Volunteer Service in the DR
Dominican Outreach has partnered with Dominican Republic Civil Defence to ship children's relief across the border tonight(January 16, 2010). Local supermarkets have donated bread, water, and powdered milk. Dominican Outreach has provided children clothes, dignity packets, and personal hygene items. Thanks to all the volunteers who came down during Christmas break we had a large amount of donations from Pat and Wayne, a Menonite family, groups from Calgary, Brandon, Winnepeg, and Nova Scotia. Thanks to our Canadian volunteers many lives will be saved and provided relief. Maureen Moore from Whitehorse and Marta Hayden Johnson of Dominican Outreach spearhead the effort.
I just returned from two days in Haiti outside the city of Port au Prince, 95 miles to the north. I was contacted by two aid organizations to survey areas for setting up tents to house refugees. After the rescue operations cease, the next major operation will be getting shelter, food, clean water, and sanitation to the earthquake victims. Yesterday I saw thousands of people migrating north to the border. Many people I interviewed were relatively wealthy people who could afford to hire cars and get out of the city and bribe their way across the border in Dajabon. A second wave of people with modest means were also moving to the border area. This migration from the disaster zone mirrored my work in Iraq in 1991 with refugees. After a few days when food runs out and people become increasingly exposed will migrate to border regions where there is stable infrastructure. We saw the same pattern of social groups. First it was the wealthy and well connected who were able to escape followed by middle class folks. The poor were the last to be served. When food and supplies get to the poor in Port au Prince, they will leave too. Huge waves of people are expected to move to border areas in the next couple of weeks
In the Cap Hatien area, 95 miles to the north of the Haitian capital I surveyed three camp groups areas owned by religious groups. Two of the three have adequate water, toilets, storage facilities, and feeding centers to service temporary populations of regugees up to 10,000 each. A detailed report will soon follow.
Over the long term, schools will need to be set up, displaced children will need to be linked up with Save the Children who has an excellent system to carefully reunite children with families. One of the major concerns will be human trafficking as desperate people will be vulnerable and tempted to sell children and famiy members to trafficking cartels, illegal adoption agents, and prostitution rings in order to survive.
The Dominican Republic will be impacted by refugee populations. At present the border is not adequately protected. People will cross at will unless thousands of soldiers are moved to the border areas. Communities such as Dajabon, Monti Cristi, and even Puerto Plata will be affected. Camps need to be set up on both sides of the border. It is in the interest of the DOminican Republic to be proactive.
Father Dale A. Johnson
Saint Ephrem Mission
3:24 PM - Jan. 16, 2010
This has been a great month for volunteers. We have had people from Canada, United States and England. Is is so affirming to have people come who see the work being done and want to help. Usually people write first and then we design a custom experience for them whether that be a few hours, days, weeks, or months.
10:27 PM - Dec. 28, 2009
Sam McKie has been a great help this month. He has assisted Father Dale in religious services provided to English speaking folks who live in the Dominican Republic. Sam attended a Lutheran Seminary and is able to provide the kind of insight and feedback needed to make a ministry successful.
10:22 PM - Dec. 28, 2009
This years we have been providing water and religious services for men and women in jail. At Christmas we feed 50 prisoners. If you are poor and go to jail you must have someone bring you food and water. The jail does not provide it. 20-30 people are packed in cells no bigger than 10 by 10 feet. There are no beds. A pot is provided for urine and feces.
10:15 PM - Dec. 28, 2009
The children of the streets and barrios of Puerto Plata want to thank all the people who helped with making Christmas possible and bearable. This year we provided gifts of school supplies to children of women who are victims of human trafficking. These are the invisible victims of this kind of criminal activity.
10:04 PM - Dec. 28, 2009
On Christmas Day we feed 80 children in the barrio of Los Canita. We were assisted by 10 volunteers. Ron and Delores and their three children from Calgary and a group of 5 physicians and social workers from New York. The volunteers remarked at how grateful were the children and the amount of food they ate. When you are hungry this is no surprise.
9:59 PM - Dec. 28, 2009
For four years Dominican Outreach has worked with local police and various social workers to provide services to vulnerable street children. For the last two years we have taken 200 children to camp. These are children who would have no opportunity like this to get the intellectual, social, and psychological stimulation they so desperately need. Before Christmas we distributed 200 presents. Some of the presents went to the children of the police but I figure this is a thankyou for their cooperation and work.
9:47 PM - Dec. 28, 2009
2009 Street Census Report
by the Reverend Father Dale A.
Johnson, with Deborah Almond and Elissa Duncan
Director of Dominican Outreach and Pare Ahora Trafico Humano
For 2009 Dominican Outreach has focused on measuring AIDS/HIV knowledge and Human Trafficking. Our previous four census activities in various barrios in the Puerto Plata region have shown data that pointed us to two areas of concern driven by poverty: disease and human trafficking.
Dominican Outreach is an NGO based on the North Shore of the Dominican Republic dedicated to serving the abandoned, neglected, and homeless. This year we have established a subsidiary program called Pare Ahora Trafico Humano (PATH) as a result of previous census work. Over the last four years we have interviewed nearly 700 women and children in the poorest barrios of the Puerta Plata region. We share this database of information with local, regional, national, and international agencies who share common interests.
Preparation and Development of Tools
The census this year was done in four stages:
Some of the first questions designed for the annual census focused this year on Human Trafficking did not work the way they were intended, either because of lack of background information in the person being questioned or the Spanish needs to be adjusted to a more colloquial form. Once the census gets underway in October every question was asked exactly the same way. This was important to get reliable and consistent data. This was the main driving force in our census protocol. Out street protocol also included working in groups of no less than two people to provide a level of safety. Father Johnson made initial contacts and invited the prospective women and children needed for the census. Nearly 80 were interviewed over the course of two months. Once the women and children agreed to be interviewed then they were interviewed by a female census taker. This protocol worked well due to the nature of the questions. Occasionally Father Johnson would have to talk to a pimp or jefe who were generally cooperative once they were assured of privacy and the nature of the census.
Principal Census Takers
This year we have had the most passionate, intelligent, and dedicated volunteers. They are as follows:
Debbie Almond is from University College London, who with other volunteers perfected census questions based on World Health Organization guidelines and trial questions asked of women and children in Puerto Plata. Debbie focused on questions related to HIV/AIDS inflection rates and sources in the Puerto Plata area.
