I recently went to the Dominican Republic for an opportunity to give back. I went under the auspices of testing water in rural areas of the Dominican Republic. More specifically the bateys (think small villages) in and around the sugar cane fields (think fields of corn) outside of La Romana. I never went to the beach or the resort; I was too busy for that and I did not seem to mind in the least. My experience rejuvenated my soul and filled my heart with hope.
If you have read any of my other posts, you will get a sense that I have been somewhat depressed. I am frustrated with our consumer-driven, selfish culture. A culture which now thinks that being famous is the American dream. I am angered by our government’s lack of will to deal with the real issues in favor of the easy, petty ones. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to go to La Romana and begin what I hoped would be a new journey. My education and training have largely been focused on wasting tax payer dollars (another frustration which has seated itself fairly deeply in my soul). I wanted to actually use my education and training to help people that really need it and want it.
To make a long story short I became involved in the La Romana project because my wife took a drive through West Virginia and read Mountains Beyond Mountains: Healing the World: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer. In the past year my wife has visited Rwanda with Dr. Farmer, participated in a medical mission to Haiti, and organized a global health symposium in Kansas City. Through her I was introduced to a local math teacher who has been working in Haiti. Through him I was introduced to a woman who has been going to La Romana for many years conducting medical missions to the bateys. As part of the medical mission she had long been wondering what the quality of available drinking water was in the bateys (dirty water makes it difficult for people to remain healthy). She wanted to replicate the program started in Haiti. She has also worked with a local engineer for a few years and was wondering if I could go down to La Romana and work with him and train him. The task of collecting and surveying the water sources in the area is immense. There are over 120 bateys outside of La Romana that the medical missions serve.
I arrived late at night because of a lengthy delay in San Juan. Danny, the local engineer, and his wife met me anyway. I was grateful that they waited as long as they did. Although I could probably find my way to the dormitory I would be staying at, it was late and I was in a country I never had been to before. Did I mention that I do not know any Spanish? Danny drove me to the dormitory where all the mission groups stay. When I arrived the team from Azusa Pacific College was fast asleep. I lay in a bunk bed and sweat away my first night in La Romana.
The Azusa Pacific College team welcomed me as if I were part of their team. They were a small group of 6 women and 4 men. Each day they would visit one or two bateys and hold a medical clinic in the batey’s church or school. Because Danny and I made our own schedule I only saw them in action twice when our paths happened to cross. I commend these college students and their professional leaders for the work they do. If it were not for the medical missions the people in the bateys may not receive any medical care at all. I would be exposed to this kind of selfless service again and again during my stay in La Romana. Good people using their vacation to help people who need desperately need it.
Photos by KCThinker. La Romana, Dominican Republic, July 2006
"It does not take much strength to do things, but it requires great strength to decide on what to do." ~ Roycrofters: Epigrams of the Day