At 7:00 a.m. I promptly began to wake people up from their sleep. Not all of the doors opened the first time; many people were still very tired. I went upstairs to the fourth floor to look around the neighborhood. The weather and view were great. Morning was a little foggy and breezy, not too hot or too humid. From the fourth floor of the Hotel D’Angel in San Juan de la Maguana, one of the tallest man made structures all around, we can see far and wide. Every morning when we step into the 4th floor for breakfast, a lush, green mountain greats us from far away as numerous birds chirp around us, flying in and out of the balcony. All the trip members have adapted very well to the culture and environment and thoroughly enjoy the available scenery.
Before breakfast, I went outside to get some fresh air. Three shoe-shiner street-boys sat and blocked the exit. They were all young children. I decided to sit next to them. It was my first time observing them up close. They had dirty raggedy clothing, and flies buzzed around them. They all carried a little box filled with their tools as they looked around trying to get a customer. When they managed to get a customer, one of the boys began to shine the customer´s shoes, one at a time. Brush, shoe oil, cloth, wax, then brush again. The whole process took about 5 minutes. The boy only received 10 pesos for shining a pair of shoes. After observing their life up-close, I felt bad for their miserable conditions, but giving them money is no the solution. The locals here call us Americanos or Gringos. Gringos is a derogatory term that describe Americans as giving money trees. On this trip we have learned that sustainability is a key part of help. The locals often expect us to give them money. When we were at the poor communities, children just surrounded the bus and stuck out their hands, asking for money. Giving the boys money would make them dependent upon others and not give them motivation to seek out opportunity. After meeting the boys, I went back upstairs for breakfast It was a meal of sausages sauteed with onions, bread, jam, butter, and hot cocoa. It was a great meal. Many people had gotten sick or was tired, energy level was low.
After breakfast we had our first seminar about the Community Action Project (CAP). “Vision without action is merely a dream; action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.”- Joel Barker. The CAP consists of discovery, design, and deliver. Today was our discover stage to find out more about the community we´ll be working at and see what they need help with. We talked about the project and how sustainability matters. We are working with an non-governmental organization (NGO) called Fundación para el Desarrollo de Azua, San Juan y Elías Piña (FUNDASEP). The FUNDASEP organization works in communities in the Azua province, San Juan province, and Elías Piña province. They create programs and projects that contribute to a better quality of life in those areas and better the consciousness and awareness of the people. We are working at two education centers, Bella Vista and Guachupita. We have Diana and Charlotte from Germany working with FUNDASEP to help us. This was a long seminar where we went into detail about the project. Designing a community project can be very difficult since a successful project involves many aspects. Our project has to be sustainable and can be accomplished in 2 days. We discussed the definition of sustainability and delineated certain aspects. The community has to be involved so that the project will be maintained and repaired when we leave. The project has to be able to last long, and other aspects. We also discussed examples of failed help like 50 Cent’s (he is a rapper) World Food Program to donate as many meals as he gets on his Facebook page. This kind of charity does not help with solving the issue of poverty. There are ulterior motives to this particular program (gaining more popularity, etc.). It make people dependent upon food, and there is no way of knowing the specifics to this. Think about how the charity program helps solve the problem/poverty next time you want to act nice.
We prepared for English class after the long seminar and went to lunch. Food at the Onanei is always delicious. We had curly pasta with a delicious sauce, beans with tiny pieces of bell pepper shaped into a bowl, eggplant cooked with cheese and bell pepper, and beef cooked to perfection. When we came on this trip, everyone expected beans and rice everyday for meals. The quality of the food and living conditions-we have hot water to shower, and AC or a fan when it’s too hot-available were surprisingly better than what was expected. The food quality and living conditions hinder the ability of the Glimpsers in understanding the local culture and standard of living. The FUNDASEP members Diana and Charlotte from Germany had lunch with us and told us about their projects and how they have been helping the past few months.
After lunch we walked to the education centers and the community around them. The community is one of the poorer communities in a bad condition. There were big pigs and cute piglets around the neighborhood as well as other domestic animals like chickens, sheep, lambs, and cows. Many houses were in shabby conditions, the roads weren’t all paved, and there were streams of dirty water on the floor. We first visited a church where the project director explained to us the importance of the importance of education and these projects FUNDASEP and Global Glimpse are doing. Everywhere we go, the locals tell us they love us. They always appreciate a group that wants to learn about their culture and understand them. The locals think this delegation and the past delegations have been doing wonderful jobs of understanding the locals before helping them. Being part of this trip, I’ve learned many things about the local culture and the appropriate way of helping. The people here may have a lower quality of life, but a much happier life. They have less and worry less about things. Just like the children in other communities, the children in this community were very friendly. When we left the church to tour the community, each Glimpser held the hands of one or two local kids. The children have an amazing power of cheering up the group. When we passed animals, people always marveled at how cute they were, but whenever someone mentioned a food item, many female Glimpsers would squeal in fear or look in disgust. For example, when we passed the pigs, someone said the word “bacon” and many girls yelled at the person. Many members of the group still seems like they haven’t realized the animals the locals have are for food and are matters of livelihood-dogs as guards, cattle as money, cows for milk, pigs for food, horses to carry goods-and not pets. The children here lived in poverty but are still capable of having fun. They are not just subjects to feel sympathy for.
The community has an Elementary school named after the indigenous called “Escuela Primaria: Enriquillo.” The Dominicans appreciate their culture and aren’t afraid of showing that off. The community also has an internet cafe for students to do homework at and a clinic for first-aid and normal checkups.
We had two project areas. The first place “Sala” is an afterschool learning area where kids go for extra help in math, spanish, english, and reading. Only one-volunteer teaches 3rd,4th, and 5th graders. Her name is Sol, or Sun in spanish, and she has to teach a consistent number of around 20 students a day. The condition of the Sala is very poor. There is only one light in the room, one blackboard, and 7 tables. The children in the DR love to learn. The first thing I learned is to appreciate the education we have in the United States. The parents in the community does not support the education for children yet they are so eager to learn. We, on the other hand, complain daily about a stable and safe education environment. Now many of the Glimpsers have also seen the value in education. Education is tantamount for education, jobs, communication, opportunities… In the back, there is a little playground for the children to play at. The schools here have two sessions a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, but there are still many students.
The second project area is a play area for the children. It was a rocky courtyard filled with a classroom. The room has toys and colorful murals painted all around the walls. They have two sessions of playtime, 8-10 and 2-4. There are a total of 3 volunteers that switch shifts. The volunteers were giving us a speech but the kids were having a lot of fun and were loud enough to make us not hear much. When we were leaving, I saw kids fighting. One kid picked up a rock and tried to throw it at the other kid, but I stopped him just in time. Kids everywhere fight.
This trip made me realize how much better off we live. The children here can have fun with such limited material, yet we’re unhappy with so much. We can all learn from them. The group also came up with many great ideas of making those two places better. Before leaving, a little girl kissed me on the cheeks and many other little kids hugged their big friends. Friendships can be made anywhere. On the way back from the communities, we went to the ice cream store. After eating ice cream, we went to teach English class, then dinner, then the regular routine of nightly meetings and sleep.
Today was a day when the Global Glimpse Leaders, Ms. Grover and Ms. Steward had their day off. Keeping the group on time with only Lucia and Gloria was tough. Today was a long day and we learned a lot about the kind of help we should give, how good we live, and what we are going to do to improve their conditions.