In March, our Director of Advancement, Ms. Krista Cardwell travelled to the Dominican Republic with Loyola High School in order to see if this is an opportunity we may be able to offer our students. Ms. Cardwell shares her experience below:
Each year, Loyola High School in Montreal offers their Grade 10 students the opportunity to travel to the Dominican Republic on a cultural immersion trip. St. Bon’s is hoping to offer a similar trip to our students in the future, and thanks to a generous benefactor of Loyola High School, I was able to participate in this year’s trip to gather information for our school.
On March 16, sixty-four Grade 10 students and eight adult leaders arrived in the Dominican Republic. Upon our arrival we were split into 2 groups. The group that I was with was brought to the neighbourhood of San Pedro, where we stayed with a local family with two or three participants per home. This gave our group an opportunity to experience how other people in the world live and to learn that the infrastructure that we take for grant here in Canada is not available to everyone. The majority of our homes did not have running water (buckets of water were used for cleaning) and the electricity was out every afternoon.
We also had the opportunity to visit other areas of the Dominican Republic. We visited Haitian Bateyes, which are shanty town camps where sugarcane cutters and their families live, as well as a slum in the capital city of Santo Domingo. Both of these communities are populated by undocumented people who are unable to leave these areas. The poverty that they live in is heartbreaking and was shocking for many in our group to see firsthand. We also spent an hour working alongside the Haitian workers in the sugar cane fields. These men work 12 hour days cutting down the sugar cane and then loading the cane into trucks, while making only $3 a day.
While we saw a way of life that is so different from what we experience here in Canada, one of the things we took away with us was how happy and joyful many of the people we encountered were, despite how little they had. They welcomed us with opened arm and they took care of each of us like we were their family. It was an eye-opening experience, and one that I am eternally grateful to have had.