Hope for the Dominican Republic

by Amy CreceliusMe with some of my students

A couple of summers ago, I had the opportunity to live and work in the Dominican Republic for two months. I was an intern with an organization called Children of the Nations (COTN). In the Dominican Republic, COTN has set up four schools, each with a feeding program. The schools are located in villages called bateyes, where the people work in sugar cane fields. These are very poor communities, where there is generally no sewage system, electricity, running water, trash system, or medical care (Batey Relief). Many of the families that live in these bateyes are immigrants from Haiti. For these people, life is especially difficult because of the harsh racism and discrimination that exists in the Dominican Republic against Haitians. Over the last decades, residents of bateyes say that in general there has been “no concrete improvement in the quality of their lives, due to the lack of access to primary and reproductive health care, lack of adequate standards of nutrition and sanitation, lack of educational training and employment opportunities” (Batey Relief). It is all a vicious cycle that seems to have no end; because many are uneducated, they can’t find work, which puts them further into poverty, which does not allow them access to proper health care and nutrition.

But there is still hope. Organizations like COTN are taking steps to better the future of those living in the bateyes. COTN focuses on “medical attention, educational tutoring, youth sports events, [and] leadership development…for children” (COTN). Specifically, they have set-up schools in each of the four bateyes they work in. Children from ages 5 – 18 go to these schools that are taught by Dominican teachers. In the summer, interns like myself tutor the younger kids that need extra attention, and teach English to the high school students. As I mentioned before, there is also a feeding program in place. This is important because it is a guaranteed nutritious meal for all the children in the batey. At home, these children are not always properly fed. But the meal provided at the school helps ensure that they are getting some key nutrients and also helps them stay focused at school. The feeding program combined with education is a great foundation for these children. COTN has been in one of the bateyes for about 10 years and many changes can already be seen. Many of the students have gone on to continue their education in college or other certificate programs. These kids have the opportunity to come out of poverty and make a future for themselves.

I personally had an amazing experience while I was in the Dominican Republic. Me and another intern with our host parentsI had the great opportunity to live with a Dominican family in the town near the bateyes. I learned so much about their culture and also about myself. There were many challenges but by the end of my time there I did not want to leave. I could see all the good that was coming from the work COTN was doing there. I saw that there was a future for many of the kids I spent time with and that someday the cycle of poverty could end.

Information found on:
Children of the Nations website: cotni.org

The Batay Relief Alliance website: bateyrelief.org

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