... Report From A Former Resident, Melrose High School Class of 1942
Marilyn (Bruce) True Hill - a friend - 1942 MHS Classmate - we have been keeping in touch with each other through reunions and correspondence. Some old timers may remember Marilyn's dad, Walter Bruce, a very strong-willed and effective Alderman for many years and the driving force in establishing the Mount Hood Golf Course and Club House in the 1930's. Described below is the volunteer project that Marilyn and her husband, Win Hill, recently completed in the Dominican Republic. What really impressed me was that this was Win's sixth volunteer service trip and the third for Marilyn. Now in their mid-70's, they are truly real heroes. (Jim Driscoll)
First Step In The Journey
On February 8, 2000 my husband Winslow and I traveled to the Dominican Republic and participated in a church volunteer work program: the Discovery Service Projects group. This organization was founded by a retired Methodist Minister, the Reverend Rowland Carlson and his wife, Barbara Carlson from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. (Winslow had first met Reverend Carlson through the Rotary Club.) It is not a specific church group but serves various churches in the Caribbean Islands and Central America. Winslow has worked one week a year with the organization for the past six years. Projects have been completed in Belize, Cozumel, Mexico (twice), Guatemala, Panama and the Dominican Republic. This was my third year working with the group.
Feeding And Caring For Volunteers
Barbara Carlson supervises the kitchen and the recreational activities. She sees that everyone is very careful in preparing the food. All vegetables are washed in Clorox water and the dishes are rinsed the same way. All of this is done so that no one gets sick. Two meals are served each day and the evening meal is taken at an approved restaurant. We always had clean but not fancy sleeping arrangements and everyone seemed to manage quite well. We are usually tired at the end of the day but came back rested the following day. Job assignments are made according to each individual's physical ability. The young workers lay the cement blocks and perform the heavy work. The older volunteers assist with their various talents, e.g. carpentry, electrical work, kitchen help, etc. We usually arrived for a week's work on a Tuesday and had Saturday afternoon and Sunday off. If possible, on time off we would visit areas of interest nearby, such as some Mayan ruins in Mexico. Everybody has a common wish to do some good and felt rewarded at the end of their time.
The Work Begins
We stayed in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic but worked in Yuguate, building a community center for the church there. The people in this church are trying to help the Haitian immigrants who are working on a sugar plantation as practically slave labor.
The squalid living conditions of the Haitian immigrants are clearly evident from the above photo taken by Win Hill
They have no papers and can never become citizens of the Dominican Republic. They have no pure water and drink, bathe, and wash in the irrigation water where hogs and cattle bathed. The good news is that we have since learned that one well is now completed, the second is being drilled and a third will soon be underway. The village will have pure water.
The workers also have no electricity and the sugar company officials don't want them to have it. The owners of the plantations don't want them to stay permanently but to go back to Haiti after the sugar harvest. However, many of them do stay because the conditions in Haiti are even worse. There is widespread sickness, especially among the children. The people of the church in Yuguate were trying to provide some schooling for the Haitians and our group had bought pumps and were arranging to drill wells for them. The local people had also built a small church for the Haitians. We were able to visit the Haitian Batey (camp or village) and see for ourselves. Their homes are just shacks.
A Typical Day's Labor
We left by a small school bus each morning at 6:30 a.m. to travel to Yuguate. I worked in the kitchen preparing food for the workers and, needless to say, cleaning up afterwards. Things were very primitive (cold water, often no water) and sometimes the electricity went off; but we managed. One day the women prepared a Dominican dinner for us, a thick stew. Very tasty.
Winslow did electrical work and was trying to rewire the place where we fed the workers. I guess it was the parsonage but the minister wasn't there; apparently he was serving two churches. There was no furniture except for a long table made up of several smaller tables, some plastic chairs and a church pew bench to seat people while they ate.
Win took this photo showing the progress made on the community building before we left the area.
The other workers were setting cement blocks for the community building. The structure will eventually be two stories and fortunately the second floor was in place on pillars or posts so it was a little cooler in the shade.
Everything seems to be built of cement blocks and there is much building going on, but nothing seems to be finished. One of the reasons is, I believe, that no taxes have to be paid until a building is finished.
The people were friendly and attractive and mostly poor. In the Dominican Republic, the people are either very rich or poor. There is no middle class to speak of. The weather was comfortably warm and breezy and it was a wonderful and rewarding experience.
P.S. Some late good news: we have just learned that one of the wells is now completed; the second is being drilled, and a third will soon be underway. At long last, the village will have pure water.
June 2, 2000