Elissa Duncan is from Houston Texas. She is an under-graduate of Teas A & M University and is interested in Human Rights. She is in the DR until December. She has joined the Dominican Outreach census team and interviews sample populations to determine the depth of Human Trafficking issues including domestic labor of children and sex trafficking. She speaks three languages and is a big help in the field.
Flora, a Dominican woman whose family is from Navarette joined our census team to help with the interviewing of women who are victims of human trafficking. She was been a big help in formulating questions that can get at the information needed to do a report expected in December for various human rights organizations. Flora has only a few years of education but is very intelligent and observant in the indigenous features of Dominican society.
Father Dale A. Johnson has worked for 20 years in the field of Human Rights mainly in Iraq and Turkey for 14 years with organizations related to the World Council of Churches. He has also worked for various NGOs in China, South Africa, and for the last six years in the Dominican Republic.
After nearly 80 interviews we have discovered that there are four levels of Human Trafficking as related to sex workers.
On average these women had two children. These are the real victims of this form of human trafficking. Often they did not live with their mother but with relatives who are hardly able to care for the children themselves. We received reports of these children being passed around from relative to relative.
In some of the Dominican barrios we found children who were indentured servants. On average children were purchased for about $150. Sometimes they would come from Haiti and some were from the Dominican Republic. We were quite surprised as to how open and candid people were about this issue. Almost all these children did not go to school.
The depth of the problem is tragic and enormous affecting a high percentage of the population. It negatively affects education, health, family structures and strengthens the cycle of poverty. It will eventually cause the collapse of the State as we have seen an increase each year in the number of women and children working the street.
December 10, 2009
Sample Interviews on Human Trafficking
2009, Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
Principal interviewer: Elissa Duncan, Texas Tech University
PATH Survey I
September 19th of 2009
Junior, 12 years old. 7th grade at Colegio de Santa Cosa (?), Maestro Calina (?)
Renando, 11 years old. 5th grade at Colegio de Veranza (?), Maestro Alexander
Carlos Manual, 13 years old. 4th grade at Colegio de ? in PUCMM.. Maestro Syla
All three boys are Dominican and live in Costambar. They have seen child workers on the beach but they themselves are not among them. They see other kids selling foods like eggs, and when inquired about abuse, they mentioned that they have seen kids that have been beaten up on their arms.
Carolten, 42 years old.
(Sidebar note: May be parts in which the communication on the part of both parties was unclear because the following report sounds conflicting)
Domingo, 10 years old. Dominican.
Alex, 8 years old. Dominican.
Dome, 7 years old. Dominican.
Marfano, 10 years old. Haitian.
Domingo, Alex and Dome are brothers, and are workers on the beach. None of the four boys attend school. They sell bottles of beer and earn up to 10 pesos a day. The brothers give their money to their parents, whom are unemployed. Marfano is not a worker on the beach but his father is. His mother is unemployed. Marfano mentions that he knows of five children that work in Costumbar, ages 6, 8, and 9. These kids make their money by selling sweets. None of the kids known of any others that are domestic workers.
Surveys 2 took place in Puerta Plata, Dominican Republic
on Saturday, October 3rd of 2009
El Consulado Bar
The janitor, 53, has worked in El Consulado for ten months. She pays the boss two thousand pesos every fifteen days. Whether it was the wages of the sex workers is unclear. She does not pay to leave the building, due to her role as a minisupervisor of the women and the ´middleman´ between the women and the boss. When inquired about what happens to the women when they don´t have the required 400 pesos to leave, she refused to answer. The same question was asked of the youngest sex worker, and when asked if the women stay the night in the facility if they do not have the money, she replied affirmatively.
Outside of El Consulado
Due to her proximity to the club and of the nature of her clothing, a 43 year-old Dominican woman was also questioned as a part of this survey. She stated that she did have her identification with her and lives in the building next door to El Consulado. She mentioned that her brother works inside the club, although she herself is not affiliated with the club. When inquired about how long El Consulado has been open, she said fifteen years.
Down the street from El Consulado, in front of La Canita
A young male, 14 and presumably Haitian, was walking down the street with a fellow child worker. He had in his possession a box of shoe shining material. The other boy was carrying a large bowl of sweets, and was questioned by another PATH volunteer regarding matters of health and HIV/AIDS. When asked if he was Dominican, he replied affirmatively. When inquired if he spoke Creole, he also replied affirmatively. Throughout the conversation, the boy had difficulty understanding Spanish. He mentioned that he had a jefe, a boss, and that he goes to school. The name of the school was unclear. He pays his jefe, who has five other boys under him, 15 pesos per day, and works all week. His parents also work. He has no identification with him and when asked, he said that nothing will happen to the boys if they do not pay their jefe.
Survey 3 was done on Saturday, October 10th, 2009. Survey 5 was done on Thursday, October 15th, 2009.
