Return Home

The alarm went off at 2:30 a.m. and we pulled ourselves out of bed to prepare for our trip home. Our goal was to be on the bus by 3:30 a.m. and we were there at 3:29 (even the guys this time). The ride was a quiet one partly because we were tired, but it was probably also because we were trying to put some perspective on what we were leaving. There was little traffic and apparently the traffic lights and signs are totally optional at this hour because we slowed down ever so slightly at intersections.

Once at the gate we had time to talk about the week’s experience. The group agreed that the last day at Casa de Luz was the hardest to handle. It was very hard to see how the children are being fed. We learn from the literature the best practice for feeding and what we observed went totally against all that has been written. To see the children being fed while lying flat on their backs with no time to swallow or breathe is unpleasant to watch. It is hard for the students to believe that our instruction and guidance is going to make a difference; however, those of us who have been before were able to assure them that the staff has improvements sense our first visit. It is just frustrating to know that we will not be able to monitor and guide them for another year.

We learned that a local physical therapist has offered to donate one day a week of his time to work with the children at Casa de Luz, but that he would need travel money to do that. The group quickly agreed that this would be a wonderful use of the money raised by the silent auction at Mid-South. They also left some money for an emergency fund to be available for the Foundation for Peace workers which would be easily accessible  when Lucas, the Director of Casa de Luz, needs the money for food and diapers.

All agreed that the work day was very fulfilling. The students liked having created something tangible that they know will be of help and value to the community. They also highly recommended that we can include a work day again in next year’s trip.

All of the blogs to date have included a bit about the food/meals experienced during the trip and we feel we need to include a statement here as well…there was very little! We got to the airport and a few of us grabbed something from one of the few places open. There was a Domino’s Pizza stand next to the gate and at 6:00 a.m. the lights came on. Everyone started talking about how they would love pizza for breakfast and just as everyone agreed that that would be a great start to the day the lights went off.

We said goodbye to Paul as he was going on to Dallas and then boarded our plane. We arrived in Miami and customs took longer than we had planned. We all walked very quickly to the next gate and and found that they had closed the doors to the flight, but we convinced them that they needed the 15 seats filled and they opened the gate for us. I wish we had a picture of the group jumping up to get the ground crew’s attention to open the gate. It was really a funny sight.

When we arrived in Memphis a student came up and said that this morning she was excited about coming home, but now that she is here she has real and mixed emotions. Many of us were feeling the same way. The re-entry into our culture can be hard.

It was a wonderful trip and our students were amazing! They jumped in without any hesitation to do the work we were there to do. It was so impressive to see how they were able to use their professional skills and problem solve when the conditions didn’t allow for the task to be done the way they had been taught. No one got sick, no one was hurt, and all were there to help. We are so proud! Albert Schweitzer said, “the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”  We are all very happy and hope to be even happier in the future.

Jennifer Taylor, David Wark, and Marilyn Wark

Day 4 Casa de Luz

This is it…the last day. For most of us, we are winding down our very first visit to the Dominican Republic. During our time here, we have experienced the sights and sounds the “Republica Dominicana” has to offer, while sharing our expertise with those with communication difficulties.

This morning (with aching muscles) we all enjoyed a bountiful breakfast consisting of mashed potatoes, rolled ham, and various melon pieces. After breakfast we boarded the trusty bus to head to Casa de Luz (House of Light). Casa de Luz is an orphanage located East of Santo Domingo for children with disabilities. During the week we organized efforts to train Casa de Luz staff on proper feeding techniques. Today we put our plans to work! During the morning we split into teams to see each child individually. Feeding was especially difficult for those with more severe disabilities. Even in teams of two, we had challenges all morning. However, it is humbling when one remembers that the Casa de Luz staff, consisting of a small handful of dedicated caregivers, handle the feeding of these children every day.

At lunch we trained the Casa de Luz staff on our techniques with hopes they would adopt them for future use. The techniques we offered were effective with some of the children, but not all. For the children for whom our techniques were ineffective, we urged Casa de Luz staff to remain patient.

During the afternoon we conducted hearing tests and screenings on the children and staff. The staff was very thankful for our time and efforts, especially when testing the children, where testing was more difficult. At the end of the testing day, we added our test results to the orphanage’s records.

