DOMINICAN REPUBLIC MISSION
Saint Peter's Parish has taken on a foreign mission in the Dominican Republic, headed by Father Michael Corcione. Our efforts are aimed at providing relief to the poor living on the bateys. This is a story of people helping people. The Dominican Republic Mission is an on going effort to restore dignity to the lives of human beings.
The Dominican Republic Mission initiatives includes the following:
- Relief Trip
- Chronic Care Clinic
The people that our mission provides aids to live on what are referred to as "bateys." A batey is a town consisting of barracks located close to sugar cane fields so that groups of workers can live nearby to the site of their labor. Bateyes vary in size considerably and those living on the bateys face overcrowded shacks with limited access to nutrition, electricity, health care and basic hygiene. The people that originally lived on the bateys were once solely populated by Haitian refugees who came to work on the sugar cane fields. Today, many of the inhabitants of the bateys were born in the Dominican Republic, but do not have legal citizenship status.
Working in the sugar cane fields is very difficult work and the laborers, Haitian immigrants, came to the Dominican Republic to work on the sugar cane fields searching for a better life. The workers and their families are lodged in barracks at the batey, sometimes with no facilities and are expected to work long hours, performing the hard work of cropping sugar cane. Since the Haitians living on the bateys and working the fields are not legal immigrants, they themselves do not have legal citizenship status in the Dominican Republic and therefore, their children have also been denied citizenship status. Without citizenship status from the Dominican Republic, these children of Haitian immigrants cannot have access to health care or go to school, nor can they receive the benefits of other public services. Men working in the sugar cane fields are exploited, making only $1.00/day, which is not enough money to feed their families or provide the basic necessities of life. They very often do not have access to clean drinking water, appropriate clothing, footwear and medical care.
The children are particularly affected by the poverty. Infant mortality is high and the infants and children who survive often suffer from parasitic diseases and malnutrition. The Dominican Republic's bateyes also have a high rate of HIV/AIDS in comparison to the national average. The people living on the bateys are caught in a system that they can not escape from. In response to this humanitarian crisis, St. Peter's Parish has endeavoured to help meet the needs of these people and restore their human dignity.
Each year since 2003, a group of volunteers from our parish organizes a week long trip to the Dominican Republic. The purpose of the trip is to check on our initiatives and deliver donated goods to the people of the bateys. We have been working with three particular bateys: Las Pajas, La Cachena and Alejandro Bass. While in the Dominican Republic we stay in San Pedro de Macoris at the convent that also seconds as a Teacher’s College ‘Institu Superior de formacion Docente, Salome Urena Recinto - Juan Vicente Moscoso’. Under the directorship of Sor Mercedes Carasco Miranda, the convent is also involved with visiting the bateyes and providing support to those who need it.
Immunization and Nutrition
Working with a medical clinic in Consuelo Dominican Republic, we provide funding for twelve bateys to immunize the children and provide nutrition as well. We provide nutrition in addition to immunization to maximize the benefit and increase the probability of recovery and survival.
Sometimes, a batey will be fortunate to have received funding to be able to have a school and a teacher (often a volunteer) on site. Frequently this school is only for very elementary students. Once beyond the early elementary years, if students have their citizenship papers they can enroll in a Dominican Republic school, but are required to find their own means of transportation to arrive at school every day. One batey in particular, Las Pajas, is remote and difficult to get to. It is too far to walk to the school in the nearby city. This initiative focuses on arranging consistent and reliable transportation to take over twenty five older students to and from school on a daily basis.
This is an ever important initiative because education will improve their literacy and teach them skills, giving them hope at finding employment and breaking the cycle of working in the sugar cane fields. We have also worked closely with Las Pajas to help them build their school. We have provided funds to build an addition to their small school which had become over-crowded and also provide a new roof. Their school house is now sturdy enough to also function as their hurricane shelter if needed. We also have been providing a scholarship for a young man to attend medical school at a University in the Dominican Republic.
Chronic Care Clinic
Our newest initiative is the Chronic Care Clinic. It is an initiative that has just begun in 2013 and yet to be established. Fund raising and planning are the immediate goals. Once such a facility is in place in the Dominican Republic, those who have been suffering from chronic illnesses will finally receive the help they need. Our aim is also prevent the health deterioration of many, who have been neglected for such a long time!