Monday, May 13, 2013

Super Jabon visits the Dominican Republic!

This post is from Rosanna Kingston, Clean the World's Nonprofit Partnership and Volunteer Coordinator.

Our recent Clean the World soap distribution trip to the Dominican Republic departed from Orlando on Tuesday, April 23.

The team was made up of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, his assistant Kathleen Devault, Clean the World board member Paul Skomsky, Clean the World CEO Shawn Seipler, Jennifer Quigley, Ford Kiene of City Beverages, Rian Seipler, Clean the World videographer Robert Bahret, Sherry Bellomo, and Jeff Wolff, Marriott’s vice president of Guest Experience and Rooms Operations – Americas, and me.

After a two-hour flight to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, we retrieved our luggage and cleared customs. Our in-country partners from Children International greeted us. Their mission is to bring real and lasting change to the lives of children living in poverty. The organization has distributed more than a million recycled bars of soap since 2011.

We all boarded one bus and headed to our first distribution center – La Caleta. We were welcomed with a marching band and young girls twirling batons. After the performance we walked to the building where approximately 400 people waited for soap in two areas.

Our team performed a short skit involving a super hero who fights germs. The Mayor Dyer played the role as “Super Jabon” (Super Soap) and fought the germs played by Shawn, Rian, and Paul. I explained proper hand-washing techniques and taught the children our song about hand washing to the tune of “La Bamba.”

The sound of children's laughter filled the air! The skit is implemented as part of our presentation throughout all the sites where we distribute soap, and all the team members took turns being Super Jabon. We met director leaders and parent volunteers. Before leaving we toured the facilities and hand-delivered 400 bags containing 2,000 bars of soap.

On Wednesday after breakfast we boarded the bus and headed to Cienfuegos, which is two hours away in Santiago. Cienfuegos is the poorest neighborhood in the northern region of the Dominican Republic. Thousands of children work in the dump trying to survive. They are left without a state to protect them, many without families able to provide for their needs.

We were welcomed at the Cien Fuegos Center with a three-piece band playing the local music, “Merengue.” Our team members were invited to dance with the staff. Everyone had a great time. Our team performed the skit and we delivered 300 bags containing 1,200 bars of soap. Our team toured the facility and was invited to listen to an ESOL class. Each student introduced himself or herself in English. They all thanked us for our visit.

After our visit in Cien Fuegos we headed to a restaurant where we enjoyed a nice lunch. After lunch we boarded our bus and drove to a modern, airy community center called “El Flumen.” It is generally packed with families who up receive sponsorship benefits, receive medical or dental care, or attend a workshop. After we performed our skit to four separate groups and distributed 2,500 soap bars, our team had a quick visit with the staff and a tour of the facilities. A student from the ESOL class sang a solo in English. She was so proud to perform for the team.

On Thursday morning after breakfast, we once again boarded the bus and drove to our first site of the day where children and parents gathered to welcome us at the Children International Tres Brazos. We met with the staff, had a tour of the facilities, and then distributed 1,600 bars of soap. The center director helped us with our song. He joined in and even added a few dance steps that we integrated into the rest of the distributions.

Our next stop was the barrio where the children lived. We visited the homes of two children sponsored by Children International. It was a 30-minute drive from the center. The bus driver navigated through tight streets and down the hill until we were near the Ozma river. The water was very dirty. The river is one of the most polluted in the country. Our team got to see the living conditions of the residents. Each home was built with several tin sheets nailed to wooden posts over a dirt floor.

Once we finished our visit to the barrio, we headed to the Mall for lunch. After lunch we boarded the bus and visited another center named “Mendoza”. We were welcomed at the Mendoza Center by the staff and parent volunteers. Our team performed the skit to five different groups and delivered 600 bags with 3,000 bars of soap. A tasty coconut drink followed our tour of the facility.

We returned to our hotel to freshen up for a casual dinner in the Colonial area of Santo Domingo.

On Friday morning following breakfast, we boarded our bus for Zona Colonial, or "Colonial Zone." It is a tiny metropolis situated in the city of Santo Domingo. Ciudad Colonial (Spanish for "Colonial City") is the historic central neighborhood of Santo Domingo and the oldest permanent European settlement in the New World. The beautiful streets of this ancient are lined with a plethora of historical buildings, shops, museums, and churches. UNESCO has declared it a World Heritage Site.

One thing that I have noticed with each distribution trip is how well the children respond well to our Super Jabon character and song. The parents listen and repeat to themselves the importance of hand washing. It reassures us that our message is getting through and that these trips are worthwhile.

Please visit the photo album for more pictures from this trip.

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