For the Rotary Club of Whitby Sunrise, community service is close to home and warm in our hearts.  Giving locally in our community is what we do best, but to many Whitby Sunrise Rotarians, Consuelo Dominican Republic feels local too.  Rotarian Bob Jarvest and many others from our club, venture to the Dominician Republic every year to give to those in need.  Bob, his wife Margaret, their daughter and granddaughter left our community in the cold of January 2015.  They arrived in the warmth of Consuelo, Dominician Republic with 12 bags, each weighing close to 50 lbs containing clothes, shoes, tools and laptop computers .  Not to mention a wheelchair and a walker.  What airline let’s 4 people take twelve, 50lb bags?  Well Westjet of course.  They seem to understand the value of humanitarian service.  As Bob says “God bless WestJet” 
Week 2 was a little quieter because daughter Alison and granddaughter Claire returned to a very cold Canada. On Saturday we received delivery of 50 Biosand water filters. They were distributed to three bateys, Haiti Mejier, Monte Cristi and Batey Nueve. Installations will start in three weeks time.This was the week that Margaret introduced the Days for Girls project. Her first stop was the sewing teacher Carla at the adult training center, La Loma. Margaret demonstrated the sewing technique to make the kits and provided the materials for the process. Carla reinforced the need and was excited to be part of the project. Later Margaret went to the small batey school at Euskaduna and with the help of the principle Anna she distributed 16 kits to the young students. She repeated this at another batey school at Cachena where she left 24 kits. The students at each school wre thrilled to receive their own personal and private kit. Later in the week we went to a small very poor batey to introduce the kit. The intention is to return to that batey with sufficient kits when Jennifer Frey and Kate Babony arrive in Consuelo.
Week 3 started with the purchase of the materials to construct another swing set to be installed in the batey school in Canada del Negro. The swing set is fabricated by a local welder, Emilio. We attended a Flag day ceremony at the new Technical school in Consuelo. It was a very stirring, patriotic event performed by the students. Margaret was busy with the Days for Girls kits, distributing 24 kits at the school in Euskaduna and finalizing the sewing instructions with the sewing teacher at the adult education centre La Loma. We also made a trip to La Romana to an underwear outlet to purchase underwear for the school girls in Euskaduna
Click on International Service from our home page to learn more about projects like this. 
Weeks 4 and 5
I thought that the account by Mark Wittgen of his experience in Consuelo for a week provides an excellent update for the weeks.

Day 1 of my vacation begins.

Roberto arrived around 8:30am to start our day.  We went to the convent to unload the bags of clothing that we brought down and pick up the new swing hangers for the swing sets. WestJet lets you bring an extra 50 pound bag if it is for Humanitarian purposes.

Then off to meet with Emilio, the welder.  In the cluttered workshop was a number of large pieces of pipe, painted black.  They are the frame for a swing set that will be installed in a batey.  Watching Emilio and his son punch holes in the steel pipes was an interesting perspective on the challenges of adapting your approach to completing a task with inadequate tools. 

 Drill bit dull?  Sharpen it on the abrasive disk on the chop saw.   Drill bit a 1/4 inch too short?  Drop a small piece of metal into the chuck to serve as a shim. 

