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2012 August Trip - Jen & Friends

Day 5

posted Sep 3, 2012, 9:40 AM by Jennifer Binns

On Sunday we had planned to all go to Macao - a beautiful beach not far from the hotel. Wilson takes us there every year, but we have never gone with the whole family. The weather was iffy, but we didn't mind. We knew the kids didn't care and we just wanted to spend some quality time with our Dominican families before we left. WIlson showed up with his family and Joel and his boys (sadly, Elizabeth had to work). When we got to the beach, the kids booked it for the water and were soon completely covered in sand. Not long after we got there, some of the boys started kicking around the soccer ball. Some locals joined in and soon everyone was playing (except me -Jen-...I'm a disaster with sports). It didn't matter that not everyone knew each other or spoke the same language, soccer is soccer! We had a lot of fun and ate at the local restaurant - fresh caught fish straight from the water. It turned out to be a beautiful day and by mid afternoon, the clouds had disappeared. 
One quiet moment near the end of the day, I got to sit down with Joel and speak with him about the foundation and his mission. Joel is one of those amazing people who simply wants to help others. Even though he and his wife both work hard just to get by, he wants to give to and help out people who are struggling just to survive. As much as he wants to help, he doesn't have all the necessary resources to do so. That is where the Light of Hope foundation comes in. Through the foundation, we can help by raising money and collecting donations to bring with us each year. Joel finds families who are struggling the most and can then use the money and donations we provide to help them out. The foundation and Joel/Elizabeth go hand in hand. By the support of the people who donate to the Light of Hope foundation, Joel and Elizabeth can live out their mission to help the less fortunate people of their country. The world needs more people like them! 
As it always does, and comes too soon, it was time for us to part ways. We did not say "Adios" - just "Hasta luego" - we will be back. There is always more work to be done in our home away from home. 
Until January!
Jen + Jess

Day 4

posted Aug 28, 2012, 7:28 PM by Jennifer Binns

On Friday, as a precaution, we stayed back at the hotel. We were fortunate to have only felt some strong winds and a little rain...and it appears that even during a "tropical storm" you can acquire some serious color (oops). We were thankful to have shelter from the stormy conditions that did arrive that night, and were wishing the best for those who were not so fortunate - in the Dominican and Haiti. 
Saturday, we were eating breakfast and were shocked to see Wilson had arrived and was waving at us through the window. For a guy who runs on island time, him being 20 minutes early caught us a bit off guard! We finished quickly and were on our way to Joel's house. When we arrived, we were greeted by his wife Elizabeth and his two sins, Christopher and Davie. Joel arrived a few minutes later with shopping bags filled with food for the family we were going to meet. This is a family that none of the groups from Second Baptist have met. Joel told us about them on the way to their home. They are a family of five adults. They are extremely poor and often go without food for days. When we arrived, the two women came up to us and gave us big hugs. One of the women was emaciated and had torn clothing. The two men were seated, one a 93 year old and the other a younger man, possibly in his 20s. The younger man is non verbal, but he waved at us and shook our hands. The women showed us their home - it was two rooms and then a kitchen/shed out back. Joel explained that they did not own this house, but we're allowed to stay there by the people who owned it. We provided them with some clothes, food, and some of the Beneprotein - which we explained to save for times when they had no food. They thanked us and couldn't stop smiling as we said goodbye.  
After making a pit stop at the house of one of Joel's friends who helps him find families in need, we moved on to a group of kids that Joel wanted us to meet. These kids are part of a class that Joel teaches. They were all very well mannered and when we arrived, they all said in unison "Bienvenidos!" which means welcome. They showed off some of their knowledge (we weren't sure what they were saying, but it seemed like they were answering Joel's rapid fire quiz questions correctly), and sang us a couple of songs. We hung out for a little bit and I found yet another adorable baby girl to give some clothes to. There were a couple of little boys with cuts on their faces and knees, so nurse Jessica stepped into action and put Bacitracin on them and gave them packets of it to keep. After a photo shoot with the kids (they all love the camera!), we got a hearty and in unison "See you later!" from all the kids and were on our way. We went back to Joel's house. He showed us the second level of his house and said that we will be helping him build when we return. Up there he will have a classroom for his teachings and an office for the Light of Hope foundation. We hung out with his family and talked about future plans. We had hoped to be able to go to Hoyo Claro this time, but Joel and Wilson said it was too dangerous now - especially after the storm. Most of the supplies we brought with us were for that village - most importantly books for the teacher. We put all the supplies in one suitcase and left it for Joel to take another time. Before we left, we were treated by Joel to lunch at a restaurant down the street. It was a delicious traditional Dominican meal of chicken, rice, beans and avocado. Yum! It was the perfect way to end the day.

