August 27, 2012
A main component to the Encuentro Dominicano Program is weekly service at various organizations in the Santiago area. This semester the ED team chose five sites for us to visit and serve for the duration of our time here in Santiago. Two of us will be at one site for two hours every Monday and Wednesday. We had the privilege to visit the sites to get a feel for what type of service we will be doing throughout the semester.
“Accion Callejera is an organization that works with street children in Santiago. Many of the children at the center have dropped out of school to make a living on the streets, shinning shoes, or washing car windows…Accion Callejera provides a variety of services to the children—counseling, homework help, meals, showers, and recreation. They also work heavily in prevention, since it is much harder to rehabilitate children accustomed to the rough life on the streets than it is to prevent children from leaving their homes and schools in the first place.” *(Encuentro Dominicano Guidebook). This site is a great way to help break the cycle of lack of education and poverty, among the other issues, in the Santiago area. Caritas Cien Fuegos “is a feeding program for poor children in the Cien Fuegos area. Children who cannot eat enough at home do not function at school, so Caritas feeds between 30-60 children daily so they may attend school with a full stomach.”* Other activities here include learning English, manners, life lessons, and making crafts as well as being children and having fun. Angeles de Conani is an orphanage for mentally and physically disabled children, where service to them will be anything from playing games with the mobile children and helping those less mobile walk and stretch, and loving them with all our hearts. They need love, and our service to them is simply that. Hospicio San Vincente de Paul is an elderly care center in the Santiago area. Again, service here will be just like any other elderly home in the states, spending time, playing games (dominoes especially), walking around the garden, doing crafts, and just simply being there for them. One service site we did not visit, but that I will mention briefly, is Batey Deux. “This is a community inhabited by Haitian migrant workers in the DR, but whose rights are often neglected.”* Service here will be helping the children in areas where it is most needed—homework or recreation. This community is very strong and is also by the Haitian/Dominican border. Definitely an interesting and challenging experience as most of the community speaks Creole, not Spanish.
With these service sites we are able to be in connection with the greater community of Santiago. There is no better way to learn than to be with the community fully present and aware of the issues, injustices, and ways we can make an impact. We give and receive. We serve and are served. We love and are loved.