Buenas dias from San Juan! We had an amazing, jam-packed day centered on the theme of “Education”. After a delicious breakfast, Dominique led an academic seminar that gave some background information about education in the Dominican Republic. Students shared their thoughts on the Nelson Mandela quote “Education is the most powerful weapon that can be used to change the world”. With this in mind, we got ready to head out for the day.
We went on a field trip to the Universidad Autonoma De Santo Domingo (UASD), a public university in San Juan that was established in 1996. We had a challenging walk in the heat, only to find out that many students have to walk five times as far everyday to get their education! We were greeted by some of our lovely, GG Dominican student ambassadors that gave us a tour of their colorful, lush university. The tour included interesting artwork, a mummy, and a welcome from the director of the UASD! Then we visited a classroom of students that were learning English through a program with the USA. We found out that many of the students wanted to learn English so they could get a better job to improve their quality of life.
Next we met our guest speaker, Cristino Comas. He is an experienced educator in the DR who has worked hard to improve education in the country. He opened our eyes to a lot of issues surrounding education in the DR. We learned that politics play a strong role in a country’s education system and that leaders in the political party can get jobs at university’s with no education training. That didn’t sound fair to us! Also, in 1997 the DR set a goal to spend 4% of the budget on education and only recently was that goal reached. However, we left Comas with a feeling of hope for the future of education in the Dominican Republic.
After a tasty lunch of “La Bandera”, the national dish that consists of rice, red beans and beefsteak, we went on another field trip to a poorer community in San Juan. We spoke with coordinators, teachers and participants of an amazing government initiative called Quisqueya Aprende Contigo. This organization is made up of volunteer teachers that go into communities, knock on doors and offer free Spanish writing lessons. We met an elderly woman who proudly told us that she recently learned to write her name. She was honored that we were there to talk to her, but really the honor was all ours. It was inspiring to see how people of all ages are being empowered by this organization.
Next we headed back to the hostel to prep for English class number 1! The groups were focused as they prepared charts, and other materials for their lessons. Many group members were nervous about how it would go (especially the ones that don’t know Spanish). Despite being anxious, the Glimpsers showed no fear and did an amazing job teaching! Their leaders were SO proud to see the Glimpsers act as leaders and embrace the challenges of teaching. Instead of being exhausted after two hours of teaching, the energy was high because Glimpsers were excited and proud of their accomplishment.
The day ended with another delicious meal and a nightly meeting where we reflected on ALL of today’s events. A few students picked the whole day as their “rose” because it was too hard to decide between the teaching English, engaging speakers and delicious food. We also passed the torch to the first student “El Lider Del Dia” and Kevin impressed us with his beat box skills. We look forward to tomorrow when Kevin will be leading the group on “Aid and Development” day.