Saturday, June 2, 2012

San Joaquin and Los Americanos

It is hard to believe we just finished our 8th week in the Dominican Republic.  In spite of our trials and challenges, we love it here and are having the greatest adventure of our lives!  This week was no exception.  The highlight of our week was our visit to the San Joaquin Escuela and the Hospital commonly known as “Los Americanos”.  We continue to be impressed deeply by the conviction and life dedication of Dominicans of means to relieve suffering among the poor.  We take so much for granted in the United States and are quick to grumble and complain if the slightest thing goes wrong or if someone encroaches on our space or sight or hearing.  Our experiences this week left us very humbled because we have seen the face of the suffering Christ and the hand of God mightily upon the people of this land.  We have no doubt God’s hand is working in so many ways among this people and we personally have felt His arm upon us guiding, teaching and making us better instruments in His hands.  We are having an adventure in following the Light of Christ.  What a unique and powerful blessing it is for us!  We wish we could adequately explain it.

                                                              Figure 139 Youth doing service
This young man goes every Sunday to pick up this older gentleman for church.  We arrived in time to go get him in our blue car which helped him a lot.  They were both so appreciative.


We learned that all public schools here in the Dominican Republic are marked in distinctive colors.  The students everywhere wear light blue shirts.  The vertical and horizontal members of the exterior fence of schools are always painted yellow.  The fence panel is left plain grey block.  The exterior walls of the school itself are always painted yellow and the interior rooms are green or a combination of yellow or green.  The yellow and green match the color of the cross and the green the branches on the Dominican Flag.

                                                                    Figure 140 School Children

Our project with the School started with a request to us from the bishopric of the ward to buy paint for the school.  We visited with them about welfare principals and the importance for members of the ward to learn leadership and experience a practical application of these principals.  As a result they took the request back, called a specialist and arranged a meeting with the school and us.  This process is working beautifully!  The members are excited.  The school administrator got excited, called members of the school board to be part of the committee and contribute in positive ways—so the parents are now involved.  The local ward members took charge of the meeting, began with a word of prayer and developed a wonderful project.  We hardly participated at all---exactly what should happen. 

As we toured the school we suggested the project be expanded a little bit to include a repair of the fence and repair of the bathrooms that haven’t worked for a very long time. 

As we were discussing the project, they asked us to explain what we do in the country and the type of projects we work on.  They were very moved and appreciative of what we do.  They spoke of their own efforts to relieve suffering among their people and were nearly brought to tears as they spoke of their own experiences.

As we were standing around the flag pole at the close of the session, I was suddenly struck with the inspiration that the children should be involved in the project somehow.

                                                                    Figure 142 School Committee

 I suggested to the school director and parents that the children be told of the miracle about to develop at their school and there was going to a “renewing” of the school, school spirit and hopes for the future so the children would have the opportunity to prepare a program of singing and talents.  Then when the children are on vacation, we will have a contractor come fix the fence, a plumber to fix the bathrooms and the parents of the school and the youth of the local ward will paint the building.  When the children come back their school will have received a new face lift which they will celebrate with singing and talents.

                                                          Figure 143 San Joaquin Classroom
 We did not tell them, but we intend to invite the mayor of the city to the program so he can present them a new Dominican flag that we buy for him to present to the school for their flag pole.  We will see how things develop in reality, but none of it would have happened if we had not proceeded as we were inspired.

                                                                     Figure 144 Sister Perez and Edith
The Perez family showed us around the neighborhood.  The following are a few street scenes. 

                                                                    Figure 145 Horse fruit cart

                                                                  Figure 146 Street Vendor

                                                                        Figure 147 Garbage Truck
There are designated places throughout the city where people understand they are to dump their household garbage on the sidewalk where the garbage men will eventually come by to pick it up.  Nobody pays them any mind.  This one happens to be right across the street from the ward building in San Vicente where the San Joaquin school is located.

Note the plastic bottle recycle operation on top of someone’s house in the following picture. 

                                                              Figure 148 Street scene in San Vicente
The Perez family served us lunch of “La Bandera” (rice, beans  “habichuelas” and chicken) in their home before we left.  We get nervous eating in people’s homes, but we cannot refuse without being rude.  Sister Perez loves Edith and always made sure there was a flower in Edith’s hair.  Several times Edith was alone with Sister Perez.  Edith couldn’t understand much of what was said, but that didn’t stop the living conversation!

                                                       Figure 149 Lunch of La Bandera with Perez family

 Centro Cristianos De Servicios Medicos, Inc. was started by William Hunter as a Christian humanitarian missionary, as a service to the poor in the Dominican Republic in 1970 with his friend John Shannon. (The hospital became known as “Los Americanos” because they were US citizens).  They provided lenses and low cost care for vision problems.  In 1979 the home they used for their clinic was completely destroyed by hurricane David.  William Hunter decided to permanently moved to the Dominican Republic and to build a more permanent structure.  In 1985 with a land grant from the government, the Los Americanos Hospital Dr. Elias Santana was built in Los Alcarrizos.  They now have several centers throughout the Dominican Republic that offer low cost Vision care to the poor. The facilities also serve as a Graduate School in ophthalmology for theUniversidad Nacional Pedro H. National University Pedro H.Ureña y centro de entrenamiento para nuevas carreras de Urena and training center for new careers in eye care, surgical assistants, nurses and five surgical specialties in ophthalmology. asistencia oftálmica,asistentes quirúrgicos,enfermeras de cirugía y cinco especialidades de laThe hospital is comprised of doctors who donate one day of the week and operations for patients in their specialty.para atender y operar pacientes dentro de su especialidad. Thisoftalmología. specialization program is considered one of the bestformación en oftalmología en América Latina. training centers in ophthalmology in Latin America. Last year they saw 80,000 new patients.  The Hospital currently services about 600 patients a day.
                                                        Figure 150 Doctor at Los Americanos Hospital
We were able to complete a project the Church had started with the hospital before we arrived by delivering some delicate vision equipment to the hospital.  It was a choice experience for us.  We saw hundreds of patients, patiently waiting their turn.  It was amazing to recognize they do indeed service as many as 600 patients a day.  They operate on a shoestring budget with mostly faith that each day things will work out—and they do.  They spoke of their faith in God and the guiding hand of Christ in all they do. 

     Figure 151 Master Surgeon by Nathan Greene

They operate on the principal of accountability and self-sufficiency.  Each of their doctors donates a full day each week.  They do not turn anyone away who cannot pay, but everyone pays what he can.  Again we were humbled by their circumstances.  We concluded we will be happy if we can have just a small little corner in the same heaven where they will receive their just reward of a crown of glory in the next life!  We have not seen anything like this in the United States where so many people in so many places wear out their lives in the benefit of their fellow men to relieve suffering wherever it is found! We are truly blessed to be here!


  1. 1. It's great to see all the churches doing so much good!

    2. Celebrations like the one you envision at the school are an important key in the success Care For Life reports in Mozambique, Africa.

  2. Great report. Thank you for bringing us up to date.