Interning in the Dominican Republic: PART 1

Sophia interned at Good Neighbors Dominican Republic this summer, and wrote about her experiences in a two-part blog. Read below for her first entry! 

Sophia DR

Hello! My name is Sophia Jones and I am studying international public health in the University of Arizona’s Masters in Development Practice (MDP) program.  As part of my programs requirements, each student is given the opportunity to select an NGO to work with over the summer in order to experience working in development. When I first read about Good Neighbors online and saw how their development programs are oriented towards youth, I immediately knew it would be a good fit, because I have always been passionate about helping children.

Good Neighbors International (GNI) first came to the Caribbean island of La Hispaniola after the earthquake in Port-au-Prince in 2010, when millions of people became displaced and were in desperate need of emergency relief. The complete destruction of Haiti’s infrastructure made it impossible to reach the survivors without first crossing through the Dominican Republic (DR). After spending time in the DR, GNI saw that beyond the fancy 5-star resorts and white sand beaches, many children and their families lived in extreme poverty (about 20% of the population). The GNI crew decided that these people could use their assistance and began their mission to open GNDom.

The head office of GNDom is located in the capital of Santo Domingo, a bustling tropical city, and where I live.  I have been assigned to work as an assistant to the Sexual and Reproductive Health Program Coordinator, who is in charge of opening a clinic. This job has been keeping me busy, as there are a lot of logistics that must be accounted for before the grand opening in September. In addition to these duties I have been assisting other departments and getting to know GNDom by visiting the areas they work in.

Currently, the office has been busy collecting almost 4,000 annual letters that children use to thank and update their sponsors. Some of the children live in remote locations so far away that the staff must ride on horseback to find their homes nestled deep in forested mountains. All of the sponsored boys and girls live in areas where GNDom has performed impact assessments. These studies are carried out in order to determine areas where their work can benefit the most children and these are called Community Development Projects (CDP). GNDom has opened a CDP each year and because of this rapid expansion their network has allowed them to provide support to people living across the country. During my short time here I have visited all but one of the CDPs and was very impressed by the various projects and activities GNDom has been able to implement.

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The sponsored children in Los Guandules (an urban slum outside of Santo Domingo) writing to their sponsors.

Despite the rapid economic growth experienced in tourist areas, over half of the DR does not have access to improved sanitation. The arrival of cholera makes this troubling, considering that the bacteria can never truly be eradicated (it is a natural part of aquatic environments). The CDP in Las Javillas (Hato Major) is attempting to prevent cholera and other water-borne illnesses by installing latrines throughout the community.

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This little boy proudly stands in front of his family’s new latrine

One of the sponsored girls in Chinguelo, a community of rural organic coffee farmers showed me the pigs her family received through the GNDom micro-credit program. This has diversified her parent’s income and will allow them to provide her and her two sisters with a better life. Thanks to GNDom, she has received electricity for the first time and with prescription reading glasses.

My first month here has been filled with new adventures! I look forward to visiting the rest of the CDPs and creating fun projects for the hundreds of children that will participate in GNDoms annual summer camp that will begin soon. Stay tuned for my next blog!

 

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WHY I GIVE: Meet Jhocelyn

For our next WHY I GIVE entry, we want to introduce you to Jhocelyn, one of our youngest donors! She’s incredibly smart and passionate about giving back, and we’re so happy she discovered us through a very millennial way – social media! 

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Hi Jhocelyn! Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

A: I’m 23 years old, and I was born in Mexico. I moved to the United States when I was 3 years old.  I have 3 sisters and a brother, as well as 2 cousins who live with us at home. So, with my parents, it’s a total of 9 of us!  I am the oldest of the children and my youngest sister is 6. I’m very close to my family; I’m always calling them, I’m always bothering them. I no longer live at home with them, but whenever I have free time, I’m always driving back to visit! 

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This is just some of the family!

Q: How did you find out about Good Neighbors?

A: I discovered Good Neighbors on Tumblr. After following for a year and seeing all of the adorable photos and inspiring posts, I finally went on the website to look through all the projects. That’s when I got really excited and decided to sponsor a child! It has changed my life in amazing ways. 

Q: Tell us about the child you’re sponsoring!

A: My child’s name is Dorica, and she’s from Malawi. I instantly felt connected to her because she is the same age as my youngest sister. I grew up seeing my parents working 2 jobs, and felt like there was always this unspoken necessity to provide for us, our education, and to provide a good life, so I just felt like I wanted to do that for somebody else. My sisters and I have always been there for each other, and taken care of our family because my mom worked a lot. I can’t imagine Dorica not having the same support system. 

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Jhocelyn with her 6 year old sister

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6 year old Dorica – so adorable!

Q: What are some of the perks of sponsoring Dorica?

A: I love sponsoring Dorica; it’s been such a wonderful experience. It’s been really great seeing Dorica grow up at the same time as my youngest sister, and seeing similar progress in their learning curves even though they live across the world from each other. I love the letters and the pictures I receive from her, and it’s pretty neat to see my sister’s drawings and Dorica’s drawings side by side. 

