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dominican-povertyFor the last 17 years, students and staff from Renfrew County Catholic District School Board’s Bishop Smith and St. Joseph’s Catholic High Schools have been participating in the Dominican Republic Experience. Begun as a way to support the mission of the Grey Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in Yamasa, Dominican Republic, the trip has grown into a well-organized yearly opportunity to experience the culture and the people of this area. Over the years the trip has developed into our board’s major social justice effort.

Means of Support

The Dominican Republic Experience mission trip is supported by the RCCDSB and many of our feeder schools, by our diocese and local parishes, by the Catholic Women’s League and Knights of Columbus and by many local physicians, dentists and pharmacists. We have also developed a partnership with the military supply office at CFB Petawawa. All of these partners work together to make this the successful social justice initiative that it has become.

A position on the team traveling to the Dominican Republic is an honour many students aspire to in their senior years. Many students apply and are put through a selection process to choose the best candidates for the 16 positions available. Selected students become ambassadors of our schools and must reflect our Board’s Vision Statement as faith-filled community builders, servant leaders, and global stewards who are dedicated to social justice in the spirit of Gospel values.

The Dominican Republic Experience Team prepare year round by learning Spanish, learning about the culture and by raising money for food and medical aid.

Friendship Kits and Physician’s Travel Packs

For a donation of $20.00, a Friendship Kit of essential food items will be given to a needy family. These Friendship Kits are distributed by our group and by the Grey Sisters. The group also supports the Grey Sisters’ medical clinic in the area by collecting donations for Physician’s Travel Packs (PTPs). These PTPs are a pre-packed assortment of essential medical supplies made available by the Health Partners International organization and are given to the people in need free of charge. Our group carries the PTPs to a volunteer Dominican physician at the clinic. The cost to sponsor one of these PTPs is $550.00 but the value of the medicines and supplies is approximately $5000.00 wholesale.

Donations from the Community

The military, along with local doctors, dentists and pharmacists provide us with medical items that are used to save lives at the clinic. Our airline allows us to carry an extra bag full of supplies or one PTP kit per person. OPP officers and ambulance drivers from around the province have sent us pale blue shirts which we bring down to be used as part of the required uniforms which enable many young people to attend the government schools.

Support to High Schools in the Dominican Republic

In partnership with the local OETCA unit we are able to offer support to our twinned high schools in the Dominican Republic. Each year we visit these schools as well as other schools at which we share our talents and enjoy theirs. A group of students from one of the twin high schools were inspired by our visit to begin a soup kitchen in a local slave camp. We have been proud to be able to financially support this effort.

Immersion Visits

While in the Dominican Republic we stay with Dominican families in their homes. Over the years the Dominican people of Yamasa, led by Sister Noelia Hernandez, have developed an organization that looks after the events we participate in and trains the host families to accommodate our needs. The families we stay with become life-long friends and we become extended members of their families. It is a unique opportunity to become immersed in a culture even if for only a brief time. Many participants have gone on to do incredible things with their lives; all have found it a life-altering experience.

For more information, contact:

Peggy Dunne, High School Chaplain and D. R. Experience Coordinator
Bishop Smith Catholic High School, Pembroke
Telephone: 613-735-5496

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