Today’s blog was written by our Líderes del Día: Kimberly and Michelle
¡Hola! We are Michelle and Kimberly and today we were leaders of the day. Today’s main focus was on immigration, specifically Haitian immigration in the Dominican Republic. In the morning we welcomed two Venezuelan immigrants named Michelle and Jomaira who came to teach our group of Glimpsers how to make bracelets that saved their lives. Their family was faced with medical bills they couldn’t afford and sold handmade bracelets to raise money for a family member’s lung transplant. Eventually, they sold enough to cover the costs of the transplant! That family member now lives healthily thanks to those bracelets. Today, they showed us one of the simpler kinds of bracelets that were sold. They were the colors of the Venezuelan flag, yellow, blue, and red. Where yellow symbolizes wealth, blue is the ocean, and red is all the blood spilled of the people, referencing to the violence in Venezuela. The two ladies shared their own stories of their migration to the Dominican Republic in the hopes of escaping the violence and in search of a better future. The ladies were extremely kind and patient with us as they taught us how to make the sentimental bracelets. It was a ton of fun and the whole group continues to wear them now!
The next activity we did was visit the Colonia Kennedy, a Haitian/Dominican community. There are a lot of discontent between both communities because of the history between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. In the past Haitians have had control over the Dominican Republic. The DR fought for independence twice and currently there is a lot of resentment between the two. Haitian immigrants travel to the DR in search of new job opportunities, since there cease to be any in Haiti. Though most of Constanza’s agricultural labor is driven by Haitians, the Haitians are discriminated against and ‘hidden’ within the Dominican community. Many of the families we met today travel to the DR to raise money for their families in Haiti. Many mothers and fathers live hundreds of miles from their children, rarely see them, and put themselves through hours and hours of hard work to support themselves and their families. The stories us Glimpsers heard today definitely made our hearts ache. The Haitian community in the DR face lots discrimination on the daily. Six days out of the week in their community they are not supplied electricity. Only on Sundays do they have electricity and that is only till 7pm at night. Meanwhile, the Dominicans who live in that community have electricity 24/7. It is things like this that the Haitians have to live with in order to continue surviving. The few hours we spent in Colonia Kennedy were extremely impactful because of how closely we can relate how immigrants in the US are treated (ie. discrimination etc.).
Kimberly’s Point of View
Today was a very impactful day. Just seeing the conditions that these people [the Haitians] live in got to me, and made me feel extremely grateful for what I have. I really enjoyed making the Venezuelan bracelets with Michelle and Jomaira. Their stories are just some of the many challenges and journeys immigrants go through. Also the meaning of the colors of their flag was very interesting and really connected to the problems going on in their country till this day. When we went to visit the Haitian/Dominican community my group leader was called Ostave and he was very kind and was open to answer any questions we had. His honest feedback was very helpful for us Glimpsers and leaders to get an idea of other things we can do to improve their living conditions. One insane fact, and one that really made us think and reflect was that in Colonia Kennedy there are 21 little homes where families live and they all share one létrine and a shower for everyone living in that community.
Michelle’s Point of View
Today held a special place in my heart because one of our leaders is a Haitian immigrant. John our leader migrated to the Dominican Republic in 2005. Over the course of the trip, our delegation has grown to love and care for John. He is the epitome of everything good. He runs his own nonprofit company where he supplies internet access to rural communities all across the Dominican Republic. John’s story is extremely inspirational and it all starts with his migration to the DR. John has served as a key example of what hard work can become with the right mindset. He is always in a good mood and extremely positive and has really made my trip that much better. Being able to hear his personal story and all other the other Colonia Kennedy members’ stories helped to put in perspective the struggles the immigrants of the DR and US go through. I could never imagine going through the journey John did and still starting a whole nonprofit to help others on top of that. I could really see the passion as he spoke about his story and the struggles of Haitian immigrants. I knew going into this day that it would hit home for me personally because of beautiful mother. Being on this trip has exposed me to the conditions and struggles that my mom went through growing up. I’ve have really learned to appreciate my mom I know that when I get back she is getting a fat hug.