Seeing kids walking barefoot, youth having no country to identify with, and realizing that everybody relies on each other for survival really taught us many important lessons. They are lessons that the average American, or generally anyone that lives in the comfort and protection of being able to spend well over two dollars a day, is barely ever exposed to.
We woke up very early in the morning and had little time to prepare because the batey was three hours away. We toured around the neighborhood and saw up to ten people living in one small room that consisted of a kitchen, a living room, and a bedroom. On the tour, we also learned that in the DR, people born of Haitian descent from 1928 to 2010 do not have the same rights as Dominicans. They face deportation, lack of social services, and government oppression. It takes one hour for people living in the batey to reach the nearest clinic. Although extremely difficult, many Haitians are still fighting for their rights in their own country. The people there are the descendants of Haitians that worked on sugar plantations. In large part, they do not speak Creole and have never even been in Haiti, having lived all of their lives here in the DR. The Dominican government is deporting the descendants from all over the DR, the country they call home.
One of the most inspirational individuals who is fighting for their rights is Juliana. Juliana was born in the DR and wanted to obtain ID cards for her children. Although the government rejected her request, Juliana kept fighting. That is much of what we learned today: the importance of persistence, patience, and working together as a community.
At the batey, one of our groups met a woman who had 9 children who makes her living through prostitution. In addition, her 14-year-old daughter also works as a prostitute. It was surprising for all of us and extremely emotionally overwhelming. We are really proud of our peers because we started to become closer like a family. Translating for each other when conversing with Dominicans, caring for each other’s health, playing games until bedtime, and being a part of powerful experiences. As a family, we treated everyone in the community like our family.
Being Los Lideres Del Dia, we took on heavy responsibilities throughout the super tight schedule. But with examples from our great leaders on the days before, and being partnered leaders, we caught on pretty quickly and were able to drive the day efficiently.