Greetings from the Dominican Republic.
Our first week working here in this country has been nothing short of an adventure! We have been assigned to the area of La Romana. La Romana is on the coast, west of the capital of the Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo. Only eight months ago, La Romana was opened as the second working area of the DR. We are here with another couple, some of our greatest friends, Sydney and Josh Billings. Together we go out everyday to teach the Dominican people self-reliance skills; especially those pertaining to business.
We are absolutely loving our time here. Everyone is so kind and loving. One of our favorite parts of La Romana is our friend Antonio. He sells fruit from a cart beneath the window of our second-story apartment. Every morning around 5:45 am, we wake up to him chopping coconuts with his machete yelling a few of the only words he knows in English, “ahaha I love my job!” He is the happiest man I think I have ever met.
OPERATION UNDERGROUND RAILROAD
We oversee two OUR rescue homes.
These rescue home are places that hires women who have been rescued from sexual abuse and prostitution. They teach them skills and have them make jewelry which they then sell. They also provide them with educational classes, therapy, and resources so that they can leave and make a life for themselves.
These women are taught technical skills like sewing, cooking, and hairstyling.
Walking into these rescue homes, you might expect somber, quiet, classrooms but instead are greeted with warm smiles, laughter, and hugs. Although their eyes are tired, with more wrinkles than you’d expect for their age – each crease an unwelcome souvenir of past trauma – they light up when you talk with them. These women are perfect examples of not letting their past experiences define their self-worth or future opportunity.
Without programs like these, it is estimated that 80% of rescued women are driven back into prostitution.
Mentors International is focused on finding individuals and helping them establish or grow their own business. This week we have been working on the “finding” part. We have met a couple of very special people who we think have a lot of potential to have a success business.
One young man that we have found, whom we are excited to begin teaching, is named Jose. Jose is stuck as a wage worker at an empanada stand in a country that’s minimum wage equates to only $150 USD a month. However, being raised on a property with a bunch of fruit trees, he has experience making juices. We are helping him start a business as a juice vendor – selling juices to local colmados (corner stores) and restaurants.
More adventures to come,
McKenna and James