Interview One: Streets of Puerta Plata Six street workers were interviewed on the streets of Puerta Plata, next to the beach. Three were children and three were adults. The first two boys to be interviewed, both 14, Haitian and brothers, were interviewed at Dave´s Bar and Grill. The two brothers, who live in Padre Granero, are both orphans who were brought over the Haiti-Dominican Republic border by around eight people. They live alone but there are other people in the house. The boys have a jefe that checks on them weekly. The boys earn about fifty pesos a day, in which they pay their older brother. Their older brother, in turn, pays the wages of the brothers to the jefe. Failure to pay the wages results in not being fed. Both boys know of other boys in the same situation, and also have had their family and other boys threatened, beaten. Both boys have their birth papers but do not go to school. When asked what they would like to do, both stated that attending school was what they desired. When asked if they could leave the job if they wished, both replied affirmatively. The boys do not know of any domestic workers. (When it was apparent that the interview was being overheard by two Dominican women, the interview location was moved down the street to an open-air resturant next to the beach) At the new location, another boy was interviewed. The Haitian, aged 12, lives in Agua Negra with his aunt. He shines shoes and has a boss. When asked if he could change jobs, he replied affirmatively. He does not go to school, nor has he ever. He does not have an ID card, came here on a ´big´ bus, and reported that his boss has not threatened him. One man, Haiti-born and 34, is a street worker who currently lives in Puerta Plata. He sells paintings that he buys from other people. In Haiti, he went to school until age 21 when he graduated from University.. He does not have a boss, and came to the DR voluntarily with a business partner. He has his ID card. Some days he makes money, while other days are not profitable. Because of his proximity to and frequent encounters with the street children, he is a trusted source of information for PATH. When inquired about domestic slaves, he mentioned that he did not know of any.. He does, however, know of an estimated fifty children that work the streets of Puerta Plata. He mentioned that he knows that some people will buy the children and bring them to Puerta Plata to work. At this interval in the interview, Father Dale Johnson recounts a story that this same man had told him regarding an abduction of a young Haitian girl. The twelve year-old was abducted from the street, had her hands bound by rope and her mouth duct taped. The police were soon notified, but yelled at the girl rather than putting their attention on the kidnappers. Another Dominican man, aged 55, sells mahogany boxes to tourists. He does not have a boss, went to school in the past and now sells mahogany boxes. He stated that each day varies- some days are more profitable than others, earning upwards of $1,000 RD pesos. He also watches out for the street kids. When asked if the boys are ever beaten by their jefes, he replied affirmatively and indicated towards his body. One time he had tried to help the boys out and got beat as well. The jefes are usually mad because the kids have not earned their goal money for the day. He stated that POLITUR, the Dominican police for tourists, have been known to arrest the street kid workers. The last of the men to be questioned at this location was a 48-year-old Dominican man, physically-disabled and gets around on crutches.. He makes his living by begging on the streets for about three to four hours a day. He knows of three kids in particular that are domestic workers, children ranging from ages 5 to 12. They clean clothes and plates, as well as cook dinner. They work during the day, go to school at night and live with their parents. The wages they earn from working at the houses goes to their parents.
Interview 2: Jewelry store one block down from the beach-side resturant The owner of a business store, estimated age to be 38, was a former street kid. In telling about his life, he mentioned that his family had made him attend school at nighttime after working the streets during the day. He has quite a few engineers in his large family. As far as his jewelry business is concerned, he serves a dual purpose- to keep the kids off of his doorstep where they could hinder business, but also to teach them about jewelry. In talking about POLITUR, he continued from what the previous man had said about child street kids being arrested. He further clarified saying that POLITUR´s job is to protect the tourists from robberies and rip-offs in which the street kids are sometimes accused of.
Interview Three: Cofrantine, in front of the club Tipico Puerta Plata In this survey, two separate groups were questioned. The first group was a group of local streetworkers and the second, a couple of adults. Of the four street kids that were interviewed, three were Dominican and one was Haitian. Their ages were 12, 13, 14 and 16. Two were brothers, and all four live in Javillar. All are shoe shiners earning 10 pesos per shoe. During this interview, there were four men watching the questioning. None of the boys have a boss. One goes to school at La Cortatella, two do not, and one previously did. When asked, two of the boys said they could leave their job if the wanted. The other two were not asked this question. Three of the four boys have been working for a year, the fourth was not asked this question. The sixteen-year-old gives his money to his mom.. On a good day, he makes upwards of 200 pesos a day. None of the boys know of any domestic workers. All stated that none suffer abuse if they do not make wages from the day´s work. Also, they stated that they only know of each other that work the streets in shining shoes. Of the two that were asked, only the sixteen-year-old has his birth papers, while the twelve-year old does not. The fourteen year-old was asked if he had his ID card in which he replied negatively. Neither he nor the thirteen year-old were asked about their birth papers. Of the two boys that have been in school, both have been in school for at least four years, with the fourteen year-old in school for half a year longer. The second survey done in this same location involved a Dominican male, 30 years old; and a Dominican female, 40 and a worker in the snack area across from Tipico Puerta Plata. The two were interviewed about Tipico Puerta Plata and of what occurs there at nighttime. The man said that this place has been there for about four years, and is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The hours of operation are 6am to 2am. The man also stated that the owner of Tipico Puerta Plata is a male, aged 50. He also mentioned three women who are regular workers there, and have a boss that they pay. He mentioned that the jefe gets 10,000 pesos for the women but whether it was the jefe of the three women, or the owner is uncertain; as well as the fact that whether is was the wages of the three women or all the women working there. He also informed that the women do not life with their jefe, but rather, inside their own houses. He also stated that the no girls are sold there. If the women do not make their wages for the night, they suffer abuse such as being punched in the face. The women are ages ranging from twenty to thirty. When asked about another business similar to Tipico Puerta Plata, the man wrote down on the interview sheet, a place called Cubacana. The woman affirmed the same things that the man has said, occasionally inserting information aobut the place when the man did not know and had questioned her. When interviewed, she had this to add: thirteen women work at this place, but ten are voluntary workers. The other three women have a boss. When inquired, the woman informed that if the men want sex with the women, then they go to another location to do so.
FOURTH Interview: Super Cabana Hollywood When walking into Super Cabana Hollywood, this interviewer saw two adult females on the left side of the building next to a bowl of free condoms. A male around the ages of 25-35 was briefly questioned about the cabanas. He stated that both poor and rich men come here. They pay prices ranging from $320 to $400 Dominican pesos, depending on the styles of the room. Each room is available in four hour slots. At the time the interview was done, three cabanas out of twenty five were counted to have cars in the garages. When asked, the men said that the women that come here are either prostitutes, a girlfriend or the wife of the men. Father Dale Johnson also inserted a tidbit of information about the cabanas: He mentioned that the former president of the Dominican Republic, from the White Partido had created forty cabanas with money given from the Chinese government.
FIFTH Interview: A side street from Calle Avenida Sadhala Santiago, Dominican Republic Three street kids were interviewed. There was one Haitian and two Dominicans. The Haitian does not have a boss and lives in Santiago with his mother, with whom he crosses the Haitian- Dominican border with at age 11. He does not have a ID card but has birth papers back in Haiti. He occasionally goes to school, and can make 300 pesos on a good day. He workes all day, and later, gives his money to his mother. He does not know any domestic workers nor of any trafficked victims. He would like to be a car mechanic. The two Dominican boys, ages 11 and 13 are also shoe shiners. The two have a lot in common- they both live in Santiago, do not know any street kids with jefes, go to school, can leave their job if they want, have birth papers and do not know of any domestic workers. Both, like the previous boy to be interviewed, give their money to their mother. They occasionally make sometimes 50 up to 200 pesos on a good day. When asked what they would like to do when they are older, the thirteen year-old said that he wants to be a boxer, and the eleven year-old wants to be a gardener.
