So, today was our first real day in the Dominican Republic, and we are so filled with emotions as we write this. We saw the Dove Missions Youth Development Center for the first time today. Not having seen it last year, we didn’t know what to expect. It seems that they really have come a long way from last year. We began the morning by unloading all of our donations. We donated everything from peanut butter to school supplies to toothbrushes and shoes for the children and for Dove Missions Center.
We were all really excited to meet the kids! While at the center in this morning Liz Sunel, the director, told us about the children that come to the Center. She told us stories about how most of the girls come from the barrios, and they help to keep food on the table for their families. We were also told that most of the girls don’t know who their real dad is and that their moms have to hire men to watch their houses at night to prevent robberies. However, these men that are welcomed into the homes to protect them often rape the young girls. Mothers may also sell their daughters for prostitution just so they can buy food. This was very sad to hear; and it made us appreciate our homes, families, and security.
After seeing the Center, we drove to a cancer clinic run by nuns. This was very interesting to us because they are one of the few places here that can perform chemotherapy and radiation treatments. We were impressed that they offered services and medications at low costs.
The public hospital in Puerto Plata was an eye opener and an experience that really made us appreciate health care in the U.S. The patients did not have any privacy; they were all in one ward. The nurse’s station wasn’t organized; all of the patients’ information was out in the open for anyone to see. It was also very eye opening to see the labor and delivery room. The women went through the entire birthing process on an exam table covered in a black trash bag; wastes were simply scooped into a five-gallon trash can. This was such a contrast to conditions in the United States. When walking through the hospital, we noticed that there were a lot of family members waiting outside of the patient’s ward or even lying in bed with the patient. We realized that family and having a large support group is even more important here than it is in the United States.
After lunch, we went to the barrios. The barrios really surprised us. I don’t think we expected people to be living in these horrible conditions. The beaches were covered in trash, and the people live in shacks and huts. The walls and roofs are made of tin which only protects the people from rain storms that blow through. Hurricanes and any other big storms can destroy their homes. It was very sad to see that these people are living in such poverty and that they will do almost anything in order to feed their families.
Today gave us a lot to take in, and we were very emotional. We come from a place where food and living conditions are taken for granted. Seeing the conditions here makes us realize how privileged we are to be living in the U.S. You don’t realize how blessed we are in the U.S. until you experience an underprivileged country for yourself. This experience has really helped us appreciate everything we have and everything that our parents have sacrificed for us.
Lindsay Rembecki, Junior Nursing Student
Taylor Norris, Gerontology Major