The Dominican Republic is a country occupying the Eastern two-thirds of theisland of Hispaniola in the Caribbean Ocean.In recent years it has become a popular vacation spot for refugees from the Great Canadian Winter.
From March 5 to 19th I joined ten other people and traveled to the Dominican Republic for a sort of working vacation. This is not a first for our company's employees. There are others in the company who have taken vacation time to go and help out people in another part of the world. Len Bourdin, for instance, has been to South America more than once to help with medical clinics. However, for me, it was a new experience and one well worth having.
Our group was comprised of nine people from various churches in Meadow Lake and two people from Edmonton. The contrast between the weather traveling through the pre-dawn darkness in a blizzard to the airport and the warm, sunny, palm-tree-dotted location we found ourselves in at sunset couldn't have been greater. After clearing customs and immigration in Puerto Plata (Meaning "Port of Silver" - Don't say that Columbus didn't consider marketing as he traveled about the islands naming things in 1492 and beyond) we loaded our luggage into a trailer and squeezed into the bus it was attached to.
After five horn-honking hours of bumps, dips and swerves to avoid other vehicles, pedestrians, bicycles and dogs we arrived at a children's camp in a suburb of Santo Domingo, the capital and largest city on the island. The camp holds one and two day summer camps for Dominican children during the summer and provides temporary lodging for medical missionary teams passing through on their way to places in the interior of the island and for work teams such as ours. In our first week we worked on the buildings in the camp performing electrical, plumbing and carpentry maintenance and painting the kitchen and dining room building. We did get an afternoon off to spend at the beach in Boca Chica (top photo).
When one hears "suburb" one tends to think of something like Don Mills, Ontario or Saint Albert, Alberta. While there are probably such suburbs somewhere around Santo Domingo, the suburb of Las Alcarenses is probably more typical of what you will see. As bad as it looks, apparently the last few years has seen a lot of improvement as some people have been able to upgrade the walls of their houses from corrugated iron to concrete block.
In our second week we traveled to Jarabacoa in the mountains in the middle of the country. You may be familiar with the vegetation and the terrain. The movie "Jurassic Park" was filmed near Jarabacoa.
While there we put a concrete floor in the home of a widow and in her daughter's house, next door. Total floor area of the three "houses" on the property was around five hundred square feet to house three adults and ten children. The kids of the house pitched right in and were very excited to be getting a concrete floor to replace the dirt one. Concrete was made using the wheelbarrow to measure the sand and shovels to mix the concrete dry and then wet.
We also worked fixing up things up at a local medical clinic, which had just opened in a converted house. The MMI (Medical Missions International) clinic is operated daily by a Canadian Physician?s Assistant. One day a week MMI doctors come up from Santo Domingo to deal with the more serious cases.
It was different to be working in high humidity and thirty-degree temperatures. Different, but very gratifying.
Santo Domingo Suburb
Sifting Sand in Jarabacoa
Article by Paul Alton appeared in a corporate newsletter in 2003
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