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The latest drawing and letter from Dorica

Q: Would you recommend child sponsorship?

A: I would definitely recommend sponsoring a child to my friends!  A lot of my friends know that I sponsor a child, and my family of course already knows. I am sure they will eventually do it too.  Apart from it being a good thing, I feel like you get so much more in return.  What I enjoy most about sponsoring Dorica is that feeling of having some sort of significance in somebody else’s life, as well as being part of something that you know gives back to the community.

 

Thank you so much, Jhocelyn! Are YOU interested in learning more about child sponsorship? Check out our website here

 

 

 

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THANK YOU TO OUR CHILD SPONSORS

What better way to thank our amazing donors than with a party?! On Saturday, August 15, we held our first Donor Appreciation Event for our Orange County-based child sponsors.

We wanted to show our appreciation to our donors for not just supporting a Good Neighbors project, but also for all that they do in the lives of children around the world! Because of our child sponsors, children globally receive nutritious meals, access to education, and medical care. Again, THANK YOU to all of our supporters! See below for the video we presented to our child sponsors, and some fun photos from the event!

Our new Child Sponsorship video:

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Child Sponsorship giveaway mug

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Good Neighbors USA staff thanking our amazing child sponsorship donors

Donors having lunch

Donors having lunch

Jennifer Yang & her daughter enjoying the event

Jennifer and her daughter enjoying the event

Sung Young and his children writing letters to their sponsored child

Sung Young and his children writing letters to their sponsored child

Joshua writing a letter to his sponsored child

Joshua writing a letter to his sponsored child

Donor and Office Manager Diane with Grace and Jennifer

Donor and Office Manager Diane with Grace and Jennifer

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Haejung Lee and Jeankoo Yune

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Delicious lunch buffet at Vanguard University

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Good Neighbors USA staff: Diane, Steffany, and Esther

 

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MEET SURENDRA FROM NEPAL

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Namaste! My name is Surendra Pyakurel, and I am 9 years old. I live with my family in the district of Mugu, Dhainako, in Nepal. I live with my grandparents, mom, dad, and siblings.  My family members include my grandparents, father, mother, and my siblings. My favorite game is Kabardi, and I love playing it with my friends! (Kabardi is the national game of Nepal. It is usually played in groups and is similar to the game of tag.)

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I want to be a teacher when I grow up. Education is really important to me, so I want to share it with everybody else! I am so thankful that I am receiving an education because of the support of my sponsor.

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Through my sponsorship, Good Neighbors provides me with school supplies such as  notebooks and pens, and my school uniform. I also get to eat delicious meals and I get check ups at the health clinic. My family is very happy for the support that I am receiving from my sponsor. I would like to thank my sponsor for their kind support and for always caring for my needs. THANK YOU!

 Learn more about our Child Sponsorship Program by visiting our website here

 

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The Paraguay Chronicles: A Reflection

In the last entry of our series, The Paraguay Chronicles,  Aaron reflects on his time volunteering in Paraguay. Huge thanks to the entire Azusa Pacific University volunteer group for using their summer to #DoGoodToday! 

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Written by Aaron Jocson

One thing to take away from practicing and participating in waste management is the act of discipline. Taking care of the environment, of the neighborhood around you, takes time and effort.

Before the trip, I had always recycled and disposed of trash properly, but I never really “cared” about why I was doing it. I never wondered what it would fully look like if I didn’t have complete concern for my own environment. And that’s important, because when someone cares for their own environment it shows they care about the people around them, their own health and the health of others.

This experience taught me of the privilege that I live with; that I have everything I need at the tip of my fingertips and everything around me is taken care of accordingly. I also have the means and the resources that allow me to live in a healthy environment, one that is clean and can be easily cleaned. So now being back home, I need to be more conscious about why we do the things we do, because it takes a certain mindset to believe and act on an issue, rather than just standing idly by and conforming.

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John and Kendyl bonding with some of the kids at Fe y Alegria.

I went into this volunteer trip completely ‘blind’ since I didn’t do much research before the trip. However, I learned so much from the projects and people we worked with. Though it was just a short few weeks of working, I tried to make the most of my time there, and the experience was a joyful and worthwhile one.  The relationships I formed, the people I met, and the kids whose joy are forever imprinted on me are what made this trip for me. Yes, we did such small tasks, but I think even anything, no matter the size, is better than nothing at all.

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Kendyl and Lise having fun on our last day.

So, if someone has the heart and guts  to want to go do something, even if it may seem so small, I say go for it. Volunteer abroad and have a clear mind of where you’re coming from and where you’re headed. Realize and accept differences of culture, assimilate into the culture to the best of your ability without allowing your own to hinder you.

I left my own country for such a short time to experience something totally different. Now I am glad to say that the experience was very much worth it.

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