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Notes from the Dominican Republic, Part I

A group of students, faculty and staff are participating in a service learning project in the Dominican Republic, from May 21-June 6, 2012. They are working with an organization called Caminante, and completing projects in both nursing and teaching.

The group is maintaining a blog as they participate in this journey. Below are a few excerpts; follow their blog, Walking with Caminante.

May 22, 2012

Robin Shura, Assistant Professor of Sociology: After a warm welcome and orientation this morning from our amazing host organization/NGO in Boca Chica, Caminante, this afternoon was our students’ first day teaching their lessons to school-age children. … (They) did a beautiful job engaging 17 children in their very important lesson on children’s rights. Through lessons, activities, hand-made and hand-illustrated storybooks, and hand-made coloring handouts, they taught the children about important basic children’s rights — that every child has a right to an education, irrespective of documentation status or situation… that every child has a right to a family, a right to their own opinions and ideas, a right to a nationality, a right to recreation and leisure, and the right to not be sold, harmed or exploited. Despite the heat, and in spite of language barriers, they worked beautifully with our dynamic interpreters — Elizabeth AND Cristina — to convey important information.

…  In just 48 hours, I must say that I am so impressed by our Hiram students’ maturity, positive energy, and flexibility — teaching their amazing lessons along with interpreters requires humor and artful improvisation! The children are wonderful, attentive, and seem to be enjoying it. After 16+ weeks of our students’ preparation for teaching here, we are all in the whirl now — with great support from not only Caminante, but our wonderful hotel staff who help to create a solace at Hotel Zapata. Although prep for teaching has been our focus, it’s apparent now that our learning truly begins in a new and unavoidable way — so many lessons that the children, Caminante, and Boca Chica have only started to teach us…

May 29, 2012

Kelcie Cuckler ’13: One experience thus far in this extraordinary trip that has impacted me greatly is having the privilege to meet Jose, a boy who lives on the street/beach in Boca Chica. He is a tiny little boy who claims to be 11, but really is probably only 8 or 9 years old. He has lost all of his front teeth due to rotting. He has beautiful curly hair and an infectious smile. He is dirty, possibly carrying diseases, but I hug and kiss him every chance I get.

Jose is ornery, likes to play jokes on you, and gets himself into trouble sometimes. He has the soul of a 40 year old man and is far too cunning for his age and lack of education. He is not the sweetest or cutest boy I have met so far, but to me he is absolutely perfect. If I could I would take Jose back to Ohio with me in an instant. He has stolen my heart and has shown me love that I know I will never experience again. He is an example of one of the thousands of children living in Boca Chica who do not deserve this life. Jose, at 8 years old, should not be fending for himself on the streets. My heart breaks for him and all the other children here who are in the same situation. When you meet the children here like Jose, who have nothing but give you everything, you can’t help but be changed forever.

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