November 13th Trip 6 Day 2 in the DR

Sunday is always busy because it's the day we spend with the children and leaders at the Remar orphanage.  We go to their church service that, thankfully, was held inside the main building of the orphanage instead of outside under the sun. Our entertainment portion of the service was a precious dance by 3 of the youngest girls.

Thanks to David Levinson and the Big Sunday volunteers, we were able to bring a whole new load of baby clothes to the Remar Orphanage store where they sell the merchandise to pay for expenses at the orphanage.  The store was sold out of almost everything for babies so what we brought was very much needed and appreciated.  Baby clothes at the store are a hot item.  We also found out today that there's a big demand for boys' clothes. When we come back in March we'll try to bring some of those donations as well.

Brooke and I did 3 activities with the girls today.  One where they learned about communication by sitting back to back with a partner-- one had to look at a picture and describe to the other how to draw it.  The girls did an awesome job!  The next project required working together to build a bridge across two tables and roll a ball down the bridge and have it land in a cup. Another successful accomplishment!  For the third project, Brooke showed the girls how to make Christmas wreaths out of sheets of colored foam. It was simple and beautiful and everyone, including Brooke and I, had a great time!

Jay surveyed the sports field from the roof of the main Remar Orphanage building and assessed how 2 tall nylon fences can be added to expand the area into a true baseball field and prevent the balls from getting lost in the thickets. Jay got his exercise giving pitching and hitting tips to the younger boys and he appreciated the help of Luis who seemed to magically know just where to find wayward balls.

Dinner was the ever-popular Dominican take-out Provocon chicken, rice & beans, yucca and wasa caca sauce.  Afterwards the boys each got a toy car, since they weren't involved in the craft activities, and everyone finished the day off with popsicles and finally good bye hugs until we return with the USC Caruso Catholic Center student volunteers in March.  Today was our only day to spend at Remar but we'll look forward to coming back and seeing a few improvements including the expansion of the sports field and, hopefully, some repairs to this kitchen in the main house.

Two surprises so far on this trip are the check that the 5K race generated for Remar--it comes out to over $45,000 U.S. dollars and it will go towards purchasing the main house so the orphanage has a permanent home.  The other nice surprise is the VisionTrust bus that was purchased over the summer and lets us all ride together in comfort instead of having to split into groups in multiple cars.

Hard to pick just one shot of the sky driving home tonight.  The clouds have been lingering.  Baseball game tomorrow night--the season starts in November in the DR. Let's hope for another dry night.  Lots  going on tomorrow with teacher training and activities back at Tia Tatiana School.

November 12th Trip 6 Day 1 in the DR

We hit the ground running today--literally! But that didn't happen until the sun went down...more on that later!  While Diane, Brooke, Mark, Jay and I enjoyed our usual delicious breakfast that Macho and Isabel had ready for us when we woke up, Greg went over our busy itinerary for the next 5 days. First stop this morning was Tia Tatiana to see what was going on at the school. It was great to see one of the houses next to the school getting a nice new coat of paint. The building we hope to purchase to expand the school is at the end of this street.  We learned that ever since June, Saturdays at the school are enrichment days with basketball tournaments, guitar and piano lessons, embroidery classes, as well as English and computer classes.  The school was packed with kids from the neighborhood safely off the streets, all there by choice having a great time.  

Next we boarded the new Vision Trust bus that is a real game changer for getting from place to place.  Truly luxurious and somehow. our driver manages to weave through Santo Domingo traffic as easily as if he's driving a car... but this baby is 4x the size!  Our next destination was the Remar Orphanage where Jay talked to Saulo who designed and built phase 1 of the sports field.  They discussed what's needed to create a proper Little League- scale baseball field to supplement the soccer field and basketball area that was completed when we were here in April.

Our final stop for the day was at the mouth of the river across from the Colonial Zone where the Remar Orphanage was the beneficiary of funds raised by a local 5K sponsored by the GiLDAN T-shirt company.  Over 800 people were registered for this 5K "glow" run that started at sunset.  The kids from the orphanage got the first start out of the gate and...we think...they all made it back to the finish line.  Since we weren't in charge of rounding up 60 orphans, we were able to leave that job to the capable supervisors while we hopped back on the air conditioned bus at the end of the run and headed back to the mission house where we dined on pizza and happily called it a night.

Take aways from today:

  • Nick's presence is felt on every trip we make here.  There is so much joy.
  • We are so blessed to have this core group of people that have joined us on every trip- Greg Wilborn and Mark Haney are the computer guys and lead the way with the plans on every trip.  Diane, Greg's wife will be doing teacher training for Tia Tatiana and the Remar School faculty.  It's what she does for a living in the states.  Brooke, Mark's step-daughter is back with us for her third trip.  She's an amazingly talented artist who designed the new logo for Tia Tatiana School and she's leading art workshops for the students over the next few days.  We so miss Anne who's been with us on all our past trips but due to her work travel she couldn't swing the dates of this trip.  
  • It's incredible to see how Tia Tatiana school continues to reach out to the community and be such an important resource for the children in this desperately underserved neighborhood.
  • The possibility of expanding the sports field for the children who live at the Remar Orphanage is indeed a reality--one that we hope to see completed by March 2017.
  • Other organizations in Santo Domingo also provide support for the Remar Orphanage as we saw with the organizers of the impressive GILDAN 5K glow run this evening.
  • Delton is a great example of how Remar provides a future for the children it cares for. Delton, is about 20 years-old. He served as our translator today and also coached the kids' basketball game at Tia Tatiana.  He's studying business and German at the university, he lives in his own apartment, he wants to learn other languages.  He's committed to his faith and shares it openly with us and the children.  Delton arrived at the orphanage when he was 5.  He said he remembers that his mom didn't want to take care of him and he didn't understand why he couldn't live with her anymore.  Now he provides support, encouragement and empathy to the other young boys who live at Remar.