On September 22 the first of the 110-120 mph winds hit the southeastern shore of the Dominican Republic. When the dust settled the awesome destruction laid upon Santo Domingo became evident. Hundreds of people were killed, and over 200,000 left homeless. Seventy percent of the country’s bridges and 90 percent of its food crops were destroyed. In Santo Domingo alone, sixty percent of the trees were destroyed. Sabana Perdida, our host community, was no exception. Like other communities, it, too, was hit hard.
The Dominicans and the community of Sabana Perdida have been making heroic efforts to rebuild, and this summer we look forward to joining their effort. Club de Leones, one of the primary charitable assistance organizations in Sabana Perdida, immediately went to work repairing and rebuilding the roof of Melvin Jones School, which will be our home base again this sum- mer. Melvin Jones School is a project VISIONS participants completed in ’96 and has served as our home base ever since. This summer our main project is the final construction phase of a new school in the neighboring community of Majagual. We will help repair some homes in Sabana Perdida that were destroyed, and, as always, we will organize and supervise Campo de Juveniles (the children’s day camp) for some 80 local children. It’s terrific to watch our participants become leaders for local children, and they have a ball doing it.
Shortly after the Hurricane, VISIONS office in Newport began receiving concerned calls from past VISIONS alumni and their families. The desire to help was so great that ultimately VISIONS Director Joanne Pinaire contacted Peter Lynch, Grants Manager of Lions Club International in Oak Brook, IL, for assistance in facilitating the contributions. Mr. Lynch offered to establish a separate fund for incoming donations from VISIONS alumni and families so that their contributions could go directly to Club de Leones in Sabana Perdida to aid their relief efforts. Over $3,000 from VISIONS families will go directly to the rebuilding effort in Sabana Perdida. In addition, The Lions Club International donated $150,000 in relief funds to communities across the Dominican Republic.
Participants Help Out
Every summer VISIONS staff return beaming with pride for the service projects participants accomplish. And the service doesn’t stop at the end of the summer. Many VISIONS alumni continue to serve during the school year. For example, Katie Holtz- man, a ‘98 participant from Wilton High School, CT, initiated an aid drive at her school which collected over 14 boxes of clothing and sup- plies for Sabana Perdida.
Aubra Levine and Maggie Feinstein of Pittsburgh, PA, established the Batey Children’s Fund in autumn 1997 after returning from their VISIONS summer in the Dominican Republic. The fund now pays school fees for at least four Dominican children from the batey. With the fund’s help, these children may escape the cy- cle of poverty that faces them in the bateys. Aubra and Maggie will visit Sabana Perdida and their friends there this summer.
It seems students come home from the Dominican Republic with an infectious interest in continuing their service. Katherine Piggott-Tooke, Dominican Republic ’98, of the Madeira School in Baltimore was so pumped up when she got home that her school is contemplating sponsoring a student through the Fund. To Aubra, Maggie, Katie, Katherine, and the many others before them who are helping make a difference, all of us here at VISIONS home office want you to know we are very proud of you. Keep up the good work.