DAY 7 … Hato Mayor

So, today was the day our group went to Hato Mayor here in the Dominican Republic.

Katie in action as Boyd and Dand look on.

  We arrived there at 9:30am after a long 1.5-hour car ride where the majority of us were falling in and out of sleep! I would say the past few days of the hard work we have been doing and the running around the Dominican Republic is catching up to us.

Anyway, so we arrived to the school in this town called Hato Mayor, where a missionary by the name of Dana had opened up her home to these children 4 years ago as their place of learning. Dana has lived a life of missionary work and has worked with the deaf for over 30 years. A little over 4 years ago she decided to retire, but God had different plans for her and according to Dana, placed her here in the D.R. to continue working with the deaf children and to help provide them with education. The school was part of her home, and was the 3rd home in the 4 years she has been. This current one was beautiful and perfect for the size of the classes she and the 3 other certified teachers teach in. This school was vastly different than the one in Sabana Perdida. For one, there were far less kids and the kids seemed more attentive and as though they were learning more in this atmosphere.

Travis and Jaime working with a student while Belkis looks on.

According to Dana, when she first started, the kids were usually sick with something – either a fever, a runny nose, a cough, etc., but after having them use germ-x every day before snack time at 10:30 am and then brushing their teeth and washing their hands after they are finished eating has helped the high rate of sickness decrease tremendously! This just shows how different it is here not only for the kids and the lives of the people in general but for the Deaf children, especially as the really do not have good resources for education about school or life in general. Dana’s work has been phenomenal! She dedicates her life to these children and not only “brings work home” but gives up her life in America to do God’s work. She only sees her husband of 42 years when he visits in January and February and then when she goes to America to stay for the summer.  And to think, being away from my boyfriend in America for this one week has been hard, to be away from your husband or wife for so much of the year, I couldn’t imagine. I have so much respect for Dana; it’s difficult to put into words!

I took some time to ask Dana questions about the DR and about Hato Mayor to learn more about the culture these children live in and man was my mind blown! As of 2 years ago Dana is the legal guardian of a boy who was without anyone in his life to love him. As with many children their mothers do not “marry” the men but instead cohabitate with them and often being one of many women they have impregnated. This was the case with this young boy Bladamir.  His mother had given him to his grandmother when he was 3 (she was 18 at the time) and since then had been regularly verbally and physically abused without anyone to truly love him – his grandmother took her resentment towards her daughter out on Bladamir. Dana knew his story and knew he was at high risk, making poor decisions so now he lives with her in the house/school. This is just one story of many of what some of these children go through – but not all.

Which brings me to the other information I gathered from Dana. Since there are so many cases of children being abused, or not adequately taken care of –are there no services in Hato Mayor, or in the Dominican Republic at all to help these kids? Can you guess the answer? No, there’s not. Many people will tell you that there are services, there are people to help but not only do they not recognize any form of child protection services but they also do not help even when they are told of specific current cases.

In a case of one of Dana’s students who has a history of abuse and wild behavior – on three occasions she told other people and other services to try to get the child help but nothing ever happened. From a social worker’s point of view, there is a clear need for social services of some type here in this country as many, many people suffer from a lack of basic care to their human needs such as children, and especially women who suffer from domestic abuse. As I had mentioned before, many people do not marry but instead cohabitate with one another. And often times this leads women to having several men coming in and out of their lives, nothing being consistent and often having multiple children by different people. And, as one would guess at this point, there is no form of aide to these women, yet in America we automatically give assistance to a single mother with one or multiple children who are unable to adequately provide for them – either through temporary cash assistance or food assistance, etc. If that was to happen here for these women, one could only imagine the changes that would occur.

I learned from talking with Dana that there is not only a large disrespect for women but there are frequent occurrences of violence against women, however as more time passes there is a movement that is growing stronger, slowly, to stand against this. Not only is there a large disrespect of neglect towards women but children as well. With how poor many areas of this country are, many will do anything for money, even when it comes to sexual abuse. There are regular incidences of incest relating to the cohabitation and often multiple partners’ that men have, not knowing who is related to whom and even neglecting familial relations towards younger girls by older men.

On a different note, it was interesting to learn that the hearing aids these children wear are donated from the Starky Foundation. Because studnets run the risk of losing them they only wear them at school and are not forced to wear them if they do not want to or if they bother them which I liked to hear. A lot of the time so much is pushed onto the Deaf community, whether it is parents in America making their child take speech therapy or have a cochlear implant placed in, etc. But it’s important, and Dana knows – that the kids are not forced to do that if they do not wish because it is so life changing for some. 

School ended today at 12:30 for the children and one by one, or even two by two (as some were siblings) the children’s families picked them up to take them home. The school day seemed to be very productive; the students here are so different than at Sabana Perdida – they are better behaved and seemed more invested in learning what we had to share. Max and Boyd were the main teachers for the lessons about heroes. As an ASL learning student, it was inspiring to see how well the kids took to these two guys, especially Max. The kids adored him and it was easy for them all to relate since both Boyd and Max are deaf.

Boyd explaining the handshapes.

 

It was funny to see the high use of motorcycles in Hato Mayor; more so than any other place we have seen so far. And relating to what was said before; the driving is vastly different – much like a lawless system for the drivers.  Something we noticed a child that was picked up by a parent and rode on the back or sometimes on the front of the motor-bikes, which coming from America where this is breaking the law, it was unnerving. Some main ideas that I took from today are as follows:

It’s heartbreaking to see the disparity that exists here in the Dominican Republic between the hearing and the Deaf community. They have so little and learn at a much lower level than they developmentally are able to. Personally it’s not easy to walk away and “leaving the work at work” and not bringing it home in these situations. I know that I personally want to do so much for these people but am not able to. The need that exists here is heartbreaking with the lack of resources and the lack of services to all people, but especially the children and the deaf community. It makes me think, what am I to do?? I am so privileged back in the US. We, as a country, have so much yet we find everything to complain about. Why is that? What is the use in complaining about not having enough hair products, or enough sauce for my meat, or enough electronics to keep me busy? Here, they have so little yet are so happy and so kind to people they meet. The lives people live here are so simple. The houses are not decorated with unnecessary materials but instead just enough. But with these thoughts, I know that I am where I am for a reason just as the people here are here for a reason with what they have. Do I have what I do to make a difference in the world, even if it is small? I like to think so. I like to think that everyone who has something has something to give to others – even if it is a smile or an “I love you” hand sign, or just support and encouragement, supplies, resources, etc. There is always something to give and always something to earn. Here, today, I not only gave but I received so much more. Just to sit and think what difference we as a group made to these kids and to the teachers but instead, what difference they made to all of us.  Keep in good spirits and good thoughts, so much good is happening here every day we have spent in the Dominican – and so much more to look forward to. But, we need to also think, be thankful for running water, to be able to flush toilets, for services and protection, for classrooms with A.C. the list goes on. The world has its problems but it is a good place.

Max conversing with Dana.

Buenos Noches! 

Katie

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One Response to “DAY 7 … Hato Mayor”

  1. Tracy Says:

    Thank you katie!!!! We are truly have so much here that we need to realize we shoudl be so greatful for …. Tracy

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