Rising Above Racism and Poverty in the Dominican Republic and Haiti

Thank you for following me on this journey, in my previous post, I talked about my thoughts as we prepared to travel to the Dominican Republic to participate in a medical mission through Wave of Health. Read part one here.

Day two of the mission and it’s already changed my life. Before I get into our daily activities, let me set the scene.

I’ve been camping before, I’ve even experienced “glamping” - you know, the fusion of glamor and camping (but that’s another post entirely) neither experience has prepared me for THIS!

Don’t get it twisted, I consider myself a pretty deft traveler, with an ability to adapt well to my surroundings, but this experience has really put my traveling chops to the test. After snuggling up next to a variety of insects whose bed I was apparently occupying, I popped my daily dose of anti-malaria pills in case said companions decided to make themselves better acquainted with my skin. After that, it was time to prepare for a nice COLD bucket wash that made me wonder how important is it to have fresh armpits on this trip?  Yup, I’ve realized that this is going to be an interesting week.

After breakfast at base camp, we loaded a flatbed truck with medicine, our travel van with our belongings and hit the road to the next town. Most sites we visit this week will be at least 45 minutes away from where we are staying. The remoteness of these areas presents a challenge for local residents in need of medical attention. In some cases, the only time they receive medical attention is when organizations like Waves of Health visit.

As we pull into the site, ready to take on the challenge ahead, I can’t help but notice the looks on people’s faces. Particularly striking is the large number of children of all shades interacting with one another – oblivious, to a certain extent, to the inequalities and scarcities imposed on them by their societal conditions. These are beautiful children — hope burns in their eyes like flames in a fireplace. I can’t help but feel a sense of guilt and gratitude for the blessings of having been born into the conditions that have allowed me to escape these circumstances.

After unloading and preparing our pharmacy, I notice a gentleman standing in line with a young man. I wonder if the young man is his son or if he’s just accompanying him to the clinic. He told me the story of how he adopted the young man after both parents died of pneumonia and has raised him as his own for 5 years. A wave of hope came over me. You see, the older man was light-skinned Dominican and the young man was darker and of Haitian descent. Could it be possible that, despite the deep-rooted issues of race and colorism in the Dominican Republic, a relationship like this could exist? I can’t begin to explain how that interaction reinforced my belief in that love conquers all.

IMG_9135.JPG

Of the many amazing medical professionals on this trip, one, in particular, stands out for me. The aptly named Dr. Dieullin Toussaint. Dr. Toussaint is Haitian, educated in the Dominican Republic and provides his medical services in both countries. I asked him to tell me about his experience as a doctor in the country. Was he perceived by others as just a doctor or a Haitian doctor? Did the color of his skin and his nationality serve as a barrier to engagement? Or was it a side note within the context of providing a basic human need? Dr. Toussaint’s kindness, resilience, and purpose were an inspiration and a lesson in rising above ignorance for a greater good.

The day is coming to an end, and we are all exhausted. While loading up our trucks, we share stories and photos of our interactions with the beautiful souls we’ve had the pleasure of serving. I’m grateful for the opportunity, and with a heavy heart, prepare to return back to the so-called comforts of base camp, which after this experience don’t seem that bad after all.  

Peace & Love.

Jason