Day 3

posted Aug 28, 2012, 7:27 PM by Jennifer Binns

Today we went to Wilson's village. There are a lot of children and families in his village and it is always a great time to be with them. Each time we are there, we see old friends and make new ones. We were greeted by Wilson's family and were welcomed into his home. It was great to see that after we left last time, they had continued the construction we helped them begin on the house, but unfortunate that they ran out of supplies before they were able to put on a roof. We talked with Wilson, Amarilli and the kids for a bit and soon their driveway was filled with neighborhood kids. We went outside and said hello to everyone. In January, Helen and I were welcomed into the home of one of Wilson's neighbors. She is the mother of 4 boys and has a desk in her house where she provides manicures and pedicures. I had made a mental note of this last time and brought with me some new nail polish colors and some manicure supples. Jess and I asked if she would give us both a manicure (which cost just over a dollar each) and she gladly did. As practically the whole neighborhood of kids watched, she painted our nails and added some traditional designs. We left feeling beautified. I asked Wilson if there was a baby girl in the village that we could give clothes to. There was and we were able to meet her and hold her. I think I will bring more baby clothes with me in the future. It is a great way to get some serious baby snuggles in. Her mother was so happy to receive the clothes that she put her in one of the dresses right away. Que Linda! After Jess played her obligatory game of futobol with the neighborhood kids, we said our goodbyes and were on our way. On our way home we stopped at the supermarket to buy some snacks as we assumed we would be holed up in our hotel room the next day as Tropical Storm Isaac passed. I asked Wilson if he needed anything and he just said "Solo pampers y leche." In a very selfless answer, all he asked for was milk and diapers for his youngest. We were happy to purchase those things for him. 
As the storm was forecasted to hit later that night and through Friday, we decided it was best for us to not go out into the villages then. We agreed to meet on Saturday to do work that our friend Joel needs to be done. 

Day 2

posted Aug 28, 2012, 7:25 PM by Jennifer Binns

Our day started as most here do...Wilson picking us up at 9am for our days adventure. We had in our plan to visit his grandmother (who is out of the hospital) and the school/clinic in the mountains. Our first stop was Wilson's grandmother's. Jess is a Nurse Practitioner and the doctor's office she works for was very generous in giving us multiple glucometers and test strips. While we were not able to find the test strips needed for Abuela's specific glucometer, we were able to provide her with a new one and plenty of test strips. She was extremely grateful. In the house next to hers is a little girl who we have seen in years past. She is 3 years old. She has always had problems eating. In the past we have given her vitamins. But this year we had multiple cans of a protein supplement called Beneprotein. We gave 2 cans to her mother and instructed her on how to use them. We didn't have clothes for everyone, but I asked Wilson if he knew of any baby girls in the neighborhood, as we had an abundance of baby girl clothes. Of course he found one and we got to meet her - a 6 month old named Elizabeth. We gave her some onesies and dresses and her mother was thrilled. Before we left, I asked if we could go into the village and find my little friend Michael - he was 5 days old the first time I came to the Dominican and is now 2 1/2 years old. He is not a big fan of me...but maybe one day I can get him to smile. 
After that, we were off to the mountain. Our first stop was the school - before they left for lunch. We arrived and were greeted with 16 giant smiles. We sat down amongst them and they told us about what they were learning - math. We handed out some pencils and had some fun with our cameras, as per usual. Then Jess brought out a soccer ball. The kids were thrilled and quickly started a game with her. It was a very hot, humid day but the kids did not care - they had a real soccer ball to play with! It probably helped that it got them out of the rest of their class. Once everyone was huffing and puffing and covered in sweat, we decided to call it quits. Well, they did. I was just the photographer. We told the teacher and the kids that we would leave the ball at the school for all of the kids to play with during school hours. They were all very excited by this. 
Next stop was the clinic. Each time I go, I see something new that I wish I could fix. This time it was a bottle of fluids hanging with a set of tubing attached. In hospitals, we replace tubing and bags of fluid every 24 hours to prevent infection. The doctor at this clinic said that was his only set of tubing and he uses it for everyone. What a difference. Hopefully we can provide him with more on our next visit. We were also able to give him a couple of glucometers and test strips. Jess chatted with him about the sort of services he provides or should be able to provide. One major issue is vaccines. The plan of the government is to have every child vaccinated. There is a lot of promotion for this to happen, but there is no way to get the vaccines. He told us that if he had the resources, all the children would be vaccinated. It is easy for the government to say they want every child vaccinated, but if they don't provide the vaccines, it cannot be done. Before we left, he showed us the system he uses for keeping records and communicating with the hospitals in the city. It is interesting to note that of the things he is provided with by the government at his clinic - he has a laptop, a wireless key and electronic medical records...but only 1 set of IV tubing for everyone and no vaccines. We said our goodbyes and were on our way. We got back to the hotel and agreed with Wilson's...same time same place in the morning.

Day 1

posted Aug 28, 2012, 7:23 PM by Jennifer Binns

We arrived safely in Punta Cana and made it through customs without any problems. Because it was two of us and we didn't have a lot, we put our supplies in two suitcases instead of duffel bags. As we passed the agents who have stopped us in the past, we smiled our biggest smiles, said "Hola! Como estas?" They were impressed by our ability to speak "Un poquito de Español," so they let us right through...no problemo. Once we got through, we breathed a sigh of relief and were thankful that some simple charm was all it took for our belongings to be safe. We went outside and walked over to the group of men wearing the pink shirts of Wilson's taxi company. They all wanted to give us a ride, but I said "Donde estas Wilson?" It took a couple tries, but he finally said "Ohhh WILsooon!"(as if that's not what I was saying the whole time.) Wilson appeared and we were on our way. Once we got to the hotel, we relaxed for a bit and later that night sorted through our donations for the next day.

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