Dominican Republic with World Vision – Part Three

Back in urban Santo Domingo

The micro-loan recipient showing the recycled plastic he and his son make

Some of the homes built into the cliff down to the river

The trampoline game that wore me out!

Norkelin with her sewing machine

A woman proudly showing her graduation picture from the vocational school

Some of the neighborhood kids on the way home from school

Pony carts in the middle of traffic

The hairdressing class

Bakery school

Across the street from the vocational school

Outside the music school

The students played us Pachelbel's Canon

The team with the students at the music school

The cathedral in the Old City

The Old City

In the Old City

God is over everything here too

Today I am sitting in a hotel room in Jacksonville, Florida. I have an event here this weekend, and I can’t even believe we are already back in the States. We have run so fast the last few days that I have hardly been able to keep up with my notes.

When we got back to Santo Domingo Wednesday night, it was very late. We got another dinner that ended about 10:30 and then went to bed. We had an early morning. We had spent the first couple of days looking at World Vision’s rural work, and in Santo Domingo we were looking at their urban work.

We drove out of the good looking part of Santo Domingo, and across a bridge over an incredibly beautiful river. On either side there was shack housing built all the way up the cliffs. Such a juxtaposition. On the other side of the bridge was basically a different world. So much traffic, with pony carts competing with taxi cabs. Cement block stores with hand spray-painted signs. Loads of pineapples, mangoes, and bananas on the sides of the roads and tons of trash.

We made a quick stop at the center where WV facilitates micro business loans to pick up a WV worker and then headed to our first stop. We pulled off a wildly busy, urban street, into an area of lush greenery that looked like it was miles from any development even though it was right in the middle of the city. The bus was able to navigate about halfway down the dirt roadway before the driver gave up and we walked the rest of the way.

This was another of those inspiring stops for me. We met a man and his sixteen year old son who had started their own plastic recycling company. He had taken basic business classes at World Vision’s vocational center and then they had given him a micro-business loan for $600 to buy a grinder. He and his son gather plastic trash from all over (there is trash everywhere) and grind it up into plastic pellets suitable for recycling. Then they sell it to local companies to make their own products out of it. He paid back his original loan in 10 months, and was now supporting his family. They were saving, and planning to buy a bigger grinder and expand the next year. This to me was just the essence of the power of micro enterprise. We don’t just want to support people, we want to give people the means and opportunity to support themselves. I love it!

After that, we stopped at an urban WV preschool. The elementary school was across the street. We played with the kids for a while, and they completely wore me out on their mini-trampoline. I made the mistake of starting a game where I would jump on the floor next to them four or five times and then squat down. They all mimicked me, falling together when I went down. This was a hilarious game! And one they wanted to repeat about 400 hundred times! And since I am just a tiny bit older than them and it was about 100 degrees, I was done way before they were. My husband was laughing pretty hard at me – he’s so helpful.

After this we visited a couple of other recipients of micro-business loans. One was a woman who had borrowed $150 to buy a sewing machine. Now she supports her family by making bedspreads and curtains. She had taken the sewing classes at the vocational school. The other was a woman who had taken classes in jewelry making at the vocational school. She had taken a small loan to buy materials to start up, and now was very successfully making jewelry as well as doing some sewing. Both had paid back their loans in about 9 months.

I was very excited to see this vocational school, and we learned that they had just completed their new building. Apparently the old building was just two large rooms, and so the classes had to share space which made it hard to hear and concentrate. The new building was beautiful, and had much more traditional classroom space which they told us was a great help. I have to say, this building was new and beautifully clean and well done, but I was again so impressed by the complete lack of waste in anything I have seen. This building was built with quality, but there was nothing unnecessary or fancy about it. Everything we have seen here has seemed to me to show such amazing stewardship, and such an intelligence about what and where they would put funds. Nothing was wasted.

We saw several classes in progress – a sewing class which takes about 9 months for certification, a bakery class, a hairdressing class (which smelled really horrible because they were teaching straightening that day!), and a jewelry making class for girls. We also saw basic classrooms, an art studio, and a daycare where women can bring their children while they take classes. I looked at the class list and it was amazing how many things they were offering; everything from computer and English classes to car repair and farming. All the classes are free for sponsor families, and are also open to the community as space permits.

We ended this day by visiting the music school. As someone who has taught music for years, I do not hesitate to say that the director of this school is an amazing man! He has had literally thousands of kids through his door, and has taught a vast number of them himself. He said there was a tremendous need for worship leaders in their area – one local pastor told us how he had prayed for 6 years for anyone who could play an instrument – and that his heart was to train people to be able to serve in that way and to love music.

Several of his more advanced players got together and played us Pachelbel’s Canon in an arrangement for violins, recorders, and piano. We also played some music for them, and it was so amazing to be reminded again that our God is everyone’s God, no matter the language. Claudia translated for us, and Perry, Joel, and I did some of our music for them.

After this we headed back for yet another really late dinner, this time in a restaurant whose building dated from the 1500’s. There is so much history here. We basically had a debriefing dinner, and took time to share with each other what God was showing each of us on this trip, and how we thought we might use what we now knew when we got home. Even though we’ve only been together a couple of days, it feels like summer camp – we’ve all bonded and aren’t ready to leave.

The next morning we got up early and headed into the old city. Marcia, a singer from California, had already had to leave the night before because she had an event. Perry, Joel and I all have events this weekend as well, so we were scattering soon to all parts of the U.S. Joel had to leave early that morning, but the rest of us looked around the cathedral, build in the early 1500’s and bought a few souvenirs for our families. I had to make sure to get coffee – I realize that’s not the point of this trip, but my goodness, this week had the best coffee of my entire life!

As we headed back to the airport, watching the Caribbean sea on the side of the bus the whole time, I couldn’t believe that the trip was over. Those were some of the most packed days I’ve experienced, and I have a lot to digest.

As an aside, our younger daughter, Rachel, was in the national archery competition in Louisville on Friday while we were traveling – my mom took her. As soon as the plane touched down in Atlanta, I checked her stats – she scored her personal best ever in competition! And as of the morning, she is third in the country for fifth grade girls. We’re so proud! The have another entire day of shooting today, so I don’t know where she’ll end up, but we were so very sad to miss it, and I’m just thrilled that she didn’t let that get her down and did so well! Can’t wait to get home to see our kiddos!

Want to see more pictures? Check out the whole album here!

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