DR Day 4 Cooking and Art at Tia Tatiana School

Tia Tatiana's school principal Evelisa, keeps Nick's picture in her office.

Tia Tatiana's school principal Evelisa, keeps Nick's picture in her office.

It's always wonderful to come back to Tia Tatiana School in Herera and be greeted by Evelisa, the principal.  Nick's photo is always right there in her office.  We feel a deep connection to this school that educates so many children that come from this very poor community.

The students, however, carry themselves with confidence and show so much affection for each other and respect for their teachers.  They even stand when we enter the classroom. 

Today we did an art project with the 1st graders in the morning and with the 7th graders in the afternoon.  We finished the day with a team building project in the 8th grade class where we challenged them to build a tower with spaghetti with a marshmallow on top and not have it topple within 10 seconds  at the end of the project.  There was quite a competitive spirit in the room but learning the value of a strong foundation was the most important take-away.  We had a great team of volunteers... Anne Butfilofsky, Maegan Butler, and Ronnie Haney who worked with the kids to make the time really fun and productive.

Jay, with Greg's help in the kitchen, made Nick's favorite lunch...chicken and broccoli pasta...more pictures on that to come!  They fed all 300+ of the students grades 1-6!  Everyone loved it!

We love being here.  The kitchen at Tia Tatiana that the Caruso Catholic Center students refurbished when they were here in March looks great and Jay had fun cooking in it.  Tomorrow is our last day...we head to the airport in the afternoon.

DR Day 3: to the border and back

Our Team getting ready to head to the border

Our Team getting ready to head to the border

There are 13 of us  on this trip from all over the country--California, New York, Colorado, Missouri, Nashville, and Oklahoma-- plus our Dominican translators and driver...we're a bus-full and it's so cool that we've all come together to make a difference in the lives of kids in this country who we can help have a chance at breaking the cycle of poverty.  Sunday started with the church service we always look forward to on the roof of Tia Tatiana School with great music and singing and heartfelt words from the pastor that echo throughout the community...thanks to a great sound system!  The church seems more full on each trip we make.  It's encouraging to see that Tia Tatiana School is having an impact throughout this challenging neighborhood where poverty is so prevalent. 

After a walk through the Herrera community to see how some things are changing for the better, we boarded the bus for a 3 1/2 hour drive to the town of San Juan de Maguena, which would put us close to  the town of Comendador, where the new Vision Trust school is located. When we reached Comendador the next day, we quickly saw why we had to stay an hour away...there were absolutely no accommodations in this extremely rural area.

New Vision Trust School for grades Pre-K-6 in Comendador on the DR side of the border with Haiti

New Vision Trust School for grades Pre-K-6 in Comendador on the DR side of the border with Haiti

The agenda on Monday at the Vision Trust Comendador School had Gabrielle having a talk with the teachers about the realities of sex trafficking of minors. Meanwhile, some of the guys worked on an electrical project and some of us did team building art projects with the children.  The  school building is great but they have no proper desks or tables for the students.  The town is one of the most impoverished area I'd ever experienced.  We learned there are over 300 children from 3 -12 years old attending the school.  We were told the school accepts those who are most in need of help.  The teachers at this school are doing God's work and hoping to be able to serve children all the way through high school.  We found all the children loving, respectful and eager to learn.  We did a craft project where they had to copy pieces of a poster that had been cut in portions.  Each student had to work with a partner reproducing their portion using colored pencils on a piece of paper.  They were excited and focused. No one knew how their picture would fit into the "bigger picture" but when they were done we taped the "puzzle up on the wall so they could see how each of them contributed to make something together. 

Kids each drew their part of the puzzle to make Santa's face.

Kids each drew their part of the puzzle to make Santa's face.

We took a walk through the town as well as made a stop at the Haitian border before heading home in the afternoon. It was a day that makes you feel helpless to see so much poverty but at the same time, grateful to be experiencing another culture and feeling that just by sharing smiles and time with the students and teachers we received so much gratitude in return. Perhaps there's a way we can help provide the students at this school with classroom furnishings more conducive to learning.