HIV/AIDS Awareness Report 2009: Puerto Plata
I am a graduate from University College London in Human Sciences BSc (2008). The multidisciplinary nature of this degree was reflected in my dissertation, which argued the need for an autonomous voice for HIV vaccine trial volunteers in Uganda, as well as addressing the virology of the disease and why there is still no HIV vaccine.
The unique nature of HIV/AIDS, in both the biological and social sense, has always been of great interest to me and is what led me to the Dominican Republic. I chose this country because of the lack of clear and recent information available on the epidemic that represents all communities affected in comparison with many African countries and the complex attitudes people have towards the disease and methods used to prevent HIV transmission.
I am a self-funded and independent volunteer gaining valuable experience in order to return to university in London and pursue a career in public health. I have been living in Puerto Plata for 4 months and hope to remain in the city until July 2010. I am grateful to Father Dale Johnson for giving me the opportunity to work with him and his organisation and for introducing me to the people that kindly took part in my surveys.
This small study was inspired by a statistic provided by UNAIDS that in 2007 only 34% of males and 41% females aged 15-24 could correctly identify two ways of preventing the sexual transmission of HIV and reject two misconceptions about HIV transmission (World Health Organisation, UNAIDS, UNICEF, 2008, Epidemiological fact sheet on HIV and AIDS, Dominican Republic:14). Education as to how HIV and AIDS is transmitted and how it is not transmitted is considered the cornerstone of prevention. This relates not only to the disease itself but also to the discrimination and stigmatisation that so often accompanies it.
This study aims to determine the extent of HIV and AIDS general knowledge in a slightly older age range of 18-36, whether there is any relation between this and the self-reported number of years they spent in formal education and whether there are misconceptions or gaps in knowledge that are more common than others. Other trends and areas of interest are also highlighted as possible areas of future research.
So that the results could be expressed in a similar way to UNAIDS Epidemiological Fact Sheet on HIV and AIDS, 2008 Update, the survey was constructed using closed questions usually requiring a true/false, yes/no or numerical answer. The greatest barrier was language, which the survey design sought to address but was not entirely successful in doing so.
Due to the large number of limitations and possible ambiguities that are discussed throughout, these surveys should be seen only as an initial step towards ascertaining the level of general knowledge people in the Puerto Plata area have. It serves to bring greater attention to the need for a consistent educational policy in the area of HIV/AIDS/STI prevention, discrimination and stigmatisation as part of a sustainable and effective plan.
Each location and the amount of time spent there was decided by Father Dale. The participant was approached by Father Dale the majority of the time and asked if they would like to take part in a short health survey regarding HIV and AIDS. These participants were of varying ages and backgrounds and their anonymity was ensured.
The surveys took place in various towns in the Northern Province, namely Costambar, Sosua and Puerto Plata city. Emphasis is not placed on where in particular these surveys were carried out as on some weeks up to 12 people participated whilst on others there were only 2, therefore meaningful conclusions cannot be drawn based on place. All participants took part anonymously and out of respect for their privacy their profession was not asked for regardless of the area or building we were in. In many cases, in regards to the female participants, the occupation was explicitly talked about by them but in the interests of consistency it was not recorded. If a young woman was asked if she would like to take part in the survey whilst she walked past in the street, it would have been completely inappropriate to ask how she supported herself or her family and would not be conducive to creating good rapport between the interviewer and interviewee. This study focuses on general knowledge of HIV and AIDS and the misconceptions surrounding it and so specifically who was asked and where is not included in the analysis as the sample size is not big enough or representative. This could be addressed in more formally constructed studies in an appropriate setting.
The greatest problem in the development of this survey was how to construct it in a way that would ask the question intended instead of a literal translation meaning something different to Dominicans. The World Health Survey 2002 guidelines for interviewing techniques include advice such as read each question as it is written and in the correct order and to clarify the question when asked. When addressing translation, guidelines suggest the interviewer ensures conceptual equivalence, uniform comprehension by the respondents and applicability to the widest audience (http://www.who.int/healthinfo/survey/training/en/index.html). This was done with the help of a Dominican translator but there is of course the possibility the questions asked had slightly altered significance. A preliminary survey was carried out on a small sample of younger people to ascertain the types of questions that would and would not work. As a result a survey of 30 questions divided into 6 sections including general information, current health status, contact with HIV or AIDS, general knowledge of HIV and AIDS, common misconceptions and personal opinions was developed.
Despite the preliminary surveys and further research into how the final survey can be controlled and legitimised, there were some questions that did not always work and some people that did not at first understand what was being asked of them. For example, Q13 drew mixed responses as many participants simply guessed the last time they saw a healthcare provider and openly said they did not know. Q26 and Q27 proved to be too ambiguous to be included as the level of knowledge a person may have or the attitude they have to HIV and AIDS caused their answer to be subjective and harder to categorise as right or wrong. In some cases the concept of true or false was difficult as the participant would instead insist on answering yes or no, which could slightly change the meaning of the question. This was overcome with further explanation or probing to establish the intended answer; however this inevitably deviated from the ideal of asking each person each question in an identical manner. Furthermore, as the weeks continued and more surveys were completed it became clear that some of the information being gathered was not relevant. Because of this, the survey shown below highlights only the questions valid to the conclusions drawn and subsequent discussion.
Health Survey Regarding HIV and AIDS in Puerto Plata
A.) GENERAL INFORMATION:
B.) CURRENT HEALTH STATUS
3 months 6 months 1 year
C.) CONTACT WITH HIV OR AIDS
D.) GENERAL KNOWLEDGE OF HIV AND AIDS
T F DK
Kissing Touching Unprotected sex
Sharing cutlery Mosquito bites Sharing a house
Contact with an infected person’s blood Sharing needles
T F DK
E.) COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS
Always Sometimes Never
F.) PERSONAL OPINION
T F DK
T F DK
Due to the number of questions in the survey, only the results reflecting the most notable trends or interesting findings that are relevant to the final conclusions are included here. Although the original survey was structured around 6 sections (A-F), they are not used in the analysis of the results and the correct order of questions is not necessarily followed. This section begins with basic information relating to participants.