Day 2

Waddled to the truck after lunch to pick up some empty water bottles for delivery to the bateys.
Headed to the bateys, unloaded the bottles.  We investigated a swing set that needs repair that was installed last year.  Roberto met with Anna to discuss where the water filters are to be distributed.
Headed back to Consuelo. We stopped in to visit with Hernando and Kimberly. They have brittle bone disease.  The Rotary Club has provided funding to provide some relief to their condition.  The progress they have made in a year is amazing.  Hernando walks by himself and has a sparkle in Day Two
Day 3
Roberto picked us up at 8 am.  As a night owl, he was moaning about the early start. 
We picked up Herbierto, a local citizen of Consuelo.  Same age as me but a heckuva lot stronger.  He has great sense of humour and his Spanish dialect is very difficult to understand. 
He is extremely protective of Roberto, so much that Roberto calls him Mama.
We drove out to Haty Meijor, a batey in the sugar cane fields.
We met up with Anna, one of the resident's in the batey.  Even though she has no running water or electricity, the inside of her concrete block shanty is neat and clean.
A personal pride of ownership exists in places impossible to imagine.  She is not alone as there are many others like her. Anna acts as a local agent and a reference for the sale and distribution of the water filters and solar lights.  Heaven help the man that crosses her.
Over the span of 5 hours we delivered twenty water filters that weigh about 150lbs each plus a 100lb bag of sand. 
Needless to say when we were done and cracked the first cold beer, it was very refreshing. My clothes were filthy, ready for a TIDE commercial.
We were dropped off at Myrna's around for a shower and a rest.  After I cleaned up I found a little store to purchase cold beer.  When it's 32C, it's important to stay hydrated.
Roberto picked us up around 4:30 pm to check out the next day’s water filter distribution locations. Looks like are we a go for 30 filters tomorrow
Day 4
We were on the road to Batey Nuevo with Hereberto by 8:30.
This batey contains many poor people living in extremely tough conditions.  We met up with Ramon.  He approached the Sisters at the Convent regarding his desire to help the people in his batey purchase water filters. 
It is ironic that he works in the local Consuelo area, selling bottled water.  He is passionate about the value of clean drinking water, and he was able to convince 15 families to purchase a Bio sand water filter.
As we were delivering one of the filters, I was troubled to see a young child, probably no older than three, standing naked in a weed filled pasture, strewn with garbage.  He was crying and no one seemed to care. 
This batey was full of sad images, yet there were a number of thankful handshakes and appreciative gestures from the inhabitants that reinforces the impact of my time here.
During our deliveries of the water filters, opportunities for conversation arise.  Roberto was talking with a woman that had been married for 46 years.  She had 17 children.  And I thought three was a lot of work.
So it was decided that we would pick up the new swing set and the necessary cement, gravel and sand and head out to Batey Haty Meijor for installation.
It was a slow trip, we had a heavy load.  It took us a couple of hours to install the swing set into the holes that were dug by a couple of the boys/young men living in the batey. 
They dug with a metal pole with a flattened end.  They scooped the dirt out with their hands.  Anna had her arms up to both shoulders, hauling out the rock and clay.
We sank the posts into holes that were 25 inches deep. 
Hereberto mixed the gravel, sand and cement on the ground.  We connected the pipes and the four of us, along with some of the men and boys, raised the swing set into position.
We packed up and headed back to Consuelo for a Presidente and a well-deserved shower.
Roberto picked us up at 8:30, Myrna's daughter Sherlin came with us for a trip to San Pedro for some chain for the new swing set.
We took the chain to Emilio to be welded to the seats.  He had no power, and asked us to come back tomorrow.
Then we headed back to the convent to pick up tools and generator.  Cordless drills are good, but when you are drilling holes in metal poles, they wear out too quickly.
We headed out to one of the batey schools to install the new brackets.  It was another hot, sunny day, +32C.
The children, all dressed in light blue shirts and khaki pants or skirt, are a stark contrast to the way many are dressed while in the batey.  Perhaps this encourages or reinforces personal pride.
Tom visited the classrooms with Sherlin, they were very excited to hear that we were repairing the swing sets. Tom also challenged them with his universal language, math.
He wrote some math problems on the chalkboard and the children enjoyed working out the answers. 
Meanwhile Roberto and I were up on the ladder, drilling holes in the pipe and installing the new swing set brackets. Murphy was kind to us and we accomplished this task with few challenges.
After lunch we picked up Nubia, Hereberto's wife for a trip to a batey school.  Nubia met with the teacher's to discuss the feminine hygiene kits that Margaret and some other ladies in Canada have been assembling to assist the young women with their personal hygiene.  It was well received, there are 70 young women, yet there are only 40 kits ready...
Then off to another batey school, Escaduna.  An old wooden playground set installed seven years ago had swing set brackets but no chain.  We removed the brackets and will reinstall on another swing set on the school grounds.

Then off to one of the schools in the batey to drill new holes and install new brackets for the swing sets.

It is very rewarding to see the faces of the children as they line up to try the new swing. 

As we were heading back to Myrna’s, my friend Murphy showed up and the truck got stuck in a drainage ditch.  Lucky we weren't traveling too fast.   Roberto had to put the Toyota truck into 4x4 mode to head back for lunch.

After lunch we headed out for our final swing set installation, Murphy showed up again as we arrived at the school and it was closed up tight.   All the schools that I have seen have high fences or walls around them, with razor wire along the top.

It is sad sight, reminds me of a jail.
Yet it is the education is what frees these children from the life in the batey.

The children were probably sent home early in advance of the Independence Day celebrations taking place on Friday.

So we headed back to the Convent so that we could transfer our pictures onto Roberto's tablet. 

While Roberto and Tom worked the technology issues, I cleaned the spark plug on the generator and knocked the dust off the air filter.  Ready for more solar light installations.



Roberto and Sherlin picked us up around 9:15am to head out to the bateys to hand out some clothes.  
We spent an hour or so in a couple of bateys, Sherlin is great to have along for this activity as she is fluent and a local, plus like most mothers, she knows sizes and how to match them up. 
At one of the bateys, a woman came out holding a baby that was only six days old. 

She delivered the baby in the hospital in San Pedro, but will raise her child in a structure made out of concrete block walls with a concrete floor.  The roof is corrugated tin with 2x4 rafters.  There is no running water or electricity.  The windows have no screen, only shutters. The ground in front of this batey is littered with garbage.  A variety of droppings from dogs, chickens, goats and horses complete the squalid scenery that will be this child's playground.  

After a week of trying to help others who are less fortunate, I am reminded of how much we take for granted. 
Clean water, electricity, food and a job.
So many people in the bateys have so little yet still find a way to live, and to laugh and claw their way out of a hostile environment.  I was fortunate to be able to help a few...