Since 2013 we have been volunteering in the Dominican Republic instead of Honduras
In response to a State Department Travel Warning about escalated levels of violence in Honduras, Drew University suspended travel to Honduras in 2013. [Read about this difficult decision here.] The very real economic, social, and security issues faced by Honduras are tragic and complicated and far beyond anything we can help to resolve, although we do continue to send funds to our community partners and maintain connections via social media and email. It is our hope that we will be able to return to Honduras and visit those we have known and worked beside for so many years, but until that time we will volunteer at Hogar de Niñas María Madre de Dios in Bonao, Monseñor Noel province, Dominican Republic. We have visited this children’s home and school since 2013, and when we do return to Honduras it is our hope that we can run two trips, one to DR and one to Honduras so that we can continue to work with our community partners in both locations.
Why the Dominican Republic, though?
While the Dominican Republic does not face the economic problems of Honduras, there are children without families who can support them in all countries, and the challenge to provide a safe and loving home and an empowering education is greatest where the economic opportunities are lowest. As always, DHP did not want to just swoop in to some place and impose our “help” on our own terms (see our philosophy). Rather, as we looked for a new location, we worked with known community partners to identify a place where we could serve the needs of an organization whose educational values we share and build a long-term relationship that would benefit all.
And we found one. Hogar de Niñas is home to anywhere from 39 to 70 girls whose ages range from 4 to 22. Some have no family, but most have some family members who are unfortunately unable to support them and provide an education. Many of those family members have guardianship of the girls, and often visit and welcome them into their homes for holidays. At the Hogar they find a home, sleeping in small dormitories, eating and playing together, and receiving education on site and at a local school. They also receive the social and psychological services, and the healthcare and spiritual and emotional support they need to thrive, under the care of dedicated nuns — who even join in the impromptu dance parties and exercise classes.
In our trips since 2013 we have got to know the girls and the nuns, and painted inside and out in addition to organizing English and computer classes each year. In 2015 we renovated and added to the girls’ playground and Facebook posts show them making good use of the swings, slides, and climbing frames. Check out the video from the 2015 trip and see FaceBook for more pictures — please visit and like us there! (See pictures and video from 2014 here).
Those who attended very early Drew Honduras Project trips (before we called ourselves DHP) may remember the girls at Our Little Roses (Las Rosas) in San Pedro Sula. As we sit coloring or hair braiding with the girls at Hogar de Niñas , or watch them run around in endless games, and as I watch our students connect with them beyond language, I feel that the project has come full circle. These girls face the same challenges as the girls at Las Rosas, need the same love, and benefit from our financial and physical labor perhaps even more than those girls did. And they teach us the same lessons.
Just think of us as DominicanRepublic/Honduras Project and we are still DHP. . .
MORE ABOUT THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Bonao is in the center of the country, about an hour from the major airports. We stay in a small hotel on the edge of town close to the childen’s home, and eat lunch and dinner with the children.
Check out this vimeo made by previous volunteers!