A Spirit of Love
Since 2001, Prince of Peace has brought more than 300 disciples to the Dominican Republic. We have two trips – a men’s trip and a women’s trip – scheduled for this spring. Here’s what Jerry & Karen Halvorson, more Prince of Peace disciples, are doing in the same country:
We’ve been to the Dominican Republic (DR) 35 times. Why do we keep going back? It’s because of the people. They’re warm, friendly and, in spite of their relative poverty, they are, in general, happy. We love the culture, music food, dancing and, of course, the beaches. Yes, there are areas of extreme poverty and hardship but there is still a spirit there that we love.
I few years ago we really wanted to start doing some meaningful volunteering work in the Dominican instead of just going there for vacationing. We had looked at many charity and volunteering organizations but didn’t find anything that fit us. Some charged a lot of money to come and “volunteer” and others didn’t seem very legit. Also, we don’t need lodging and guidance while we’re there since we already know our way around.
We have a good friend Joe who is originally from Minnesota and now owns a small hotel in the Puerto Plata area. During one of our visits with him he took us to an area of Puerto Plata called Agua Negra (Black Water) where an organization called Las Americas is doing a lot to improve the lives of the local Dominicans. Various church groups come there for a week at a time and do volunteer work in the community. Many houses are built in low-lying areas that flood frequently. Others are in very bad condition. Las Americas uses donated money to rebuild houses. All of the donated money is used to buy materials and to pay a local job foreman. The community tears down the old house and builds the new one in about two weeks. The local Agua Negra church advises on which family is most in need of a rebuilt house. It’s a lot like a Habitat for Humanity project. We donated $4000, which is enough to rebuild one house. Las Americas has also built and funds a school in the Agua Negra community as well as several other projects.
This was what we were looking for. This would make a huge difference in a family’s life. They wouldn’t need us to provide labor; they already have the necessary skills, in fact, much better skills. We’d have our vacation and still make a meaningful contribution. So, we rented a condo, on the beach, in a nearby town and went there for the entire month of January.
The construction people delayed tearing down the old house until we could see it and meet the family. We went to the site weekly and celebrated the progress. We had friends and family come down to visit us during our stay and we brought each of them to meet the Dominican family and see the reconstruction. While we were there, another organization that contributed matching funds. So, a second family also got a new house.
As our vacation came to an end, we asked the local pastor, “What toys would the family’s kids like to receive?” She said, “They need new beds.” So, we contributed another $500 for new beds, which were built by local craftsmen.
We have found great meaning contributing this way. We plan to do it again this year. Going to the Dominican and meeting the people can be a wonderful and enlightening experience.