symphony of pick-axes

Cora and Joe rock.

"BEST DAY EVER" @ Joe Hartman School
by Siola

Today we went to Joe Hartman. When we arrived at the school, the children were very excited because we had a surprise visit from the Toros!  The mascot of La Romana's baseball team led a short pep ralley, and the team graciously gave all the children free tickets to the game that night.  After that, we divided into two groups of four so we that could visit the different classes. For the younger kids, we taught the "Days of the Week" song in English, and for the  older kids, we made snow flakes out of paper plates. We also handed out stickers which the kids couldn't get enough of! One of my favorite parts of the visit was when I was drawing faces for the kids on their snowflakes. One of the kids gave me a Bible in return, which I thought was the kindest thing in the world. While I'm not religious, I thought this gesture was so beautiful. Of course, it's written in Spanish, so I'm definitely going to start reading it for language practice!

Dreams do come true!! Meeting the Toros mascot.

Bringing snow to fourth graders at Joe Hartman

Anika and her newest friends!

Bubble Bubble Toil & Trouble @ Batey La Gina
by Catie

After a scenic bus ride, filled with Spanish music and views of sugar cane, we arrived at Batey #412, La Gina. Almost immediately, we were showered in holas by small children, who were captivated by our bubbles and stickers. We also saw many stray animals that we had to restrain from petting. We spent an exhausting yet rewarding day handing out shoes, much needed medication, and hygiene products. Despite the high temperatures, watching a group of young Dominican children share Cheez-Its and a Paw Patrol coloring book was the thing that warmed our hearts the most. 


Puppies galore!

Hard at work 

And then...
by Cora

We got home by 2:45pm and did a quick change. We all packed into the bus and headed to the beach. It was sunny and hot! Those of us who worked so hard in the morning ran into the water to cool down! We played some volleyball and tossed around a frisbee. It was such a great way to recharge!

After we got back and ate our delicious dinner, we were visited by Andrea, the woman who serves as a liaison between the mission and the hospital. She spoke about the importance of education. She was born on a batey, and she moved to the city at age 12 and is now an attorney! This was possible because she was able to educate herself. It was truly one of the most inspiring things I have ever heard. I couldn’t think of a better way to wrap up a day of hard work than hearing the story of the woman who is the reason we are able to do that work. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Student Takeover: Day Two YEAH!

Med Clinic
Student Blogger: Fleance

Today in the medical clinic my main job in the pharmacy was to give out medicines and supplements prescribed by the doctors. The pharmacy is pretty hectic, as those in the pharmacy have to find and portion meds just as prescribed. This requires a high attention to detail, which I thought I was perfect for. It was also extremely fast paced as we had multiple papers with medicines come in all at once. For me the most memorable moment wasn’t with giving a certain family meds or interactions with patients, although those are all equally as important. To me, the most important moment was finding more prenatal meds. This was since at the beginning, we only had 3 or 4 bags of prenatals, which are meds that help pregnant women get the nutrition they need while also helping with the development of a soon-to-be-born child. When we had just one bottle left, Arielle found a whole box of prenatals with about 40 more bottles. When this happened, I felt an immeasurable amount of relief and excitement. I was thrilled to know that we had more than enough supplements to help women in need and their future children would live a healthier life. This was so significant to me because my main goal in life is to help as many people as I can, and if that starts with a medium sized box of vitamins, that’s enough for me to be satisfied with the work ethic that the pharmacy team as a whole put out throughout the day.

Close quarters in this school-turned-med-clinic!

Team Pharm (Tyler, Jack, Fleance, Arielle & Bella)

Davie & Carlos #1 leading us as we pack up the bus

Batey Papita
Student Blogger: Sadie

Today I went to the construction site at Batey Papita. We finished laying the foundation for a floor in a house for the workers. When we first arrived, a little girl named Melissa ran up to me and held my hand while we went to put our shovels and wheelbarrows down. After working hard for about two hours, I took a break to play with Melissa. I gave her gum while my new friend, Caitlin painted her nails. We worked hard for the rest of the day, and finally finished the floor for the house. Tomorrow we are going to pour concrete! 
The day ended with our group going to the Torros game. Vamos los Torros! 

Photo cred & subject: Sadie

"The national anthem is different!"

 La Fuerza Azul: Toros Superfans

Monday, November 25, 2019

Student Takeover: First Day YEAH!

