Rotarians from across District 7710 renewed our international friendships with our gracious amigos from the Santiago Monumental Rotary Club, Dominican Republic. During the week of February 4–11, 33 volunteers from North Carolina traveled to the Dominican Republic to build 53 latrines, repair three houses, build a community playground and much, much more!
This fifth year’s trip was initiated by Past District Governor Rick Carnagua, who created this ongoing relationship with his counterpart, District Governor Alexandra Martinez from Santiago while attending District Governor School in San Diego. The Central Johnston, Clayton, Cary, Cary MacGregor and Cary Page Clubs provided the initial funds for the District Grant. Almost every club in the district added in to the Community Fund to make this endeavor a smashing success.
PDG Rick has had additional District 7710 support from other 7710 District Governor’s experiencing the trip first-hand, Leigh Hudson, Matthew Kane, Newman Aguilar, Rusine Sinclair and Barry Phillips are all Dominican Republic veterans. Even District Governor Elect Shafi was set to go this year until he encountered his Pickle Ball predicament. Rick brought in Martin Tetreault to handle the planning of the project agenda with his counterpart, David Crow. Linda Sproat jumped on board to coordinate all of the volunteer travel plans, special requests & communication information and rooming details. Once our team arrived, George Harry, Ron Blackley and Rex Everhart herded the on-the-ground volunteer activities and work with our gracious hosts, the Santiago Monumental Rotary Club Team.
The efforts of the Santiago Monumental Rotarians before, during and after our week in Santiago were, as their name depicts, “Monumental”! Arranging for a week’s worth of food, transportation, lodging, and entertainment for 33 North Carolina 7710 Rotarians would be hard enough. Then came the challenges of building latrines, repairing dilapidated homes and creating a community playground.
The Dominican Rotarians leading their efforts were David Crow – Master Planner; Cesar Lopez – Club President and Los Cocos Community Coordinator; Rafael Lopez – Playground, Maximo Dominguez – Latrine Construction, Diana Abreu and Rosalina Dominguez – Entertainment and Community / Family Supplies; Ricardo Jimenez – Financial Controller. Even the Rotaract and Interact clubs brought high energy exciting the local youth with songs and games during the playground ceremonies.
The latrines were a combined effort of the actual families digging the holes, Maximo & Aneury & crew pouring the slabs and stools, transporting them over the holes and laying a layer of concrete blocks as the base for the walls. The NC Team cut the wood siding and frame lumber. Then assembled the pieces in place, adding a zinc roof and a door with a Rotary Wheel painted on it. The Santiago Monumental Rotarians coordinated with the local Rotary Corp in Los Cocos to locate latrine sites for the (53) selected families needing latrines to improve sanitary conditions. Ron Blackley lead our latrine team finishing on Thursday allowing a little time for celebrating with the families with supplies of mosquito bed nets, sheets, soap, paper products, sandals, clothing and an assortment of toys supplied by District 7710 Rotarians and the Community Funds donated by our clubs and individuals.
The house repairs were completed on 3 of the 5 selected houses. Material was bought and left for the local families to complete the other houses. Re-siding, re-roofing, building roof supports gave the houses new life. Josh Davis and Mike McLean headed up our housing crew with several others joining them.
The playground project brought a sense of community and enjoyment. Martin Tetreault coordinated the layout and installation with Rafael Lopez and Dinora Borrelly, architect. David Crow and Cesar Lopez negotiated a win-win with the Los Cocos – Jacagua Mayor William. Rex Everhart designed and built the wooden climber, truck, tire trees, and benches. The grandmothers were all smiles when they found out they could sit, talk and watch the children play. Seesaws, swings, jogging path and a tire picnic table filled the park with painted tire dividers brightening the layout. The centerpiece was the Dragon made out of painted tires. The Opening Ceremony can only be described as pure joy!
There was a dedication of the Otra Banda Medical Clinic that our 7710 provided assistance to CISAMA, the Church, the DR Government and Synergies to build. DG Leigh led 5 of our team to participate in their celebration. The medical clinic provides a clean medical building for medical and dental exams and treatments.
The week was not all work. Our group was taken up into the mountain village of Jarabcoa where a resort provided us a Sunday buffet, a mountain river and pools to swim, and magnificent trails and hanging bridges to wander. The annual Carnival Celebration was over the top with a parade, music and entertainment from various groups all over Santiago. Diana Abreu arranged a VIP viewing stand that put us almost in the parade itself. Every evening meal was special as we experienced The Santiago Monumental meeting including a visit from their DG Morris Tallaj and Monumental’s own DGE Roberto Almonte greeting our PDG Leigh. A country cooking demonstration was brought to the Fab Workshop by Yanet Dominguez and Lydia Sanchez including fire pit brewed coffee and yummy coconut / cocoa desserts. The Finale Celebration Friday night was highlighted with our awarding Maximo Dominguez with a Paul Harris Fellow along with a “PDG Barry Phillips” framed watercolor of the first latrine built in 2013. Yes there was a trip to the Porto Plata Beach, the Lopez Cigar Factory, the Leon Museum and a power-shopping lunch in downtown Santiago.
There is only one-way to truly understand the heart-filling experience that we were privileged to have. Just start making plans to join us for the next Dominican Republic 2018 Adventure.