Dominican Republic Project Up And Running
I have great respect for the American pioneers. They pushed westwards in spite of the dangers, known and unknown. Wild animals, treacherous trails, unfriendly inhabitants, illness and inclement weather all could have been quite literally just around the next bend. They knew that they may never again see the loved ones left behind and that news, both good and bad, would take months or even years to reach them, if it did at all.
Growing up I would sometimes wonder, if I had been born 200 years earlier, would I have possessed that indefinable ‘something’ that those brave men and women did? Would I have the courage to risk it all for a dream, half a continent away; the boldness to risk their lives, and the lives of their families, for the hope of a better future? The honest truth is that as a child I was quite happy to have been born when and where I was: 20th century semi-rural America. While I enjoyed reading books like Little House on the Prairie, the idea of uprooting and moving into new territory and blazing a trail was not that appealing.
Fast forward 30 years…ok, 40 years, and my husband and I find ourselves in a 21st Century version of “Westward Ho!” In 2013 we were asked if we would consider leaving our positions as CEO and COO of Destiny Rescue USA to move to the Dominican Republic to start a new project for the organization there. After a lot of prayer and discussion, we accepted the challenge, and now we have been on the ground in the Dominican Republic for three weeks!
The most dangerous animal may be a tarantula (yes, they have them here), and unfriendly inhabitants are just the grumpy cashier, unwilling or unable to help a poor gringo who doesn’t speak much Spanish. Loved ones left behind are a Skype call away, and danger on the trails is a threat only to our patience, as we negotiate around the obstacles of government requirements, legal red-tape and the fact that everything here is a process… or an event, or sometimes both.
But even without the dangers the early American settlers faced, we still felt a bit like pioneers when we landed in the Dominican Republic in late October. Thankfully there are roads and stores and cell phone coverage. But Destiny Rescue Dominican Republic was just a name on the government’s roster of registered NGOs. It would be up to our small team of three (my husband Peter, our assistant Rose and me) to build up the project on the foundation already laid. I also want to acknowledge Robert and Judy, Destiny Rescue’s Cambodian Country Managers, who have joined us for the first eight weeks to share their accumulated experience, wisdom and knowledge of all things Destiny Rescue.
Since our arrival we’ve been busy settling into an apartment and finding our way around the area, meeting with our lawyers, holding strategy sessions and looking at properties for the project. Some days it seems that all we’ve done is drive from point A to point B, wait in line for a signature or form, drive back to point A and wait some more, then on to C to get a copy of signed paper before heading on over to D where we finally can turn it in to the relevant clerk. I may or may not be exaggerating slightly, but you get the idea. As I said, there is a process for everything down here in the Dominican Republic, and while it’s easy to get impatient and be tempted to tell them their way is slow and possibly ridiculous, we’ve quickly learned to take a deep breath and settle in for the wait. When we feel we’re not making much progress, we can look back over the three weeks since we arrived and see a definite ‘trail of construction’.
Everywhere we go we see the stark contrast between those with plenty and those with almost nothing. Vacant million dollar homes occupied by impoverished squatters. Complacent drivers in expensive cars pulled up next to rusted out junkers whose owners are happy just to have something that runs. Families with children in rags living day-to-day just blocks away from luxury resorts. And every small town with its street of seedy bars where the most vulnerable are taken advantage of nightly by wealthy tourists and locals with a few hundred pesos to spend.
Last week we were invited to participate in a march promoting the rights of children, and we joined in with community leaders, teachers, pastors, government officials, police and hundreds of local school children waving flags, carrying banners and chanting “Tienen Derecho!” – “We have rights!”
Catalyst for change in a society, for the good or bad, always has the most lasting effect when it starts with the youth. We are glad to see Dominicans educating their children about their rights: a right to safety, a right to education, a right to life, a right to a future. We pray the seeds being planted will result in a generation unwilling to sit back and watch the most vulnerable being denied basic human rights.
We are blessed to have forged a friendship with the pastor of a local church, and have been given the chance to share with the entire congregation about the work we will be doing, and inspire them to join with us in making a difference. There was a great response, and we look forward to meeting with some of them as we begin interviewing for staff.
We are excited about the work God has called us to here in the Dominican Republic, and look forward to watching things unfold over the coming months. Please pray with us that God continue to lead us through open doors, that He bring the right people to join our team and that we receive favor from the government.
Pray that we will be effective in bringing freedom to children trapped in sexual exploitation as we break new ground for Destiny Rescue.
By Barbara Everett
Dominican Republic Assistant Country Manager