JUST MY OPINION...: Feliz Navidad, Feliz año nuevo

Grey Quills is an association of writers, adults 55+, who contribute regularly to ‘Cookz, Bookz, and NookZ,’ a website dedicated to assisting and informing seniors. Each of these vibrant and dynamic seniors is a dedicated and actively involved member of their community doing a range of volunteer work from helping schools to engineering projects providing clean drinking water in third world countries.

Eva H. is one of these writers. A retired teacher, Eva responded to the siren call of needy children in the Dominican Republic. Here’s what Eva has written about her work…

Visiting Escuela Primera in Bavaro,
Dominican Republic

Our Mission
December 2018

Six years hence that I retired from the Toronto Catholic District School Board after 41 years of teaching, one might say that children and their education were my business. I took that calling seriously with special attention to struggling students.

The year was 2012 when my husband and I celebrated our retirement with a vacation in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. We took a day tour of the city which eventually lead us to an elementary school. It appeared to be well equipped with varied resources, spacious classrooms and some sports opportunities in the schoolyard. Students wore uniforms, which we learned were provided by the government, free of charge. Our guide pointed out that this school was a good example of a privately funded initiative. Therefore, more resources were available for teachers and students.

We, however, wanted to visit a less fortunate school. So that we week, we were transported by the resort with an accompanying UNICEF agent to an inner-city school in Bavaro. We visited Las dos Jardas de Veron Escuela Primera with a student population of 115, grades 1-5, and three teachers who rotated as principal every term. We will never forget the smiling, shining faces of eager students who greeted us as we made our way into the school past piles of refuse through a derelict gate with an elderly sleeping security guard resting on a crate. We were immediately hooked, the desire to help these kids and their school was overwhelming.

In talking to knowledgeable people, we discovered that this was a public school positioned on the bottom rung of the 5-tier public school system, the American-funded schools at the top. The bottom tiered schools are left to their own devices to provide for their students’ well being and education. Clean drinking water, textbooks, notebooks, literacy books, pencils, pens, erasers, sharpeners, and the list goes on and everything scarce. These schools rely on donations. A teacher’s salary is a monthly $250.00US. Very little remains to buy supplies and to support their families.

“Our” school is a small building with three classrooms, grated windows, surrounded by a schoolyard of sand that turns to flowing mud in the rainy season. Each classroom has multiple grades and just as many levels. The grade 5 class seats 48 students with no room in between desks to pass by. Students walk on top of the desks to reach the front blackboard to answer questions. The other two classes have over 30 students in each. More elbow room is a very much desired commodity.

We soon discovered just how needy this school was. The surrounding environment needed our attention first. A concrete wall was built around the school for security during the day and to prevent vandalism at night. The girls’ and boys’ washrooms were cleaned, painted and new plumbing installed. A new iron gate was built, ceiling fans were installed in each classroom and the basketball court was resurfaced with new hoops and basketballs, thanks to SportChek. The children were wide-eyed through all this, but they were most impressed with the new basketballs.

We have transported two large boxes of school supplies each year and monetary help as well to improve education for these children. Teachers gave us lists of their needs and we then tried to accommodate those needs each trip.

I tapped into Staples, Walmart, The Shoe Company, Dollarama, SportChek and Pearl Vision. We are grateful for the fair discounts we received from them. West Jet transports our boxes free of charge as long as we are sitting on the same plane.

We have been working with this school for 6 years now, but the needs seem endless. It seems one can never do enough for them. However, it is heartwarming and gratifying to see the children using the supplies and getting ahead a little bit.

Each year we come away with the same feeling, the resolution to continue to assist the school and to return the following year. Education is the ticket out of poverty, a ticket that is very difficult to attain. Each child deserves security and education and if we can help that child by improving the path to that goal, we see success. We feel we must, and we will continue bringing our help to these needy people.

Feliz Navidad and Feliz año nuevo to everyone!

Éva H.
evahenn@sympatico.ca

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