Tuesday, March 4, 2014

“Where much is given, much is expected”

“Where much is given, much is expected”

Sunrise in Puerta Plata

Returning to the Dominican Republic (DR) is always an awe-inspiring experience! And that’s just what I did recently.

Three generations: her mother, and her daughter Sarahi

For 12 days, I returned to do some consulting with Dr. Claudina Vargas and MACILE/COSOLA, a non-profit organization that is seeking to develop a Center for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (C-STEM). Here in the United States, STEM has become an integral component of K-12 and higher education. Unfortunately, in the DR, STEM subjects are not necessarily the focus, and many young people are not prepared in any of these subject areas as they enter high school or even when they enter college.

Dra. Claudina Vargas y Dr. Carlos Zómeta

We spent time visiting with teachers, Church leaders and members, community members, and other organizations and groups like the Asocicación Dominican de Rehabilitación Dr. Carlos Zómeta, the DR’s version of Vocational Rehabilitation; Wagner Paniagua from the Centro de Auto-Suficiencia (Center for Self Sufficiency); President and Sister Rodríguez, Mission President of the Santo Domingo West Mission; Presidents Olivero and Brito, stake presidents in Santo Domingo and San Cristóbol, respectively; and many others. What was exciting about visiting with each of these groups and people was that everyone was excited about what we were about and expressed support for our projects.

Teachers who attended the school newspaper workshop

I also had an opportunity to meet with several teachers from three different schools in the Itabo region who are developing a school newspaper so their students can learn better writing, investigative, and publishing skills. Ironically, the power went out exactly at 5:00 p.m., and my beautifully organized PowerPoint presentation became a verbal show and tell. Power is a challenge in the DR. Some schools don’t even have power during the school day. Others have power intermittently throughout the day with a specific shutdown time.

A classroom in the DR

I salute the teachers in the DR. That is one reason we are developing a Teacher Training Institute to help them with a variety of issues. Interestingly, when I asked a few teachers what are the biggest challenges, I was surprised by their answers although I shouldn’t have been because they are almost the same as we have here:  classroom management, community relations, communication strategies, competency-based education, assessment, and many others. Sound familiar, teachers?

Teacher in Puerta Plata and Tekarra, a future teacher (Louise ZoBell's daughter)

We will be looking for master teachers to teach in the Institute in these subject areas as well as in the STEM subjects. So, if you are a master teacher who speaks Spanish and can deliver workshops in Spanish, please contact me at darrel.hammon@gmail.com. We are gathering a cohort group who can travel to the DR to help us develop and teach in the Teacher Training Institute.

Yelissa y Omar Rijo (Omar is a Bishop in La Romana)

Of course, I had the glorious opportunity to attend the LDS temple in Santo Domingo! It is one of the most beautiful temples in the world. While there I was able to connect with our wonderful friends Omar and Yelissa Rijo from Puerta Plata; Daniel Joachim and Katherine Gutiérrez, two teachers in the DR Mission Training Center; and Wilson Segura, Julio César, and Alicia Gómez who work for the Area Office.  Additionally, I received abrazos from numerous friends from our mission in Puerto Plata, Santiago, Haina, San Cristóbal, and Santo Domingo—too many to name. Gracias por sus abrazos!

Daniel and Darrel
Darrel, Katherine, and her novio

Claudina and I were invited to have lunch with La Doña Idalita and Clari Tavares, an incredible family who is so supportive of MACILE and the projects we are doing in the DR. Clari’s son is engaged to the former 2012 Miss Dominican Republic, Dulcita Lieggi. Her mother, Dulce, and grandparents were there, too. The grandparents were some of the first LDS converts in the DR. 

La Familia Tavares

What wonderful people they are! It was a delicious luncheon, but the company was even better.

Darrel and Dulcita
Of course, I had to have my picture taken with Dulcita, the 2012 Miss Dominican Republic!

Claudina, Bonnie, Louise, and Darrel
r. Vargas and I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Puerta Plata, a city on the north side of the island, where we spent time with Louise ZoBell and her incredible family from the DominicanStarfish Foundation. They are doing just great work there, building homes and schools. We visited a few of the new built homes and the families who live there. 
Jenny and her happy family in front of their almost-completed new home

One of the families is single mother of four whose mother now lives with her. To see their old home brought tears to my eyes. But the excitement Jenny exhibited when she showed me her new home, which is under construction. Louise and others have developed a house plan to build a house for about $5,000 (US). They aren’t large, but they are sufficient and a huge change from the former homes.

Hill to climb to the school

We also went to a school, up this very steep road. One teacher has two classrooms, one in the morning and one in the evening. While their supplies and resources are dismal at best, the teacher was so positive and welcomed us with home arms.
Teacher in a private school

Overall, the trip was a successful one, filled with wonderful visits, opportunities for growth and progress, and a feeling of hope. One of my sole reasons for going to the DR was to seek help and support, including financial, for the work we are doing in developing C-STEM. So, if you are looking for a place to send your money that support excellent causes, I know so many places. You would be surprised how comforting it is to know the good you do for others when you give of your means. We have been given so much. I understand even better the phrase: “Where much is give, much is expected.”

The real reason why we are all doing what we are doing: helping students succeed!