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Thursday, March 03, 2011

Dominican Experience 2011 - Day Two, Feb 19th

In the barrio

Day two was an early start to the day and was the first of several!  That morning I woke up with laringitis, yup no voice!  I started out getting a sore throat the night before we flew out, and had Todd do an emergency stop at the 24 hour drugstore on the way to the airport.  Thank goodness!  I needed those cold/flu drugs!  On the up side I had a hot shower.  It actually wasn't bad I didn't feel like crap just no voice!

"Sister" of one of the students, the family she was staying with

Ahhh, palm trees!

Early morning in the barrio

Mornign sunlight starting to touch the buildings

The day started off warm and sunny, the first of many (it was pretty much sunny and in the 30's every day!), I got some lovely early morning shots of our Barrio as we waited with the kids for the bus to come get us.  We loaded into the bus and headed out to NPH, Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos an Orphanage that has locations world wide (more popular in South America/Mexico/Caribbean Countries) as it was started in Mexico by a priest.

Kids shoes all lined up

This year I got to experience the orphanage properly.  Last year we arrived to find out that one of the children had passed in the night.  The atmosphere last year was completely subdued as the community was in shock.

Working in the NPH library

When we arrived we were divided into two groups and sent off to work for the morning.  Half of the kids went and weeded the garden, the second half came with me as they had a project close to my heart!  A Canadian group had donated boxes and boxes of Spanish BOOKS!  NPH was starting up a library for the kids.  The books had been unpacked from the boxes as due to the humidity they were starting to mould.  So our job was to organize all the fiction books by author's last name.  The library was being organized by Andrea who has no library background.  So you can guess she was VERY excited to have me there seeing as I'm a Library Technician.  I was VERY at home with the books LOL.  I gave her some ideas and tips and gave her my card and told her to e-mail me anytime for help and ideas.

NPH High Needs Kids

We took a break in the library work to help set up and play sports with the special needs kids.  What a treat that was!  I often interact with the special needs kids at work and they hold a special place in my heart.  We played basketball, catch, soccer and just walked around, it was what the kids wanted to do.  Unfortunately I can't share pictures of the students that came on the trip, but one of the girls had a very special moment when she saw that one of the special needs kids had the same condition as her younger brother.  I have a beautiful photo of her holding one of the kids.

A Nun at the orphanage

After playing with the kids, it was back to the library and back to work.  We really rocked out organizing the books and getting them on the shelves.  We then went back to the administration office and conference room, where we watched a video about the history of the orphanage and learnt all about how it works.  I feel that the volunteer coordinator didn't do as good of a job explaining the mandate and philosophy of the orphanage.

Park at the orphanage, just added in the last year

The Orphanage was started by a Mexican priest when a young homeless boy broke into his home to steal some food.  The idea behind this orphanage is quite revolutionary and I really like the concept.  The facility is run by volunteers that are on 1 year stints. Children are referred by local child care services/churches/police if there is more than one child in a family they take in all the children and brothers and sisters are kept together.  These are children in very abusive situations, have no parents or relatives could be located, and other situations.  The orphanage is set up in "houses" each house has about 20 children and they're set up in : toddlers, 5-10, teenagers and so on.  Inside each home depending on how independent the group is are 2-4 tias and they help to take care of the children.  On site is an elementary school and they're working on building a high school, currently the high school kids are bussed into town.  The orphanage is a Christian facility and the kids are not only raised but their spiritual development is taken care of too, there is a church on site and nuns also work at the orphanage.  The children are not fostered out or adopted they grow up as a group.  After finishing high school the children must give one year's service to the orphanage, if they wish to go onto university that education is paid for and once they are done school they owe two year's service.  This idea of the kids growing up in family units, always having a place, belonging is just a good idea.

After the info session and Q&A we went back to the library until lunchtime.  After lunch we toured the different houses.  We went into the teenage girls home, boy they were typical teenage girls!  They were doing each other's hair, the music was blaring.  They showed us their rooms.  Each house has a kitchen, a common area, two bathrooms and two "bedrooms" in each bedroom are several bunk beds, and each girl had this small area where they can hang clothes, a few shelves and somewhere fort their shoes.  It was amazing to see these girls have all their possessions in such a small space.  They were also allowed to decorate the wall above their bunk.  I was a world away from home but there was Justin Beber on the walls!  It doesn't matter where you are girls are girls!

Melki and I

Melki receiving his package

Next we went to the Toddler house, this was where were going to play with the kids, but they had just gone down for their nap.  The Tias were wonderful and allowed us to quietly sneak in the bedrooms (set up the same as the girls) and see the little cuties sleeping.  They were adorable.  I had a special package to deliver to this house.  After our visit there last year one of the ladies decided to sponsor a child.  Her godchild is Melki and she gave me a envelope full of toys and treats for him and all the kids in his home.  They were great to wake Melki from his nap so I could get a photo with him and give him his parcel.  NPH will allow you to visit the child you sponsor... so yes these kids really do exist!

Playing hot potato with the boys

From the Toddler home we went to the special needs house, we had met these kids earlier in the day.  Since we couldn't play with the toddlers we were given the option of either playing basketball with some of the teenagers or go to one of the boys homes.  I opted to go see the boys where we got to play a version of "hot potato", it was hilarious!  They had so much fun!

Play time was followed by reflection, it was fascinating the hear the other kids have the same observations and reactions as last year's group.  Many of the comments were about how everyone we had met to that point were just so friendly and open.  Also you could see and feel just how happy the children at NPH were despite having so little in terms of personal possessions.

After our activities at NPH  we  had a crazy drive into town to exchange our money.  It was then back to hour families for a shower, dinner, a little bit of rest before heading to mass with the community.

Colmando Reyes the busiest place on the Malcome!

Making Shimmi's on the Malcome

Once the kids were back with their families for the night us adults and our guides got into a taxi and went down to the waterfront, the Malcome.  This is where the local night life takes place, all along the road are little stands that sell drinks, some food vendors, and lots of vendors going up and down the road selling candy/chips/gum even   roses.  This was a chance for us to chat with our guides about the experience so far, and what was to come.  This year I got the opportunity to try more of the local food, we got to have a Shimi (spelling?) a sandwich made of different meats, onions, cabbage and other veggies all fried up served on bread with a sauce.  It was SOOO good!  It was great to have some adult time!


Well that's it for day 2, stay tuned for day 3.


Brigitte said...

So very impressive to read about your stay and to look at the pictures. Thanks for sharing.

Lesleyanne said...

A great post about your trip. Lovely photos.

Bette said...

Those children are so beautiful. And what a blessing are all are to them.

Karen said...

The orphanage looks like an amazing place. I really like how it works and how the kids give back once they are older and educated. It would definitely give them a feeling of belonging. Its amazing that they are able to take in all children, no matter what their condition or situation. What a heartfelt experience for you and the kids on the trip.

Carol said...

What a fascinating and worthwhile trip you had, Dani. You sure look right at home in that library :) I love the photos of little Melki--what a great smile on that little boy :)

Looking forward to seeing what happened on Day 3!

Suzanne said...

The weather certainly must have been a nice change from home. That roll looks very yummy!

Lynn said...

I loved seeing all the photos of the children at the orphanage. They look very happy despite what life has dealt them.
The photo of Melki is so precious!

Heather said...

What a fantastic mission statement that orphanage has! So wonderful you got to visit them. And how cool that you got to help in the library!