Today was a productive day. We started the day by having a quick breakfast. It was only 30 minutes to accommodate for the one hour drive we would need to reach our fieldtrip destination (Ninos con una Esperanza)in Santiago. For breakfast we had ham sandwiches and fried yucca.
Our seminar centered around the question, “What are some of the economic factors that determine if a person is poor? What are some of the non-economic factors?” We revisited the 5 P’s of poverty that the students were introduced to in our workshops before the trip: people, politics peace, place, and past. These aspects of poverty were used to create a framework that shaped our seminar. After reviewing the 5 P’s, we were given several facts about the Dominican Republic and asked to categorize the facts based on the 5 Ps. We found that many of the Ps overlap, and that poverty is a phenomenon resulting from the interconnectedness of a country’s location, leaders, and history.
After our seminar we quickly gathered our English teaching materials and climbed into the bus. After saying hello to our driver, Edward, we set off to Santiago. In the bus we reviewed our lesson plans for English class, caught up on sleep, and sang with good cheer. As we approached Santiago (the second largest city in the Dominican Republic) we were initially shocked by how similar the city looked to our homes. Many of the stores we passed had names we knew well like McDonalds, Baskin Robins, and Burger King. So we wondered what poverty in Santiago would look like. As we approached the edge of the town we got our answer.
The houses gradually decreased in size, and became increasingly more rundown. Soon after we reached this part of town we found the building for Niños con una Esperanza, or Children with Hope. After placing our bags in a salon and using the restroom, we began to play with the children. Some of us played volleyball with the older kids, others of us played in the playground. Then the rest of us went upstairs to solve puzzles with the younger ones and supervise arts and crafts. After an hour of playing, we had lunch with the children and asked some of them to share their stories.
One conversation we had stuck out to me. Noticing some of our Asian delegation members, a little girl asked our GG Leader Sara, “Why are Chinese eyes so different?” Sara calmly responded that people look different in different parts of the world. People can look different from each other and still all be from the United States. The little girl nodded her head in understanding and said that in the Dominican Republic, people have myriad skin tones, yet they are all still Dominican.
After lunch we went back inside. Elizabeth, a director of the organization, talked to us about Niños con una Esperanza. The organization was founded by her husband Pablo Ureña. She explained that because school is only half a day, many of the children in the area begin working in the dumpsite nearby with their parents. Due to lack of supervision and dealing with the harsh realities of living in poverty, many of these children arrive at the center with aggressive tendencies. Niños con una Esperanza prevents children from working in the dumps, encourages them to continue their education, provides a place for recreation and enjoyment of their childhood, and uses positive reinforcement to give children the love and affection they need.
After answering our questions, Elizabeth took us on a tour of the facilities. She showed us their sustainable hydroponic garden as well as the site for the technical center they were building. The technical center would teach women technical skills and entrepreneurship so that the women in this impoverished community could start businesses.
After the tour, we went straight to English tutoring, and held our classes from 4:00-6:00. After our lessons we spent an hour planning our next lessons. After, we walked back to Monte de Oracion, where we picked up our cleaned laundry and had hot dogs for dinner. From dinner we had a quick self-reflection meeting, and then had our nightly meeting to wrap up the day.