A new post live from the Dominican Republic! Every unique version of poverty requires it's own custom solution. See how the programs we're visiting in the DR are doing just that!
And meet a young doctor who's demonstrating that communities can be stronger when they work together.
I’m writing from the Dominican Republic where I’m traveling right now with a group of our wonderful and amazing bloggers (meet them below!). As I always am, I’m amazed by the immersive, colorful experience of a new country, a new culture, a new people.
Over the past three years, I’ve had the eye-opening opportunity to see World Vision’s work in a variety of regions where poverty maintains its grip over children’s lives and well-being. I’m always a little surprised by two disparate things: first, how similar life and poverty can be half a world apart, and second, how unique every country’s—every community’s—hardships can be.
While driving around this shared island of Hispaniola, our driver often passes motorcyclists by honking his horn a few times and pulling across the dividing line while other motorcyclists make way for him on the other side; it reminds me very much of traffic in Cambodia! And when we visited a school today, from outside, the classrooms echoed with a chorus of voices as teachers led their students through their exercises out loud; if I closed my eyes, it sounded like the Cambodian schools I visited last summer.
But one of my favorite things about the way I’ve seen World Vision make a true and lasting impact is that we don’t treat poverty like a singular thing. It’s plural. There are as many forms of poverty as there are communities, or families—or even individuals suffering through it. And World Vision’s response is just as personal and custom-built.
A little over a year ago, our blogging team visited Armenia—in February! It was seven degrees (Fahrenheit) when I went outside the first morning. It is the most extreme environment to live in that I’ve seen so far, and I can’t imagine struggling to survive a seven-month winter while having almost nothing.
To confront this challenge, World Vision provides winter clothing to families, helps pay electric bills so houses can be warm, along with many other programs like food and economic opportunities. It sounds like such a simple and obvious thing, to provide warm clothes, but what a difference it can make! One father we met could spend half his day, every day, hunting for something—anything (like cow dung)— to burn in the barren, snow-covered hills, just to keep his family warm.
The Dominican Republic is home to a very unique and complex kind of poverty itself. This western region of the DR, along its border with Haiti, is home to sugar cane plantations, and with that industry came migrant workers from Haiti to work them. With those workers came settlements known as “batays” where the workers and their families lived. Today, those batays remain, but now that the sugarcane industry has largely become mechanized, these workers have no work to do.
This is where it gets a little complicated. These Haitian workers today aren’t migrants themselves, their parents or grandparents were. So Haiti doesn’t recognize them as Haitian because they weren’t born there. But since they were never registered citizens of the DR, they aren’t Dominican either. They’re stuck in between these two countries on this shared island of only two countries, and when you’re not a citizen it’s more difficult to go to school, get healthcare, or even find a good job.
But here’s the hope, the good news for this complex problem: we met a man yesterday in his batay who proves that a brighter future is possible for these communities.
Meet Dr. Jose Ramirez, a.k.a “Jacobo.” He was born in his batay and grew up as a sponsored child with World Vision. As a teenager, his dream was to become a doctor, while volunteering as a World Vision health promoter and caring for orphans affected by HIV. Through our support (including help with tuition and living expenses and a motorbike to travel), he was able to attend university and medical school in Santo Domingo to achieve his dream!
Jacobo could have stayed in the capital and been a successful doctor there. But he chose to return to his batay. Three days a week, after working at the government clinic nearby, he spends another two hours treating people in his batay. He’s even setting up his own little clinic, but supplies are few and far between.
Jacobo knows that escaping from poverty only helps one person; working together with his community can transform the entire batay! And unique forms of poverty require unique solutions, which is what World Vision’s model is all about. Today, we heard about how our staff in another community are responsible for 500 sponsored children … they check in on them at least every three months to talk with them and learn what each child’s specific needs are. In person!
That’s the kind of bedside manner I would want in my doctor.
Today, bring your own personal touch to our solutions to poverty! Join us on this trip and choose a child to sponsor in the Dominican Republic below.
Meet our Dominican Republic Bloggers and see what they’re writing this week!
Leanette Fernandez: "My Journey With World Vision in the Dominican Republic—Day 1 & 2"
Matthew Paul Turner: "Poverty Isn't Black and White; Neither is World Vision…"
Melissa Bailey: "World Vision in the Dominican Republic"
Elayna Fernandez: "Perspective Makes You Positive"
Daily Baez: @dailycurlz on Twitter!
Benjamin L. Corey: @benjamincorey on Twitter!