One child in particular who made her presence known throughout the day was Lydia. Lydia is a spry teenager diagnosed with Down Syndrome. Among her accomplishments during our visit included:

1. Hairstyling

2. Teaching us to dance

3. Collecting our poker chips

4. Hiding our water bottles

5. Giving hugs

At the end of our day at Casa de Luz, we and the Casa de Luz staff exchanged thanks in hopes that the techniques learned today will ultimately improve the lives of the children. After we boarded the bus, we headed to San Pedro to spend our last evening on the beautiful beach. We all took turns taking pictures behind the backdrop of the Caribbean Sea.

Back at the house, we enjoyed a lovely burger dinner, complete with grilled corn, yucca chips, eggplant, and avocado. Tonight we pack our bags for the journey back to the homeland, taking with us the experience of the Dominican Republic, to share with our own countrymen. Libertad!

Rebecca Sawyer, Paul Carter, and Aubrie Bishop

Day 3 – The Batey

Today we learned the meaning of hard work.  We met downstairs for breakfast at 7:30 and we had fresh fruit and fritters, filled with cheese, chicken or fish.  They were delicious and prepared us for the work ahead of us.

We traveled to a Haitain batey in San Joaquin to help build a structure to hold and sell filtered water at the local church.  The batays evolved when the Dominican government brought Haitain workers to work in the sugar cane plantations.  Now that the demand for workers in the plantation has diminished, the Dominican government wants to send them back.  However, the Haitain government will not accepet them back because they do not have paperwork proving that they are Haitain, leaving them essentially country-less. Because of this, the batays are typically not given government assistance, causing them to rely on organizations such as Foundation for Peace for resources.

Currently, the batay residents must travel long distances to purchase bottled water that they are able to safely consume.  The new water filtration system will greatly improve the quality of their water and will allow the  church to sell it at affordable prices to the community. We started by moving a pile of dirt and rocks away from the construction site.  The majority of the day was spent mixing cement, pouring a footing, and laying cinder blocks for the walls.  It a was a team effort orchestrated by Fausto, who likes things done “muy rapido!”  We had fantastic little helpers (young, but incredibly strong children) who helped us build the structure and impressed us with their strength. It’s safe to say, everyone was dirty and sore by the time we were done.  Luckily, Marilyn and Dr. Taylor played mother hens by making us go inside when our faces were red to rehydrate and rest.  It was also interesting to see nursing and psychology students doing health screenings from house to house.  Overall, it was a very busy and tiring experience and no one wants to hear the word “cubo” (bucket) for the next ten years.  We appreciated the break from speech pathology and audiology and were excited to see the fruits of our physical labor at the end of the day.

Before leaving, we walked through the batay to see the houses and a glimpse of their way of life.  The houses were mostly made of wood with tin roofts and we saw children taking baths in small buckets outside.  They washed clothes by hand and hung them up to dry outside. The locals wore thin clothing due to the heat, humidity, and lack of air conditioning.  They also have one community toilet in an outhouse in the center of the batay that is used by most of the residents.  It was nothing like anything we had seen before.

Once we arrived back at the Mission house, everyone was looking forward to the cold shower.  Shower times doubled as we tried to get all the dirt and cement off our bodies and out of our hair.  We had a delicious dinner of fried chicken, vegetables, fried plantains, and french fries.  We finished everything they made and still had room for ice cream from the local ice cream parlor.  We were super excited for this little slice of heaven.  Now that everyone has full bellies and sore muscles, we are ready for sleep.  We have another long, but exciting, day ahead of us tomorrow as we head to Casa de Luz, an orphanage for children with disablities, where the speech girls will get to use their master minds to work on feeding skills.  Buenas noches!

Kati Lanner, Caleb McNiece, Jasmin Peter

Sent from my iPad

Culture Day

Today, we woke up excited and ready to be immersed into the Dominican culture.  We started the morning off with a delicious breakfast including some foods that we had not had before.  Some may have even mistaken the porridge for gravy (by the way the porridge was fantastic).

After breakfast we hopped onto the bus and headed to a local rehab center.  We met with the president of the center and discussed the center’s need for special training in special education, audiology, and speech pathology.  We plan to meet with the University of Memphis administration to discuss possible ways we can help them achieve these goals. Next we were able to tour the facility and, WOW, we were impressed.  Not only did they have a school for those with special needs, but they also offer various therapies and vocational training.  We were also very impressed by their ability to hand make orthopedic shoes and prosthetic limbs.  Even though many therapies are offered, the center continually reinforced their need for formal training as the faculty’s current training consists of only on the job experience.