1. How old are you?
The majority of the people that took part in the survey were in their 20s. Adults outside of this group up until one 36 year old were also included to increase the sample size.
9:29 AM - Dec. 18, 2009
Volunteer Service in the DR
Haitians cross Dominican border to escape the misery of dire poverty
By Dennis Sadowski
Catholic News Service
OUANAMINTHE, Haiti (CNS) -- During the afternoons before market days, strangers begin showing up in town. Twice a week, like clockwork.
They congregate in small groups in the city park, at taxi stops, on street corners. They eye the streets, looking for ways to blend in. But the residents of Ouanaminthe know well what these newcomers are plotting. Some local residents may even join them.
These strangers -- fellow Haitians -- have one goal: entering the Dominican Republic in a bid to escape the dire poverty that engulfs Haiti. Faced with 70 percent unemployment and corresponding severe human needs, Haitians constantly make their way to the border town of Ouanaminthe seeking the promise of a better life.
Their plan is to join the throng of Haitians who will cross the border unimpeded into Dajabon the next morning as they head for the twice-weekly market just beyond the arch that welcomes visitors to the Dominican border town.
The market is where Haitians and Dominicans buy and sell goods each Monday and Friday. The atmosphere during the hours before the 9 a.m. border opening is frenzied as thousands gather at the most vital commercial exchange center on the Haitian-Dominican frontier. Men pulling weather-worn wooden carts and kids pushing wheelbarrows compete with panel trucks, buses and motor scooters belching acrid diesel fumes for position at the foot of the bridge that will carry them over the Massacre River into Dajabon.
It's an easy place for Haitians to cross unnoticed into a country where the government works and life is not nearly as harsh.
Alejandro Robles, director of the Labor Rights Center, a program of Jesuit Refugee and Migrant Services in Dajabon, said that by afternoon on market days Haitians will have begun to disperse, some on buses that will take them into the interior of the Dominican Republic and others on foot to the nearby fertile farms.
The border crossing at Ouanaminthe-Dajabon is the farthest north and the busiest of the three official entry points shared by the two countries. But there are 88 points along the 193-mile border where "buscon" -- smugglers -- take people across secretly for a fee, explained Leonard Jean, an attorney with the Jesuit Refugee and Migrant Services' Jano Sikse Border Network in Ouanaminthe.
"They promise the people they will have a better life when they get there," Jean said.
The network welcomes Haitians who have been deported by the Dominican government. It works in conjunction with a similar welcoming center for women run by the Sisters of St. John the Evangelist across town.
Between May 1 and July 31, the network and the Catholic aid agency Caritas Haiti assisted 1,334 repatriated Haitians who had been taken into custody by Dominican authorities in raids on worksites and "bateyes," communities of makeshift houses or barracks built for Haitian workers.
"The men, when they return, they are in really bad shape," Jean said. "They do hard labor in the Dominican Republic so they return in bad shape."
Most often, Haitian men land jobs in the Dominican Republic in construction or as farm laborers, harvesting rice, melons, corn, tomatoes or sugar cane. They may earn as much as 4,000 Dominican pesos, about $115, a month. In contrast, Haiti's per capita income is about $33 per month.
Women also work in the fields, but are more likely to sell prepared food in the bateyes or end up working as domestic help.
Robles said as many as 2 million undocumented Haitians live in the Dominican Republic. Even though a few thousand are returned annually -- the government keeps no exact count -- the chance of any particular Haitian being rounded up is slim.
In late October, the tide of Haitians being returned slowed to a trickle. Jean attributed the slowdown to the violent killing Oct. 20 of four Haitians who were discovered in the Dominican countryside illegally cutting and burning trees to make charcoal, a widely used commodity back home. Details surrounding the murders were sketchy. Robles' program has demanded the government investigate.
The furor that erupted over the deaths illustrates the long-standing conflicts that exist between Haitians and Dominicans over migration.
Haitians believe the killings are indicative of the deep hatred Dominicans feel toward them. Some Dominican news reports focused on the environmental damage the Haitians were causing, seeming to imply the deaths were justified.
Bishop Chibly Langlois of Fort-Liberte, Haiti, said in an Oct. 24 interview that he believed some Dominicans harbor deep-seated discrimination against Haitians and readily violate Dominican laws governing the rights of workers, documented or undocumented.
"Once (Haitians) cross over there they are in a country where they are not welcome and the government is not looking forward to helping," the bishop said.
Many Dominicans, meanwhile, believe that Haitians take much-needed jobs from poor Dominicans. As a rule, several advocates for Haitian workers told Catholic News Service, Haitians often work at jobs most Dominicans shun, and they get paid less than Dominicans for the same work.
Claudette Joseph went to the Dominican Republic twice -- in 1991 and 1994 -- and both times was deported by immigration authorities. Now living in a village built in 2001 by the European Union for repatriated Haitians near Ouanaminthe, Joseph said landowners often would renege on paying her to harvest corn and sugar cane.
"They don't like our skin color, dark," Joseph said.
The Labor Rights Center, supported by the U.S. bishops' Catholic Relief Services, has undertaken an effort to protect worker rights and ultimately ease tensions among the two peoples. A team of advocates regularly conducts workshops to help workers understand their rights under Dominican law.
Jhonny Rivas, a former farm laborer who is now the center's lead organizer, said all workers, including undocumented Haitians, are governed by labor laws covering the length of the workweek, overtime pay and working conditions.
He became an organizer in 2007 after being fired because he turned down an offer to become a field foreman.
"Because I was a worker, I saw the way they abused the workers on the farms," the slightly built Dominican said. "I don't want to be a boss to the Haitians."
Rivas, 29, acknowledged that he has received threats from farm supervisors, who consider him a "troublemaker and instigator." In June, a police officer shot Rivas when he came to the aid of a Haitian worker being roughed up by the officer. Rivas subsequently was jailed after being treated at a local hospital, but was released the next day after a local Jesuit priest voluntarily joined him in jail, vowing to stay until the young organizer was let go.
Since the incident local Dominican authorities have offered to protect Rivas on his rounds in the fields.
"They have more respect for Jhonny," Robles said.
Even with such small victories, vastly improved relations between Haitians and Dominicans are a long way off, according to labor rights advocates on both sides of the border. As long as wide discrepancies in the standards of living between the two countries exist, the prospect that Haitians will simply stop crossing the border is nil, they said.
