February 17, 2008

Planting a seed

Well we have been all over the place in the last few weeks. The DR has treated us well and the experience thus far has been idealistic and experimental but we have formed a model for what we can accomplish along our journey. Coming to the DR, we had hopeful ideas, but we were unclear as to what exactly we could offer without spending a significant period of time in any place. So with alot of leg work and some of Derek's magic, we had a party and brought together those who want to help with those who are in need of help. It's the Dominican Republic and everything is a celebration- we roasted a pig and set up the Karaoke machine and with five speakers and an audience of fourty people, we had a fund raiser. It seems we have become "aid brokers without a commission" - Ottis S/V Independance.
Here is the magic. We came here to work for an orphange. You guys wanted to help and you gave us a thousand bucks. We stretched that around and around. That activity stirred the community and more people wanted to help. Soon people emerged from various organizations including local hospitals and the US Peace Corps. The magic of networking lead those with the funds to Viajito, a local family man who had lost his leg and hearing in a diving accident. His family has been struggling futilely to make ends meet since, and there has been no hope for a prosthetic leg. His wife cooks in a local restaurant, has a laundry business and other odd jobs. Crippled and deaf, Viajito's voice and story reached alot of people and the pig roast fund raiser made enough to pay his medical bills and get him a new leg.
Thank you for your support. We ventured out here to see a bit of the world by sea, and do some good along the way and the vision is growing. Our first goal was to raise a thousand dollars for an orphanage in the Dominican Republic. We were amazed that it worked, and secondly we have been blow away by how much can be done and how willing people are to help us help other people. All of what we have purchased has been at tremendous discount and doors have been opened left and right for us.
The money raised thus far has started a wave amongst the community around us. People are lining up to do their part, and amazing opportunities are emerging. The money donated to Theworldbysea.com was matched one and half times last night at the pig roast. That brings us to $2,500. Your contributions started something and it will reverberate even when we have sailed on.

We were able to purchase clothes for hundreds of kids at the orphanage. Then we acquired a lawnmower, to alleviate the laborious and lengthy task performed by four staff members of mowing the grounds with machetes. Then $200 went to provision a street orphan soup kitchen which feeds up to twenty kids a day and provides English lessons. Here local schools are short on writing utensils, so if a child is without a pen they are sent home. So we had a pencil drive and have a mound of pens now to meet that need.
And then there is Viajito, who gets a leg. It’s pretty cool to see every dollar go directly to a need. Most importantly, we have observed the tremendous need here, and identified a community that desires to help alleviate that need. Of course, people have been doing their part already, and we merely have helped more people to give- it all seems to be making an impact. People have emerged here to organize the effort and channel the resources. Now the channels are in place. Hundreds of sailboats come here each year from all over the world. If the word gets out that there are volunteer opportunities here and we are taking ownership, then we could have a huge impact.
Your giving inspired us and that inspired dozens of others. For us we have a model to continue on with. We will explore, come across needs, seek out the key players and bring attention to those needs. Thank you for your support. This project has been loads of fun and fulfilling. I hope you all can feel what good your contribution has created down here.

February 02, 2008

Domincan Sunrise

We eased into the long sought and hard fought Port of Luperon, with eager hearts and wet belongings. The trip, I'm sure, will have prepped us for other challenges that lie ahead in the world by sea. Alas we have found what we went looking for. As we made land fall and called our wobbly legs to use, the sounds of music filled our ears and smiling faces blessed our tired eyes.
As we arrived our friends at the orphanage welcomed us with showers, hot food and a stationary place to sleep. To them we were surely shocking by sight and hard on the nose....

Seeing the beautiful faces here and pleasant camaraderie in the DR is something special to experience. We have been working at what I would call an "after school care center" where kids from a Dominican and Haitian worker camp come to eat their first meal of the day and participate in after-school activities. Here they are helped with their homework, inspected by nurses, given a shower, feed, and allowed to play games in a protected field. The facility borders a Haitian workers encampment and is surrounded entirely by sugar cane fields. It is a definite refuge and symbol of hope in a community where there is very little.
The youngest kids are charming and amazingly independent. A quick tour of their home situation explains all.
We jumped in with a team of nurses for a week as they set up mobile clinics in the area to initiate health records for hundreds of kids and dozens of families looking for answers to their neglected ailments. The people seem tremendously grateful for the aid and greeted our presence with smiles and handshakes.
Derek and I found ourselves most useful helping with the construction projects on site. We put our mark on a shelving unit and some trenched electrical conduit. Actually making a difference with a short period of time is the challenge. We felt like we got alot out of the experience, and we hope that they felt the same. A thousand bucks was raised through the website and that has gone a long way. We asked them to make a long list of things that they need and we explained that we would do what we could to meet some of those needs with the money.
The list was long but full of real basic things like socks and underwear. Apparently the clothes donated to Haiti by the US are brought to the DR and resold to raise money for food. So we found one of these markets and used our bargaining skills to finagle 200 pairs of underwear, 40 pairs of socks, 10 bras, and 17 belts all brand-new for $100 USD.
While at the school we were laboring with five of their paid staff members. Those five guys spent about four days that week cutting the grass around the school with machetes. The land around the school is large and since its overgrown, the students were forced to play in the streets. We asked the director about getting a lawnmower and he informed us that he had ordered one and it was being held until they could pay it off. The construction workers who were supposed to be building a school room were detained a week at a time to re-cut the grass in a painfully inefficient way. We felt that paying off the lawnmower would answer their prayers and be good stewardship of the money raised. Now one guy can cut the grass in a day and the other four can continue to build the school rooms.
After three weeks in the DR we feel that we can go directly to kids in need with the remaining funding. We are holding a slide show and informational event for the sailing community here. Luperon is home to fifty sailboats at any given time and they have shown a huge interest in the local community. Most travelers we meet ask us how they can get involved, and who they should talk to. People who live in the DR ask us if we can help, so we think establishing an avenue for them to meet is a worthy venture. Numerous sailors have gone out on their own to do what they can. Our vision is to organize that group of people who are already doing their part, focus their efforts and connect them with needs.
In the short time that we have been here, another group of sailors inspired by our efforts have started to organize a group focusing on helping kids in a town a few hours east of where we are now.