Kids welcoming us at the first ADP
Singing with the kids at the preschool
At the electrician training school
A woman showing me her incredible garden
Perry getting a little more hair cut than he expected
The grocery store which was more expensive than mine at home
The street outside the computer lab
The other Jennifer and her friend - notice the Justin Bieber notebook
A passing sugar cane train - we saw this constantly
Perry sharing his story and a little ukulele on the way back to the hotel
A gorgeous view of the beach close to our hotel
My husband and I were invited to go to Dominican Republic with World Vision about a year ago, and we have been so excited to go. It’s hard to believe that the trip is here! This is an artist trip, and it’s meant to give World Vision artists an update on what they are doing and to see the ministry in action. On this trip there were five artists including me, my husband, Nathan, two of our World Vision representatives, our videographer, Heidi, our driver, and Claudia, our translator and guide who has worked with World Vision for years.
Nathan and I got up very early yesterday morning and flew to Atlanta to meet the rest of the team. They were all coming from the West Coast except for Heidi who was coming from Nashville, and we were meeting Claudia and our driver in the DR. I had met Joel Weldon before this trip, and I knew our reps, Jean and Patti, because I’ve worked with them for a long time (and they’re fabulous!), but everyone else was new to us. It’s been fun to see how quickly our group has already bonded. We all have a love for Jesus and a love for World Vision in common, and that helps everything. 🙂
We all left Atlanta together and flew into Santo Domingo, getting in in the afternoon. After getting through customs and immigration and buying visas and changing money and picking up some very late lunch, we immediately got into the bus for a 3 hour trip that turned into a 5 hour trip. Having been to several third world countries before, we were definitely prepared with a “go with the flow” attitude, and there wasn’t any real problem except for bad roads and traffic, but after traveling for 15 hours straight, we were pretty happy to see our hotel that night.
The hotel was the best one in the Barahona district, and it still was very basic with no hot water and fifty year old mattresses, but it was very clean and we realized that we were staying in amazing luxury compared to the people we were visiting – we were thankful. The food was wonderful, though, and we were offered sea bass the first night which was wonderful. We had no idea this was a staple, and we would be offered that for every lunch and dinner the entire time, but since we love sea bass, no hardship there. 🙂 By the time we finished dinner it was after 10, and since we’d gotten up at 3:30 that morning, we went back and collapsed.
We got up this morning and it was a totally non-stop day. This is a very small hotel with about 15 rooms, and we realized at breakfast that the rest of the hotel was taken by a missions group from an American college, and that was fun – we told them what we were doing and they told us what they were doing and we all prayed together and for each other.
We saw several Area Development Programs (ADPs) out here. We started at the most central one at a community center run by WV, and were welcomed by one of their after school groups which teaches traditional Dominican dancing. It was such a beautiful welcome! Afterward, we asked the kids how many of them were sponsored, and it was about 75% of them. I have loved seeing how WV’s involvement in the community is extended to the entire community whether sponsored or not. We heard about the classes and after school help that they were doing at this center and met the staff, and then we headed to a local WV preschool.
I have been amazed all day by the diversity of landscape and of neighborhoods here. This preschool was in a very dry and rocky area, and we had driven through very lush, Caribbean landscape to get there. We spent some time with the children, sang a few songs with them and heard from their teachers and then drove another half hour to see another education project.
I loved this project – it was inspiring to me. They had a semi trailer that was decked out as a school. Half of the trailer had a table, chairs, and a big whiteboard. The other half had all kinds of electrical equipment like junction boxes and switches and things attached to the walls. Young men ages 16-20 could come for a 9 month program to get certified as electricians. They are running three groups, one morning, one afternoon, and one evening, and will train about 60 young men. Then, at the end of the program, they will hitch up the semi trailer and move it to another community and do it again. We asked them what they were going to do with their training, and several of them answered immediately that they would use it to earn money to put themselves through college to become electrical engineers. I love that they are giving these young men the tools to make their own way in life.
After that we saw some very impressive gardening. We went to one woman’s home and saw her garden. World Vision had trained her with growing techniques and had helped her get the materials and build the garden. They also partnered with another relief organization to get the seeds. Now she grows enough food to feed her family and even to share with her neighbors and sell some as well. I like to garden, and this garden was amazing! She was so proud.
Then we went to another ADP and stopped at the headquarters where they had a school for aspiring barbers. A very funny moment for all of us except perhaps Perry, was when Perry Springman, one of the artists on the trip, asked them to trim a little spot on the back of his head he’d missed when he’d cut his own hair before the trip. Fast forward about 45 minutes and there were about 16 people working on his head. It was hilarious. Perry ended up with a lot less hair than he was expecting, and the school ended up with some extra practice that day!
We made a quick stop at a grocery store. Many of us had sponsored new children in DR before this trip and we are going to get to meet them tomorrow. This was an opportunity to pick up some groceries for the families to give to them tomorrow. Claudia helped us to know what would be most appreciated, and we bought rice, beans, cooking oil, powdered milk, anchovies, and some cookies for the kids.
We drove a little farther and saw a computer school. It’s in a very remote area, and from the street, you would never believe it’s in there, but up the stairs is a very impressive little computer center. There were about 20 kids working on learning formatting when we were there, and I met another Jennifer and her friend. Her friend was holding a Justin Bieber notebook which made me laugh. There was also a little classroom area there, and they had been teaching basic bookkeeping to local families.
After that, we drove about an hour back to the hotel. One really neat thing Jean asked us to do was to take turns sharing our stories as we drove since we were spending so much time in transit. Perry told his story tonight which was fascinating, and I am really looking forward to getting to know everyone in this way.
When we got back, we had about an hour before our really late dinner, so Nathan and I took the opportunity to run down to the beach really quickly to see it. Tomorrow is supposed to be another incredibly packed day and then we leave to go back to Santo Domingo, so we didn’t want to miss it. It was an amazing view, and the lava rocks were incredible.
We’ve had so much to digest today, and I’m still forming my opinions, but I have already been so impressed by the variety I’ve seen here in WV’s work. It’s so much more about families and communities than I even realized. We’re praying to have wisdom to know what God would have us share from this trip and how He will use it.
Want to see more pictures? Check out the whole album here!