|Home, Health and Heart: Yale Dominican Republic Service Tour|
Changing Lives in the Dominican Republic through Service
Voluntoursim at its best, in March, nearly 100 Yale alumni, current students, and friends gathered in the Dominican Republic to participate in the inaugural Yale Service Tour 2008: Home, Health, and Heart. The trip was organized by the Association of Yale Alumni in partnership with the Catholic Diocese of Orlando and the people of the San Juan province of the Dominican Republic.
In the tradition of Sergeant Schreiber of the Peace Corps, the Association of Yale Alumni constructed new, quality homes, presented medical clinics, and provided educational enrichment for children.
The picturesque but undeveloped mountain village of La Cucarita is located just south of Pico Duarte, the highest peak in the Caribbean. The village is a rough three hour drive from San Juan along mountain roads, paths, and creek beds. The participants stayed in a volunteer dormitory with six small rooms, two bunk beds in each. The dorm had a modern kitchen for food preparation. There was running water for bathing, but they had to use outdoor latrines. Electricity was sporadic at best, and there were no phones or TVs. There they worked with a school for several days. This elementary school was built several years ago by volunteers, yet the local native teachers are only able to offer the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. A team of 24 Yale volunteers traveled to La Cucarita and offered a dynamic arts enrichment program for these schoolchildren-from visual arts to music, dance, and an array of craft activities.
The next volunteer crew completed the construction of 60 new homes for local residents from Caņafistol, whose entire village was being relocated to Vallejuelo from a flood plain. This work was carried out under a plan similar to Habitat for Humanity-local residents are required to invest sweat and equity in the construction of their homes, and are also required to take out small mortgages to provide working capital for other housing projects.
The third group of Doctors and nurses and volunteers traveled to remote villages and offered clinical and diagnostic services to people in desperate need, and helped distribute donated medical supplies as well as medical exams. This service project was for the adventurous as they had to camp. The medical volunteer group traveled to remote but well-trafficked areas, often by hiking as well as by vehicle. The expedition was led by experienced medical personnel who were familiar with the region and had previously visited the villages.