"We do work on prevention," explained Jesuit Father Kenel Senatus, who works with the Jano Sikse Border Network. "But these people will not always come to us. They want to go (across)."
11:57 AM - Nov. 26, 2009
Volunteer Service in the DR
We are broken because every relationship we have failed, every reality turned to an illusion, and every bit of righteousness within we threw away. We are the shipwrecked of the damned cast on the shore of despair and having crawled up the beach to the courtyard of the King where the poor in spirit plea before the only one who can grant peace and prosperity.
We have been lost at sea, misguided by our compass directions of neediness, self righteousness, egoism, and wickedness. We cling to a piece of wood battered by the raging sea of life, bruised by the rocks on the beach of broken dreams.
We are stripped naked by the pounding waves of our own wantonness until we have nothing left but our empty promises and false illusions. Then we discover that the wood we have been clinging to is the Cross of Jesus. What we have been holding onto has been holding us up from spiritual death in a dark ocean. The lighthouse appears and we are too weak to swim. We are lifted up by the Cross of Jesus, our life-raft of faith. We crawl to the foot of the throne and offer our nothingness to Christ the King.
In our poverty we are made rich in his love.
In our chastity we are steadfast with pleasure in serving him.
In our obedience we are free in Him.
12:27 PM - Nov. 25, 2009
In Santa Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic is a monastery ruin. It was built by the monks of St. Francis who came with Christopher Columbus to the New World. Columbus was a lay Franciscan himself. His cheif astronomer was Father Juan Perez, a Franciscan who plead Columbus' case before King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. After two failed attempts to build a colony on the island of Hispaniola, the men of Columbus build a colony on the south side of the island. It was known as Santa Dominigo. One of the very first buildings to be erected in Santa Domingo was the monastery of Saint Francis in 1508. Within a generation there were 120 monks living in the monastery and working in schools, a hospital and an orphanage they also built to serve the poor.
The monastery has had a glorious history. It was burnt to the ground by Sir Francis Drake in 1586. It was rebuilt and became the headquarters for the Franciscan Mission in the Americas including New Mexico. Its last use was as an insane asylum in 1885.
The famous Taino indian rebel Enriquillo was raised and baptized in the monastery and tutored later by the Dominican Father Bartolo de las Cases, the first human rights worker in the Caribbean who defended the rights of native Americans.
Where does this drive to serve others come from? Some say an inner light. I saw this light the other morning when I did a walking meditation around the monastery. As the sun rose in the morning sky, golden light filled the inner space of the roofless monastery. On the shadow side of the monastery I took this photograph. It represents for me an inner light.
12:00 PM - Nov. 19, 2009
Foundation is well underway for the Maria School project. Columns of rebar are up and the foundation poured. This next week we should see the flooring in place. Thanks to volunteers from Grand Valley Community church and the many volunteers who have worked so hard and raised so much.
8:44 AM - Nov. 9, 2009
About 110 children were fed by teams of volunteers from Calgary, Edmonton, and Brandon Canada who volunteered for the week with Dominican Outreach. In the morning volunteers worked at the schoolsite and in the afternoon visited and assisted at other project sites. This included a visit to the jail where water was handed out to 29 prisoners, the hospital where 63 dignity packes were given to poor women and children, a medical clinic where medical supplies were explained by a nurse from Brandon (Grace) to assist a Bill Clinton funded clinic. Other medical supplies were given to the Blind Association of Puerto Plata that also operates a medical clinic. The teams visited Mustard Seed Orphanage although interaction was limited this week by the death of one of the orphans due to medical complications. Father Dale conducted memorial prayers over the coffin and at a memorial in the orphanage. The teams visited various microloan sites and bought items to help support these emerging women owned businesses. The group met women who have been victimized by human trafficking. Monroe Doerksen of Brandon mentioned how deeply stunned he was to have met a former slave in the 21st century. Baseball equipment and clothing were distributed to needy children through various Dominican agencies.
For fun the volunteers took one day to play baseball and visit the stadium built by Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon and later in the day slide down the famous falls in Imbert. The week ended with a Sunday service celebrating an eye opening week in song and prayer.
A father and daughter, Kelly and Kelsy (14) worked together this week. It was powerful and tender to see parent and child working together to serve others. Kelly said he saw the power of community and the richness of family in the eyes of the poor this week.
8:25 AM - Nov. 9, 2009
A halloween party was held for girls who hope to find refuge in the Blaco's Kids project. Stephan Haley and Joy from Boston took photos for a project they are developing to assist the education of these and other children. Joy is in the background. She donate gifts and tierras for the girls so they could be princesses for a day.
8:18 AM - Nov. 9, 2009
Volunteers from Brandon Manitoba arrive the first week of November to assist in the development of a school for neglected, orphaned, and abandoned children. Above in Anko painting a room on the project site. He is part of a group of 9 volunteers from Grand Valley Community Church. Although not a member of the church, he wanted to be part of this exciting project with people from his hometown.
8:14 AM - Nov. 9, 2009
The need for shelter for vulnerable women and children is acute in the Dominican Republic. When social worker and psychologist Antonia heard of the Dominican Outreach project to build a school on a site which also will be a place of refuge she was quick to visit the site with Martha. You can see in the background the beginning of construction.
8:09 AM - Nov. 9, 2009
Volunteer Service in the DR
PATH Survey IV
Surveys 1 and 2 were done in Puerta Plata
on Thursday, October 22, 2009.
SURVEY ONE- On the street
One street kid, 17 and Haitian, sells candy and shoes. On a good day, he can make up to 200 pesos. Prior to coming to the Dominican Republic, he went to school in Haiti. However, he does not attend school currently. His birth papers are in Haiti but he does not have an ID card. When inquired if he knew of any street kids with a jefe, he replied affirmatively. He said that if the street kids do not make money, their jefe might be mad but that they would not suffer abuse. All of his family is in Haiti, and he paid someone to come over to the Dominican Republic, and came alone. He has no jefe. When asked if he knew of any domestic workers, he replied affirmatively. The ones that he knows of are adult Dominicans and Haitians, but that it was difficult to get to know them personally because they are always working in the house. The domestic workers can enter and leave their place of employment whenever they wish. He further stated that he knows of some Haitians that were brought over to work in the house; and some have passports while others do not.
