Stichting Help

Sosuakids naar School

Visit to Sosua November/ December 2006

It was the rainy season and that was evident as I arrived at the airfield of Puerto Plata in the torrential rain in the dark. The plane had landed too early and for this reason I had to wait a while for Garry. In his Toyota bus there were also Judith and Roberto, who came along to welcome me, and we drove together to the hotel near Garry’s house.

It was the first time that I had met them all in person.
Garry is a Dutchman, who has been living in the Caribbean for 25 years, and is married to Virgin, who is Dominican. He is an ecologist, also an ecology teacher, artist (painter) and jack-of-all-trades, but especially the man who brings people together. An indispensable factor, certainly for someone like me, arriving in a strange country, not knowing anybody, and wanting to investigate a great deal in the Dominican Republic in 2 ½ weeks.

 Judith and Roberto, a Dominican couple, have started a school at their own initiative in September 2006 for Haitian children, who lived mainly on the rubbish dump. These children are frequently illegal and usually they do not even have a birth certificate with the signature of both parents. As a result they are not allowed to go to the Dominican state schools. Judith and Roberto have a religious background and want to give something of it to the school children. They assured me that for accepting the pupils, however, religion plays absolutely no role. Judith and Roberto have borrowed money from the bank to start this school, called ‘Colegio Evangelico Asher’ and to start a clothing shop. The income from the shop should provide the future funding for the school. An ambitious plan; but, perhaps a little too ambitious as yet. For example, they are now already behind with paying the teachers’ salaries. These teachers work now for too low salaries, even in Dominican terms, but they also want to give the school a chance. 
Garry, who also tries to support plans in this area, asked me to take over this project from him and give Roberto and Judith the help needed. For instance, they had never calculated the essential monthly costs and after having done this together, they were shocked. In order not to endanger the existence of the school, first the teachers’ salaries must be paid monthly. This converts to approximately 500 euros a month. Moreover is money needed for school tables and small chairs, because the children now sit on much too high plastic garden chairs at tables that are also much too high. When they are sitting, it is impossible for their feet to touch the ground. Furthermore, money is necessary for a type of school uniform, or at least to finding standard clothing for the children. Then they have decent clothing and this way look just like other schoolchildren.

Meanwhile I also tried to contact the Sosúakids Organisation and particularly the Canadian Barbara and her husband Lyndon. So far I only had contact by email. I found them by appointment in the Britannia Pub that they previously owned. There I asked them the ins and outs of everything about their organisation. Meanwhile, the American Janet had also arrived. They told me that, for example, by means of acquaintances who live in poor locations, children are selected, who cannot go to school because of poverty. These children receive a voucher that they can take to one specific department store called Casa Nelson in Puerto Plata. Two special assistants there know about this. The one helps the children with the uniforms, shoes and several required school articles, the other checks everything at the till and takes the voucher. Casa Nelson settles the account for all this directly with the Sosúakids Organisation and grants 10% discounts in sympathy. Because this is a very practical system, I have dropped my original plan to buy uniforms myself. The cash flow therefore only runs between the organisation and the department store. 
Having obtained the necessities, these children, who further have the correct documents, however, therefore obtain access to the public schools. 

Dankwoord van de Sosuakids Org.Barbara and Lyndon took me along to one such school in a poor village called La Cienaga. After two failed attempts (no pupils in attendance, for example, due to an unexpected teacher meeting), I got to see the children there and I could take photographs. There was no chance to talk with them, because it was examination time and in fact I disturbed them during the examination.
With Garry, Roberto and Judith, I also visited their little school for the Haitian children and distributed school articles and clothing from the Netherlands, which were accepted very enthusiastically. It really is incredible how they have made that humble little building a bit inhabitable. But as I already wrote, a great deal still has to be done.

At the schools I visited, I saw how proud and glad the children are who can go to school. They are now really part of everything.
The street that I walked down from the hotel to the centre was full with prostitutes at night. There were also very young girls among them. I comforted myself with the idea that the children who now go to school, partly as a result of our contribution, in any event will later have the choice and the opportunity to do something else to earn money to live. With that idea I listened again to the very typical Dominican Bachata music that accompanied me everywhere during such a walk. The tourist life entirely passed me by. I simply had no time, with sometimes 2 appointments every day. The rain that stopped appointments going ahead also played its part. It is also a common Dominican custom to make an appointment, and then turn up hours later or not at all.

Via-via, I came into contact with the Canadian Brian, who produces professional film and DVD recordings of all kinds of aid projects. He took along me to a terribly poor village with just a few Haitian inhabitants. Nearby, with aid of missionaries, a new village had been built with exclusively brick cottages. There was also a sawmill, a school, church and shop. I was very impressed with what has been achieved there in about three years. With the Haitians who told me how over the moon they are, with a dry house and all amenities, I could talk very well in French. In my rudimentary Spanish I could just get by, but for conversations at a higher level I will need to work hard on my Spanish in the coming year. I hope that I get the time for that.
Meanwhile I have again received the necessary messages from Sosúa.
Of the most important things I hoped to achieve was a cross connection between the Sosúakids Organisation and Judith and Roberto, in order to obtain some extra support for the little school. Contact has been now made. Also, the money that I left behind for the little school will now be administered via the Sosúakids Org., and this way they will be assisted better.

I cannot and do not want to take over the responsibility for continuance of the little school for Haitians. After all, I have only just become involved. Nevertheless, I consider it immensely important that these children, who finally now get some attention and care, can continue to go to school. I will therefore continue to make my effort.
For the near future of this project, this means:
1 searching for sustainable income for the teachers’ salaries
2 buying better school furniture
3 school uniforms or something that looks like them.
In addition, undiminished, I continue to be committed to the Sosúakids Organisation for the purchase of school uniforms.
I have tried a little here to communicate that I have worked with heart and soul to bring the gifts from you, generous donors, to the right place. Only with your help can I continue doing this.