Today was our first full workday!  Jenna and Bella will tell you a bit about their days at Batey Papita (construction) and Batey Magdalena (medical clinic).

Batey Papita by Jenna L.

Today on Batey Papita, our half of the team arrived at the batey to find many more completed houses than were there last year. Different teams over the last year had finished the other half of the hurricane-proof house that we started last year and had built an entire two-family house.  When we arrived, we got right to work on filling in the sub-floor of the newest house. There were two piles of dirt that needed to be moved from the yard into the house. We worked for three hours before lunch and were successful in filling in the sub-floor of the entire back room. We took a break for lunch at noon and then got right back to work; this time, our focus shifted to painting. We started by smoothing out the concrete walls with stones, and then we painted the inside walls yellow and the doors and windows white. We noticed that many of the Dominican workers that were helping with construction did not have proper shoes or shoes at all, so we asked for their shoe sizes. Tomorrow, we will bring them shoes to have for the rest of this week and beyond. We got back to Casa Pastoral around 3pm, tired and covered in dirt and paint. We are excited to go back tomorrow to see the Dominican friends we have made and to continue our construction.

Jenna & Cora: Three Time's a Charm

Batey Papita - Construction Site

Construction Team 
(with a strong fanny pack contingent)

Medical Clinic - by Bella C.

Today I worked in the medical clinic in Batey Magdalena. I worked in the pharmacy, as my teammates took blood pressures and pulses, distributed shoes and glasses, and  organized the flow of traffic. In the pharmacy, we would receive a prescription with a list of medicine. We ensured that each person received the prescribed medicines as well as a one-month supply of vitamins. Every family left with a food bag and hygiene kit, and each person also received a pair of shoes. One particular moment that stood out to me today was a young girl whose eye was swollen shut. She was talking with one the doctors, and I came over with a teddy bear. She smiled, and for the rest of the afternoons, she clung to the bear. It reminded me of how lucky and privileged we are. This teddy bear made this girl’s day.  Another man came to the clinic with his leg wrapped up in bandages.  I saw the wounds and thought they looked very fresh. I later found out that the injuries were a result of a motorbike accident two years ago. This was yet again another reminder of how I overlook how lucky I am. I have access to medical care whereas these people on see a doctor once every six months. Today was incredible and something I will never forget.

Elijah, taking a new mother's blood pressure

Dr. Molly, taking great care of her patients

Team Med Clinic, about to gear up for our second round of patients!

Bonus Evening Adventure: "Jumbo" by Jenna L.

After dinner, our team took a trip to the local super-market called “Jumbo.” We had a lot of fun shopping around cluelessly and purchasing lots of snacks, specifically ice cream. We could not help but feel like a huge inconvenience, as we did not speak the language. The icing on the cake was the fact that we were unaware that it is customary for customers to tip the baggers; we just had no idea!  We arrived home with more snacks than we should’ve been able to carry. Nonetheless, our Jumbo visit was most definitely a success.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Student Takeover: Prep Day Success!

This morning we woke up to an amazing breakfast of pancakes and fresh fruits. The juice, in particular, was insanely good. After we filled our stomachs, we started organizing ourselves and prepping for the week of service ahead of us. Tons of medicine was hauled out, and donations were retrieved from every crevice of the suitcases that we had filled to the max. And so the sorting began. I was working at the medical station, so I was counting and labeling tiny bags of medicine to give out to the people on the bateys. We must have sorted at least 2,000 pills each-in just a couple of hours! 

Tyler, Jack, Sadie, Lamiah, Elijah, Anika, Julian Rachel, and Betty
Starting on the left & moving clockwise

Then we packed everything up and had spicy chili for lunch with Dominican style crackers. The food here was so different from what I was used to back in America. After lunch, we packed up and got ready to head to the beach. All the girls in the dorm grabbed their bathing suits and gushed over the pictures we were going to take, but after the seeing the clear blue water, everyone left their phones behind and jumped in. After only a few hours, I knew all of my team members’ names—Watkinson and UHSSE alike—and shared a unique memory with each of them. 

Playa Bayahibe
Post-modern post-beach selfie

We returned back to Casa Pastoral, where I got my first hands-on experience measuring blood pressure with guidance from Mrs. Crespo and a couple of other chaperones. As I sit here, with Elijah by my side pointing out every apostrophe I miss, I can’t wait to spend the next six days with my team and working to help the people of the Dominican Republic.

Anika S.