SURVEY TWO- POLITUR, Policia Turistica
An employee of POLITUR, female and between the ages of 25-35 was questioned about the incidences of human trafficking on the Northern Coast of the Dominican Republic. When asked about the nationalities of the female sex workers that work in Sosuá and Cabarete, she replied, “Dominican, Haitian, Spanish and Dutch.” She later mentioned that the jefes of the women control them. When recruiting women to work for them, they often use that woman’s friends and family as recruitment tools. The lady further stated that some of the female sex workers are in that occupation voluntarily while others were trafficked. When questioned about the incidences of Haitian victims of human trafficking, she mentioned that their jobs range from selling drinks, construction, domestic servitude and other labor. She also stated that arms trafficking is a problem that POLITUR is aware of.
Surveys 3-5 were done in Puerta Plata
on Saturday, October 24, 2009.
SURVEY THREE- Dave’s Bar
Three males, one American, one Dominican and one Haitian were interviewed in Dave’s Bar on this day.
Prior to this interview, Father Dale Johnson of Dominican Outreach, regaled a story about how some families in the area take out loans from loan sharks and send their female relative to work off that loan. Among the various people that have been reported to participate in this activity are bar workers, sport betting parlors and lawyers. Father Dale mentioned that while prostitution is not illegal in the Dominican Republic, contract buying and using people as collateral is.
The American was a Caucasian male between the ages of ages 60 to 70. He was a former owner of a resturant called the 3 Amigos Resturant, in which girls were used as sex workers to pay off loans. In his ownership of the resturant for over a year, he knew of various women, roughly ages 16 to 25, from all over the Dominican Republic (Santiago, San Francisco de Macoris) that came to his resturant to pay off loans. Some of the girls would accept the job without reading the contract. When asked about the women who worked as sex workers, he mentioned that the pimps, also known as "Chulo", would stop by the girls on the street and tell them they that could make more profit under his supervision. Also, he mentioned some Haitian prostitues that work in a disco behind a sandwich shop. The money that the girls earn from working would be taken out of their paycheck, and would also be used in paying off the 30-50% loan interest rate. He also told of several incidents of revenge against the loan sharks that resulted in the death of four males- three bar owners and one money lender. Some were killed by driveby shootings, and he told of the fact that some people prefer to pay an illegal Haitian immigrant to work as an assassin for as little as fifty American dollars. He explained it this way- some people hire a Haitian to make it look like a robbery so the police do not investigate, and also because they are rumored to be cheaper than Dominicans.
The Dominican male, age 52, is a street worker. He has spent 45 years working on the streets as a shoe cleaner. He was born in Santiago, and now lives in Puerta Plata. He went to school for three years. When asked about how he got to his current job, he said by a "guagua" (large bus). He has his ID card in his house. Due to his proximity to the street kids, he was asked some questions about them. He said it was important for the kids to give their money to their jefes. He also told of POLITUR abusing the street kids as well as himself. He also knows of some Dominicans as domestic workers, and of more trafficked Haitians than Dominicans. When asked if his two daughters work, he said no. His dream is to have another job.
The Haitian, 18 and living in Puerta Plata, is also a shoe shiner. He said that he came here with his family and has been doing this job for six years, since age twelve. He did not work in Haiti. He said that he went to school for one year. He knows of other kids with a jefe, including his brother but he works for himself. He has his ID in Haiti, yet does not have birth papers. On a good day, he can make up to 50 pesos, and mentioned that there is no money in shoe cleaning. On the days in which he has no money, he does not eat. Also, most of his money goes towards the rented house (1,800 pesos) that he lives in with his cousin. His father is dead but mom lives in Puerta Plata. However, she does not work. When asked if she could leave his job if he wanted, he replied, "No, because there is no other job."
SURVEY 4- Yellow Beard Pub
A Dominican female, aged 19, lives with her cousin boss at this family-owned-and-run bar. During part of the interview, her cousin would make continuous eye contact with her. She lives in the pub in Puerta Plata but hails originally from Santo Domingo where the majority of her family lives. Her papers are also in Santo Domingo. She went to school for three years. When asked how she arrived at this job, she said that her cousin called her and asked her to work. In this establishment, she also has five other cousins that work alongside her. Some nights she does not make money, and some nights she makes upwards of $1,000 Dominican pesos. When asked if her cousin boss is mad is no money is made, she replied, "No." She does not have her ID card and when asked, said she could leave this job if she wanted. When asked if her family had went to someone to take out a loan, she replied affirmatively.
SURVEY 5- Victoria's Bar
The owner of Victoria's Bar, 49 and Dominican, was interviewed for this survey. She was born in the countryside near Puerta Plata but now lives inside the city. She went to school for three years in the country. The establishment is a place rentable to prostitues to do their job. It costs each sex worker 200 pesos per night to rent a room, and they can make up to one-two thousand pesos in a night. When asked where the women are from, she said Playa Oeste and Puerta Plata. There are not regular workers in this establishment because most of the women just come in to rent a room and then they leave. When asked if the women have ID cards, she said no.
Surveys 6 and 7 were done in Puerta Plata
on Saturday, October 31, 2009.
SURVEY 6- Mercado Nuevo
Three Dominican boys, two of them 12 and the other 10, were interviewed in the Market grounds. During the interview with the two twelve-year-olds, there were a couple of people eavesdropping. All three boys were born in Puerta Plata and live with their family. All three boys go to school, with the twelve year-olds having gone for 8 and 7 years; and the 10 year-old, 4 years. (When the question was asked of the twelve year old of the name of the school that they attended, one of the men in the market scrunched in closer to hear). The two twelve year olds work in the market cutting and selling fruit, while the 10 year-old does not have a job. The 10 year-old's two siblings do not have a job. The two 12 year-olds know some other kids that work in the market and have a boss. When asked how much they make on a good day, the boys responded, "one thousand pesos". The ten year old's mom and grandma has a job; and he does not know of any street kids nor of other people that work as domestic servants.
