Vince and I recently went on a one week holiday to the Dominican Republic and thought it a good time to use some of our AnaFund collections to help the local people there. We filled a suitcase full of donations, including about 150+ Bic pens, 200+ pencils, boxes of crayons, paper, frisbees, tennis balls, decks of cards, books, calculators, teddy bears and yes…even bras etc. Vic from the Philippines donated 3 picture dictionaries (spanish/english). It was a collective effort and we had a huge suitcase full of items. There is a program in the Dom. Rep. called “beyond the beach” http://www.beyondthebeach.ca/ where local people will help you determine where you can take your donations depending on the location of your hotel, or they will take them to various locations for you (pickup from your hotel). This program was begun by Canadians. The incentive is to think “beyond the beach” and remember that when you go to a foreign country such as this, that there is still poverty beyond the beach and the people can use a bit of assistance.
As stated by the beyond the beach site, it is good to make an appointment with any teacher/school/orphanage before you come with goods because otherwise it disrupts the classes. So, on our first full day in the Dom. Rep. we walked into the local community to make an appointment with the teacher. The trouble was that at the beginning of town I managed to befriend a cute little dog (about the size of a large rat). I was kneeling and chatting with the wee beast and he took a real shine to me. He began to tell me his life story in “dog language” and once on a roll he found it impossible to stop. I do believe I got his whole family history as he wound up and got louder and louder. He was not barking, he was loudly conversing in a depth of tone befitting a dog much larger than himself :>) Other dogs came to see what was happening and soon we found ourselves trying to discretely “walk” through the small town, followed by all the neighbourhood dogs (possibly 15?), the noise was deafening, the locals all coming out to see what was causing the disturbance. Local men started shouting at the dogs to stop and then the children came to see what was happening. Needless to say, discretion was no longer possible, everyone knew we were there and why we were there. At the school we found the teacher did not speak English, but a local man helped us by translating to French and then we tried to turn the French into English and vice versa. My high school French has been filed into the rusty chambers of my brain…but we did manage to make an appointment with the teacher for 11:30 that morning and she got the general impression that we had a lot of supplies for her.
Vince and I went back to the hotel a different route…partially to avoid the local dogs. At a small market we decided to pick up some dry dog food, thinking that it would be fun to spread the food around the street for all the dogs and perhaps they would not be quite so free with their voices. This we later found was a mistaken idea, apparently the local dogs don’t recognize dry dog food as food, they snubbed their noses at the crunchy bits, but we had a terrible time convincing the local children that the kibble was not “people food”. One learns from these experiences. :>)
Two hours later we headed back into town with 5 large bags full of supplies. We were once again greeted by the local dog welcoming committee. I made the mistake of giving a little teddy bear to a small child and as if a buzzer had gone off, the town swarmed us. Elderly women were most excited with the sports bras, as I gestured to them what they were ( I had the bras discretely packaged up.) I will not describe my gestures, you can imagine them on your own. (note, several days later on our trip into town the elderly women did appear to look much perkier in appearance than before. :>) The baseball bats and balls went quickly, tennis balls and baseball caps were very popular (thanks to the Ladysmith Railway society for sharing some of their caps with us). Basically we were “stormed” by a frenzy of people. Almost half of our “stuff” never made it to the school, but it doesn’t matter because the community is small and everyone will be able to use anything given. The boys ran off with the baseball supplies and disappeared in excitement to go play somewhere. We never did find out where they play baseball, but the school yard was much too small so it had to be somewhere else. Children grabbed our hands and walked us proudly to the school, some helping to carry the rest of the supplies. The trouble is that when you are surrounded by that many people, you cannot actually get out of the throng to take pictures, so alas, there are no pictures of the dog welcome committee or the swarms of people around us.
We got to the school and donated the school supplies. Upon looking around we realized that the pens and pencils and crayons were a great idea but the school had no paper. Later in the week we went into the next town to purchase some reams of paper, because it was something we had misjudged. Next time we will think of paper first, then the rest. There was not a piece of paper visible in that school room and there were only 3 books visible on the shelf. I think most schooling is done using the chalk board. I instructed the teacher on how to use the decks of cards for math drills such as adding and multiplying. The decks of cards come from the Nanaimo casino, as they only use their decks of cards for a limited time and then one can get them for free. We had approximately 100 decks of cards to give away. They were very popular amongst children and adults.
Later that week on a return trip to town, we noticed a some cute little girls playing with one of the donated decks of cards and snapped a photo of them. We also noticed some of the donated clothes washed and drying in the sun. If you look closely at the picture with the little girls, you will see two of my “dog friends” behind the girls. :>)
Thanks to those of you that have donated to the AnaFund over the last year. It took a bit of a sidestep with our Bricks4Vic project, but we have donated quite a few soccer balls to El Salvador in 2008 and of course this is our first AnaFund project in 2009, made mostly with 2008 donations. Some really nice people helped me find last minute items and the suitcase was filled during the week before we left. It is much appreciated by those people in the Dominican Republic and the pictures make that pretty obvious.
Please, if you go places on holidays, scour the internet, find out what the community near your hotel needs and participate by sharing. It can only do good…and the world gets a little bit better, one step at a time. I have never found a hotel staff member yet that will not tell you what the local community could use. All you have to do is ask.
Also, please welcome Kary and Mildred to our group. They are two marvelous girls from the Dominican Republic that are going to try and help us with some new projects. They will be of primary importance because they can speak Spanish and English and are prepared to help us with translation and advice. Kary’s mother is trying to build an orphanage in the Domincan Republic and when the economy picks up, perhaps we can give them a little boost with their dream. Kary and Mildred are both students studying tourism at University, as well as working full time to pay for their expenses. Both have refused payment for their services because they feel that our project is “good” and they want to be part of the team. This is very gracious of them, because in truth, they can use the money I offered for payment.