DR Day 4 and 5

March 7, 2013
Santo Domingo, DR

As I write, our busses are heading away from the Domincan Fiesta Hotel, where we stayed two nights.  Really fine accommodations.

Yesterday we divided into two groups and visited several micro-financing projects.  We were led by two in-country staff from Hope International and their partner organization, Esperanza.  Obed from Hope was with us for two days, from Jarabacoa until last night, and we got to know him well.  Lucia from Esperanza spent the day with us.  

Obed and Lucia

One of the stores financed by Esperanza loans

Our group started by joining a micro-finance group in process.  They were meeting in a small church, tucked away down a path off a typical dirt road off the main highway.  We witnessed the regular meeting of the group, at which they were inducting some new members and re-paying their loans.  Then we walked about the neighborhood and saw several of the businesses run by members of the group.  These included a hot dog stand and a school with a snack and sandwich shop next door.

Then we visited a school that had received a loan from Edify, another Christian organization that focuses on loans to schools.  (This morning, before we left the hotel, we met with Travis from Edify and Geraldo, the Director of Aspire, another micro-financing organization.)  Edify had helped this school put a roof on the building.  We learned today that there are hundreds of these private schools serving the poorest families.  Families scrape together $5-20/month to pay tuition, and the schools fill a huge gap, since the government schools are over-crowded.  Children who have a public school to attend go for only 3-4 hours a day, since they have to run morning and afternoon sessions to teach the numbers of students. 

We also visited a micro-finance meeting (all women) where the loan officer traveling with us taught the group on principles of good financial management.  The room was small, and we took turns peering inside.  Our students enjoyed playing ball and games with the dozens of children who congregated outside.  I tried my hand at one of the games, trying to keep an old bicycle tire rolling with a stick jammed into the end of an old water jug.  The young Dominicans schooled me.  We visited an older woman who bakes bread and serves it with mumba, a sort of spicy peanut butter sauce.


On our way to lunch at the Esperanza office, we stopped at one more village, where we met one of the branch managers.  Behind the small store was a hair salon, a typical micro-financed business.  Josh Bryan got a haircut—the hairdresser said it was the first time she had touched that kind of hair.  Meanwhile, several of our students played a sort of Ring-Around-the-Rosy game with about thirty or forty children.  One of my favorite moments was when the children tried to show Anna and Lucy a new game: They joined their hands together, facing each other and then lined up behind them in a string of a dozen on each side.  We were all confused until they stared pulling from behind.  Turned out that this was a giant Tug-of-War and Anna and Lucy were the rope!  The children laughed and laughed when they toppled over on top of each other.  

After a late lunch we headed for the Old City until dinner.  We saw the oldest cathedral in the new world, Christopher Columbus’ house, and the memorial tombs of the country’s heroes.  Jason and I, along with Obed, chaperoned the group of our young men.  We spent most of our time shopping for fake Ray Bans and machetes.  Wherever we go, there we are!

We enjoyed a nice dinner outside on the Plaza de Espana, near the Cristobal Colon residence.  Then it was back to the hotel in time for the students to play some tennis before we retired.

This morning we had a later start, a welcome change.  We enjoyed the fine breakfast buffet, shared a devotional together where we reflected on what we had seen in this culture that reflects the Kingdom of God, and then welcomed our guests from Edify and Aspire.  We gave the Middle School students the morning to hang out in the lobby and at the pool, while the adults and Upper School students sat through a presentation by our guests.

I thought the presentations this morning were particularly informative and stimulating.  Both Geraldo and Travis gave us lots to think about and enticed us to imagine how we might be involved in solving some of the huge challenges they face in countries like the DR.  As Headmaster, I was thrilled that leaders like Geraldo and Travis were able to sow seeds in our young students.  Who knows what kind of fruit today’s presentation might yield?  I wouldn’t be surprised if there were birthed  a Senior Capstone project, or an internship during college, or an innovative entrepreneurial solution to some intractable problem, or even a career serving the poor in a country like this. 

Postscript after lunch: We attended part of a baseball game sponsored by SCORE, an organization that encourages short-term missions.  We met a team from Prestonwood Christian School in Dallas (Milan Moshay’s former school!), and we saw them play a Dominican team in Alphonso Soriano’s hometown. 

Our final stop was Josiah’s house.  For me this was the big surprise.  I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the effect was powerful.  This orphanage for Dominican boys was started several years ago and funded largely through donations of money and sweat-equity inspired by the death of a young man, Josiah, who was killed in an auto accident just before he was to head for college.  The orphanage was a sort of oasis, physically (green, well-kept lawn with flowers and tidy houses) and spiritually.  Our students poured out of the busses and onto the soccer field to play with the children.  I’m not sure who had more fun, and the place made kids of us all.

I couldn’t stop thinking about our own Josiah whose name is Blake.  Josiah’s mother had departed just that morning, and as we heard about what an encouragement this place was to her and her family, Desiree and I looked at each other and agreed that the Hubbards need a place like this, where Blake’s faith bears continual fruit.  I am bringing back a copy of the book his parents wrote (Have Heart).

After dinner, our students enjoyed some Latin dancing on the patio of the hotel on the beach.


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