On the move

Over the last few weeks, Angi and I finally set aside time to travel to La Romana and Santo Domingo, trips we had been saying we needed to schedule since October.  Our “business trips” involve hauling on our backpacks, spending hours on a variety of buses – from the overly air-conditioned coach buses that run between major cities, to rickety gua-guas blasting bachata music from the radio – finding the cheapest hotel with clean-looking sheets, and finally networking, learning, and exploring potential collaboration with major health organizations around the country.  With our trusty Lonely Planet guide, we also try to hit the must-see spots – we are, after all, on a Caribbean island.

"Trains in movement" outside the sugar cane refinery.

La Romana is in the southeast province of the country, and is home to a still-functioning sugar cane factory, the Central Romana Corporation.  This makes for an interesting comparison to Montellano, where the sugar cane factory’s closing eight years ago has left a near-complete vacuum of employment for the thousands of people in the surrounding communities and bateyes. Walking through the bustling city, entering the vast complex of Central Romana, seeing the long trains bringing harvested cane from the fields into the refinery, and visiting Batey 203 several miles out in the sugar cane fields, I could imagine what the Montellano area perhaps used to be like.

Hospital Buen Samaritano (Good Samaritan Hospital) and Fundación MIR (International Rescue Mission) are two highly respected organizations working to serve the marginalized populations in and around La Romana – and often times, patients from as far away as Puerto Plata.  From Buen Samaritano’s community health worker program and international medical service trips integrated with the hospital and with public health projects, to MIR’s partnerships with the Ministry of Public Health and focus on medical education, we had plenty to discuss and learn.

Angi in Batey 203, playing mancala before the community meeting

We also discovered, much to the amusement of Daniel and Benjamin on the way to Batey 203 to sit in on a community meeting about a water filtration project, an amazingly delicious fruit (pastry that grows on a tree?) called a níspero.   Wow.

In Santo Domingo – the chaotic & peaceful, historic & modern, authentic & touristy, cultural and political capital of the República Dominicana – we visited MOSCTHA (Socio-Cultural Movement of Haitian Workers) and MUDHA (Dominico-Haitian Women’s Movement).  Both organizations have been powerful forces in the fields of health, education, human rights, and documentation for Haitians for more than two decades.  Our meeting with Dr. Joseph Cherubin, the founder and Executive Director of MOSCTHA, and his son Edison, the President of the organization States-side, was one I will not easily forget.  Dr. Cherubin managed to answer phones with one hand, sign off on paperwork with the other, and still give us his undivided attention and advice on how HHI could have the deepest impact possible.  The hum of energy, ideas, passion, and activity permeated the whole building, and was reflected in each of the many staff members we got to speak with.

Calle el Conde in Santo Domingo

More than ever, I feel grateful for the value of mentorship and guidance.  It is inspiring to see how these organizations have grown and deepened their impact over the years. The directors and other busy staff members of all these organizations have been extremely generous to take the time to talk with Angi and me. Their advice, grounded in the lived experience of starting an organization in the Dominican Republic, is extremely valuable and practical. It’s motivating to see the creativity and perseverance of effective organizations, and to be treated like we actually have some spark of potential for realizing the vision we have set for our organization.   Being told openly that something won’t work is also sometimes exactly what we need to hear in order to jump-start our brainstorming and planning.

Now, after several intense days of visioning, Angi and I have incorporated all that we’ve learned and experienced these past eight months into basically a ten-year action plan for our organization.  A long ways to go… but how exciting to be part of the journey.

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2 Comments

  1. Allison
    Posted May 20, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    You guys are amazing! Keep up the great work and have lots of fun!

  2. Cynthia
    Posted May 20, 2010 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    Nisperos are in my top 10 fruits! So delicious… besos to you both, keep up the good work!

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