Day 1 in the Dominican Republic is going to be a difficult day to surpass.
Our journey began with an introduction to the staff at Dove Missions and a tour of their facility. The agenda for the day differed slightly from person to person as we had a large enough group to break up into two smaller subgroups for the day. Each group engaged with the children by taking height and weight measurements and a dietary recall while the other half toured the barrios in a neighborhood referred to as aguas negras translated roughly to “black waters.”
During my experiences today, there were many things that demanded my attention. First and foremost was the absence of running water and sewer systems in residential neighborhoods. Reflecting on my daily use of water makes it difficult to imagine a lifestyle without a ready source of potable water. Due to the lack of running water and waste disposal systems, human and animal waste products stream through the streets of the residential neighborhoods drastically limiting the possibility of adequate hygiene.
Animals line the streets in numbers that far exceed what would be seen in the U.S. Stray dogs and cats walk the streets along side children foraging through curbside garbage piles. The local animal control is negligible in vaccine requirements and lacks concern for the treatment of domestic animals. The well-being for the general community is compromised greatly by the lack of basic human necessities that we take for granted daily.
Even in the face of poverty and struggle the children welcomed us with open arms and bright spirits. Community members cleared space to ensure comfort during our interaction and invited us into their homes with no hesitation. This has been a truly humbling experience that I feel comfortable saying we are all grateful for!
By Doreen Kangas and Melissa-Jo Nason
(Follow the experiences of our students as they have been serving in the Dominican Republic during spring break. Visit the blog at the Barton College School of Nursing.)