After the rehab center we drove to old Santo Domingo to eat lunch in a five star hotel restaurant.  Everyone’s food was awesome, especially the Ensalada de Aguacate (avocado salad) that Caleb has been bragging about for a year.  Everyone was really thrilled to drink a coke.  We each had two.  After lunch we walked across the square to the cathedral.  On the way we had a run in with some pigeons, which were the bravest pigeons we had ever met.  We took a lot of pictures of the beautiful square, including a statue of Christopher Columbus and the cathedral.  Fun fact: the cathedral we toured is the oldest one in the New World.

Next, it was time for the market an event we had all been waiting for.  We haggled… haggled… then haggled some more.  Some of us were better negotiators than others.  After we had emptied our wallets we headed back to the house to plan for our trip to the orphanage on Thursday.  Then for the finale of our day-TACO BAR!!! We all ate as much as our bellies could handle.  Off to bed we go.

Hasta Luego!

Megan Howell, Lauren Pontoppidan, Danielle Breitbart

Day 1 at CAES

Today was our first day in the Dominican Republic! We had a wonderful breakfast of Southwestern eggs, sausage, fresh fruit, and rolls. The fruit was DYNAMITE! We all piled into the van with our supplies and headed to CAES School for the Deaf in San Pedro.  The drive through Santo Domingo into San Pedro was picturesque along the coast line.  We received a warm welcome at CAES and quickly got down to business.

The speech pathology students spent the morning with the students doing listening activities.  We used bongo drums to see how well the children could detect and replicate rhythm.  Also we taught hip hop dances with the beats.  Everyone loved it!  Sadly, one of the drums was destroyed in the process by a boy with excellent yet overly enthusiastic drumming skills.  The speech pathology students also met with some of the parents and teachers to share a sound awareness and processing developmental chart for children with hearing amplification.  We demonstrated some activities they could do with the kids and answered their questions about hearing aids and speech and language development.

The audiology students spent their day battling electricty outages in order to complete hearing evaluations.  Students from CAES and members of the community had their hearing tested.  Lots..and lots.. and LOTS of earmolds were made on the spot for those those in need.  The audiology students had to quickly learn the “Insta-mold” technique to help serve the school.  We successfully fit five hearing aids to new users, and helped repair numerous others.

Lunch at CAES consisted of rice, beans, cucumber salad, chicken, and fresh honeycomb.  The honeycomb was a pleasant surprise, and a new experience for many.  For instance, you are not supposed to swallow the honeycomb after chewing the wax to get the honey out.  We may or may not have witnessed some people eat the whole thing.

Dinner was excellent back at the Mission House.  We ate full plates of pasta with eggplant, BBQ chicken, yummy mashed potatoes, rice, and salad with homemade dressing.  Paul could not stop raving about the salad dressing.  And, don’t forget the Grape Fanta!

We finished the night by de-briefing, and then tested the hearing of Ramon (our bodyguard) and Miche (our bus driver).  They were good sports letting us practice on them!

Adios and hasta luego amigos!!!

Melanie Carter, Hannah Widner, and Kristin Haller

March 10,2013 First Day of Travel

We have made it safely to the Dominican Republic!!! All of our flights were on time and as far as I know, we didn’t have any problems going through security or customs. Our first flight from Memphis to Miami was on a pretty small plane and it was just starting to rain as we were boarding. It started out a little bumpy, but it was just fine. From Miami to Santo Domingo our plane was much larger (I totally thought it would have been the other way around) and I was beside a very nice lady from Mexico. When we were leaving the airport in the Dominican Republic, we were greeted by a huge crowd of people who I guess were waiting on family and friends to arrive (we felt a little bit like celebrities walking down the red carpet). That is where we met our travel leaders with the Foundation for Peace. We walked to our bus, got it loaded up, and were on our way to the house after that! I learned several things on our journey from the airport to the house 1. I’m really glad that I don’t have to drive the bus, 2. Stoplights have countdown timers (which I think are pretty cool), 3. Stop signs appear to be optional???, and 4. People really like to honk their car horns. I couldn’t really tell much about the city since it was dark, so I’m excited to see everything in the light in the morning! We are off to a great start to this awesome week!

Hannah Waldron