SURVEY 7- Outside of Caribe Tours, bus service
A Dominican boy, aged 10 and knowledgeable of Creole, was born in Puerta Plata. He lives here with his mother who came to Puerta Plata on a bus; and has his birth papers at his house. He knows of other street kids that have a boss, and has one himself. He went to, or has been going to school for one year. His mom has a job, and when he is done with the day's work, he gives the money to his mom. His boss is the one that gave him the box to work, has never seen/experienced abuse from his boss; and stated that there are two kids for each boss. He also said that nothing will happen to the boys if they don't have money from their day of working. He has been doing this job for two years and on a good day, he can make upwards of 500 pesos. When asked what he would like to do, he stated that he wanted another job.
10:34 AM - Nov. 7, 2009
Volunteer Service in the DR
Human trafficking interviewers for Para Ahora Trafico Humano in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic are reporting that women and children are being used as collaterol for money lenders. Poor families in the campo are reporting that money is loaned to them at high rates of interest, as much as 50%, and as security women of sexual maturity are given to the lender in exchange until the loan and interest is paid. Bar owners, sports betting agency owners, and even lawyers are implicated in this common practice. A bar owner will loan money and have a girl, usually a teenager will come and work in the bar until the loan is paid off. Sports bettering parlors will loan money and have a girl come hang around the parlor and work for sexual favors for those who win big bets. Even an attorney was reported to have loaned money to a person in exchange for a teenage girl.
These practices are dispicable to say the least but it is not considered immoral or even illegal. At some level it is illegal but police have no capacity to investigate these crimes they report.
Access to credit by the poor are at the heart of this problem. Because they cannot go to banks they resort to predatory lenders.
A solutions to this is microfinance such as Esperanza International. But even this is restrictive to the poor as money is loaned only to those who are willing to operate a business.
11:24 AM - Oct. 24, 2009
Volunteer Service in the DR
In addition to the charges of sexual misconduct with underage girls and irresponsible paternity issues, Deputy Julio Romero is also being accused of illegal human trafficking. Former Migration Director Taina Gautreau said that Romero, the PRD deputy for Santo Domingo, "ran a major 'consulate' from his home." Gautreau said that Romero was the largest organizer of illegal trips in Santo Domingo East. She said that, "he even went as far as to trick young women, offering them the trips of their dreams." Gautreau, who was the head of Migration in 1996, also said that on that occasion the legislator threatened to kill her with an Uzi machine gun that he was carrying at that time. She said, "He warned me that if anything happened to him, I would be responsible".
11:14 AM - Oct. 24, 2009
Volunteer Service in the DR
Caroline Hames recently wrote this powerful analysis of human trafficking. It applies to the Dominican Republic. Until there is change in migration laws, trafficking will only get worse. As you read the following article think about how this applies to the Dominican Republic and the economic refugees of Haiti. By making the border along the Dominican frontier a zone of corruption without consistent policies and equal treament, irregulat Hatian migrants are forced to turn to brokers who traffick them and others into the various sectors of the Dominican economy. There is no incentive to fix immigration law. Too much money is being made by Dominicans who are also the very ones who complain and blame everything that is wrong in the DR on these Haitians.
For those who work to protect the rights of trafficked persons, the failure of the government's recent inquiry into trafficking to identify significant numbers of trafficked persons comes as no great surprise. According to the Guardian, Operation Pentameter Two, the government's latest anti-trafficking purge, was more a crackdown on prostitution than human trafficking; most of those detained were found not to have been trafficked.
Nearly 10 years after an internationally recognised definition of trafficking was adopted at the United Nations, little progress has been made towards addressing the root causes of trafficking worldwide. Instead, like the "war on terror", trafficking has become a conveniently unquantifiable phenomenon that allows governments to violate human rights, most often of non-citizens, in the name of "protecting" them. By linking trafficking with a particular industry, in this case prostitution, rather than looking at more complex factors which are causing people to be trafficked into the UK, the government is failing to address severe exploitation within its borders.
One month ago the French authorities destroyed the "jungle", a migrant camp in Calais that was home to hundreds of migrants hoping to reach British shores. While many politicians and media reports lauded the successful destruction of the camp, success was measured by the numbers of homes destroyed and migrants disbanded. Furthermore the home secretary, Alan Johnson, said the camp's destruction would not only serve to "prevent illegal immigration, but also to stop people-trafficking".
Today, many of those who were made homeless by the destruction of the "jungle" have been forced to rebuild their fragile homes in order to survive. As we watch people being deprived of their human rights, living in conditions of squalor, politicians unrepentantly continue to describe the demolition as a success.
By describing this as a way to "stop people-trafficking", Alan Johnson is painting the destruction of shelter and arbitrary detentions as a humanitarian act to save people from traffickers. This twisted logic seems even more tragic when taking into account the fact that many of the Calais migrants are seeking refuge from conflicts, such as in Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea and Somalia, which we are participating in or have instigated. It is difficult to see how these people are better protected from trafficking now that the camp has been dismantled and their living conditions are even more precarious.
The link between the treatment of migrants in Calais and the failure of the UK government's anti-trafficking purge, Operation Pentameter Two, may not be self-evident. However, the Global Alliance against Traffic in Women – a network of over 90 anti-trafficking organisations worldwide – has seen such patterns of hypocrisy repeated around the world. On the one hand the government's large-scale anti-trafficking response has been demonstrably unsuccessful in identifying traffickers; and on the other hand, there are reportedly many traffickers operating with impunity in Calais.
The secret of Operation Pentameter Two's failure is in its single-minded focus on one industry – prostitution – rather than addressing exploitation in many labour sectors in the UK. As tragic incidences of migrants being exploited in agriculture, domestic service or food production have shown, trafficking and severe labour exploitation is not limited by sector, gender or migration status. Poor labour conditions need to be improved for trafficking to be lessened in any meaningful way.
Until governments create safe work and migration opportunities, people will continue to rely on brokers and agents to acquire informal and unprotected jobs. If the government is really committed to ending trafficking, instead of focusing on detaining prostitutes or rendering migrants homeless, it must address the inconsistencies in immigration policies that seek to exclude irregular migrants and anti-trafficking policies supposedly designed to prevent human rights violations.
12:48 PM - Oct. 21, 2009
A journal of activities relating to volunteer service in the Dominican Republic mostly related to orphaned, abandoned, and disadvantaged children and the people who work with them.
- Children's Relief for Haiti
- 32 Volunteers this month
- Deacon Sam
- In Jail at Christmas
- A Thankyou from the Children