Tuesday, February 16, 2016

GD Service in the Dominican Republic

On Thursday, February 11th 26 students and 4 chaperons departed for the Dominican Republic on a service learning trip.  GD students and teachers in conjunction with the Community Service Alliance (CSA) and Education First Tours (EF) are concentrating on field work projects in rural parts of the DR.  We are working to support two CSA grassroots projects: Salud Cerrito and Mi Vida en Juego At-Risk Youth Program.  

The rural agricultural community of El Cerrito is located in the province of  El Siebo, which is the third poorest province in the DR.  Electricity, running water, and the availability of health services are in short supply.  CSA has been working to provide a better education and promote healthier living by creating family gardens in an effort to diversify their diets and promote self sufficiency and sustainability.  The program uses baseball and softball as a hook to educate young men and women and provide students with an education and life skills to promote a healthier, better educated community. 

Yesterday, February 15th, was a most productive day for the DR travelers.  The journey began with the students working in unison to complete a drainage pipe for the baseball/softball facility.  After lunch, we visited the Centro Educativo El Cerrito school that educates 93 students ages 5-20.  The school services all students in the village, and due to the age discrepancy and educational levels, it is not abnormal to have students ranging from 14 - 20 in the same classroom.  One classroom we visited serviced 6, 7, and 8th grades in one classroom with one teacher.  The principal and teachers could not have been more accommodating.  They expressed their sincere gratitude for the work that our GD students have done over the course of the week.  

I had the privilege to meet with the principal who was kind, accommodating, and when I first met him busy sweeping the grounds.  He took pride in operating a facility that is kept very clean.  At the urging of Mr. Woods and the students, I had a deal to offer him.  Instead of holding a baseball game with the students this afternoon, we invited them to our hotel to enjoy a genuine cultural interaction.  We invited 35 students and 5 teachers to swim in the pool and enjoy a lunch together.  Many of these students have never left their village, let alone had a chance to swim in a pool.  I am thankful to say the principal thought it was a great idea.  Our bus will depart early this morning to pick up the students and bring them to our hotel for a day of activities.  It should be a great day.   

Last night concluded with the students participating in a great exercise on social and economic inequality.  After dinner, we learned more about the impact of baseball on the island.  Former minor league players met with the GD students to express their concerns over  a new epidemic within the Dominican baseball community.  Man young Dominicans view baseball as their only way out. They dedicate all their time to baseball, some even dropping out of school to try to gain an edge.  However, roughly 99 percent of athletes will never make the major leagues,  and as a result are left with no means for supporting themselves.  Through education, CSA and other NGO's, are looking to reverse that trend and provide a more realistic and sustainable future for the youth of the island.  

Lastly, we had the opportunity to sing happy birthday to my 10 year old daughter, Mae, who is an ocean away.  Below, you will find a few videos and some pictures that highlight the activities of the day.  

The Road To Work

Happy Birthday to Mae Mastrullo

Drainage Pipe Nearing Compeltion

Me and the Principal

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