Alex Morse - Dominican Republic
Yesterday, I started to look through and sort the thousands of pictures that I've taken here in the Dominican Republic. Things that at first seemed so different now seem so normal. For example I probably took about 100 pictures of lizards in my first month here, and spent hours trying to chase them out of my apartment. Now I just ignore them. They are a part of life here in Boca Chica. Just like the power outages, water outages, and motorcycles with four people on them.
It was good looking at the pictures too, because at times it can feel like I've accomplished very little during my seven months here. I have yet to have a student of my English classes leave speaking fluent English, and for some reason AIDS still seems to be a problem, despite all the time I've spent giving talks, handing out brochures, and helping people get tested. But looking at the pictures reminded me that it is all part of a bigger picture, one that takes more time than a few months to develop. And, while I have no pictures to share of street children returning to their homes, I do have pictures of children who for a few hours have hope for a better future, a person with AIDS feeling a little less lonely, and street kids just being kids.
This is one of the first pictures I came across. It was a week before Tropical Storm Noel hit the island. My parents were here visiting, and they wanted to see what it is that I am doing here, and so I brought them with me to see one of the locations where I am teaching English. There were 20 students in this group in the beginning, and now there is a group of about 13 that come every week.
We meet in a classroom of the local elementary school. Most of the desks are either missing the wooden part of the seat or the wooden part of the desk, or both. We then have our weekly one hour class. I asked in the first week of class why each student wanted to learn English. Many said things like "to better myself," or "to have a better future," and then one said it a little more eloquently "English creates opportunities, without English you don't have a future here, you can't get a job."
One of the things I will never need pictures to remember is the time I spent with Osvaldito. He died on the morning of December 6th from kidney failure caused by HIV/ AIDS. Despite all of the visits I had made there with my good friend Esperanza, the hours spent talking, and the trips to clinic getting him the medications he needed. He still passed away.
This is one of my favorite pictures from my time with him. We were talking about the music playing on the little MP3 player in my hand, and my knees were still dirty from praying with him. He had been very depressed thinking about what future awaited his son. We were listening to Luis Segura an old but loved Bachata singer; bachata is sort of like our blues. He started to tell me how he loved to dance, and a few minutes later his sister was teaching me the basic step, and his mother was dancing with his son. After a few hours I had to go back home, but I promised that I would bring my guitar and play for him some time.
I kept saying to myself the next time I visit I will bring the guitar. I finally did December 4th. At this point he was too weak to talk, but listened to the songs I was playing from a chalice hymnal, slowly bobbing his foot in beat, and grinning with his heavy eyes closed. It was the last time I saw him before he passed away.
The last picture I came across was from an event that we had a little more recently. It was called the day of happiness. It was sponsored by Consorcio NINA. A group made up of the different organizations that work with children that live in the street, or in poverty. Most of the events these groups do are educationally focused. AIDS prevention, the rights of children, hygiene, what is abuse and who do you report it to. This event was different. This was a day for them to just be kids.
They were playing a game were the person in the middle of the circle points at a person. That person then has to make their trunk, and the people on the sides have to put up the ears. There were also groups learning how to walk on stilts, painting, learning how to play the recorder, and another group learning traditional Meringue.
I know that while I have yet to stop AIDS, poverty, or removed all the children from the streets, I know that I have had made a difference by being here and sharing with the people. Plus I sill have five more months.
Alex Morse is a Global Ministries Intern serving with Caminante in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic. He works with children in Caminante's Outreach Ministry. His work is possible because of funds provided by Week of Compassion of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).