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Sosuakids naar School

Trip report January/February 2009

Mother Nature did not cooperate this time.

My last visit had been in May 2008, and I travelled to Sosúa again on 24 January 2009, staying for 2 ½ weeks at the Casa Marina Reef hotel. Many Dominicans and non-Dominicans were sick or had symptoms of flu. I was also unable to escape this entirely.

Several appointments were shifted to the second week because of it, and then the prolonged heavy rain started, certainly breaking precipitation records. This seriously impedes public life, because moving blindly through a grey curtain, unable to distinguish the deep potholes everywhere in pavements and roads, makes it a type of Russian roulette. School visits had to be postponed, because the children were also unable to get to school.Nevertheless, I was able to do most of what I had planned for the foundation (Stichting).

I heard that the Sosúa Kids Org. is going to become a foundation, which is to be applauded. I met two new future board members of the foundation accompanied by Janet and Karen. They are now working on their website to update it again. Because several of their voluntary workers also have fulltime jobs, they often have too little time to arrange everything. Life in the Dominican Republic is very much harder than ours, partly due to the climate, and everything you want to do is very time-consuming. This always confronts me when I am there.

I had almost daily contact with Judith of the Colegio Evangelico Asher. I handed over a lot of nice children’s T-shirts to her, with ‘Holland’ and suchlike printed on them, which were donated by Fox Productions, a company in Weesp, east of Amsterdam. The piles of new children’s shorts, which I always take with me, were very welcome as usual. Lots of pens, pencils and nice second-hand clothes donated by my friends were also gratefully received. I visited the Colegio, of course, when the weather permitted of course and saw lots of familiar faces again. There, I was happy to see the rows of ‘butacas’, school chairs with small half tables, which our Stichting paid for in November 2008. One lady teacher, who recently married and moved away, has been replaced by a male teacher. There are now more than 200 children registered. In addition, there are some 40 mothers and grandmothers enrolled in the evening courses that teach them to read and write.I admire these male and female teachers who remain faithful to the school and continually refuse offers for better-paid jobs in state schools. Sad to say, our Stichting cannot contribute more than we now do.

MIVA, a Dutch foundation (Stichting), has met the 2008 request from Judith’s Colegio and paid 90% towards a vehicle, which the school urgently needs. I supervised the request and now had the contract with me to bring back signed. The ‘Asher Foundation’, which Judith set up for the Colegio in 2008, has become the owner of the ‘camioneta’, a pick-up truck. This vehicle enables pupils to be picked up from neighbouring villages and, for example, groups of pupils can be taken to a museum in Puerto Plata as part of the lessons. I also made a couple of visits to two state schools, at which I received full cooperation from the directors and the staff. I understand more and more that small private schools are indispensable and must be supported,
09luperon4because the government does not provide that. There is nowhere for small children to be cared for while their mothers have to go to work, because their fathers are not there for them. There is also no remedial teaching for children with learning difficulties at the state schools. One state school has computers, while another school no longer has any backs to the chairs the children sit on. There are now some school uniforms being distributed very sparsely by the government to poor children. This sounds much better than it actually is, because quite a lot disappears and never reaches these children.

This time our foundation also made another 5,000 euros available for the projects. Because, since May 2008, the euro has fallen some 25% against the dollar and with it the Dominican peso, this meant that I was also only able to donate a quarter less; thus, a considerable negative difference and that in times of constantly rising prices. A ministering angel on the spot was Bob, who made up the difference. Just like all the previous times, I noticed that you have to be there to get the best insight into the situation and on that basis can adjust things, if necessary.

Rightly, but also very justifiably, I am asked in the Netherlands from time to time whether I keep a good overview of the funding, i.e. whether the money is properly disbursed in the Dominican Republic and does not just disappear. This is also one of the reasons why I regularly travel to the Dominican Republic. However, I have the impression that we view a developing country much more critically than our own country. Reports also repeatedly appear in the Netherlands about how money disappears here. On the ‘KPN Vandaag’ website in February, I read after my return that 22 billion euros of government money for handicapped and chronically sick people had disappeared, and that there are no forms of accounting and details about the patients concerned. The Ministry of Health, the Lower House of the Dutch Parliament, and the Netherlands Court of Audit have no insight into the expenditure.
All of us in the Netherlands have had to contribute considerably for this; and now this money has just disappeared, what are we doing about this ourselves? Are we not therefore applying double standards?