In the DR, there are so many amazing organizations that are working towards improving the health and well-being of the population. We visited two such organizations in Santo Domingo called Sonrisas and El Arca.
Sonrisas or Smiles in English is a dental clinic that provides free dental care to children and low cost dental care to adults. Sonrisas is actually a sister organization with the Smiles Foundation founded in Toronto and is the only clinic in the Dominican Republic that provides free dental care to children and dental care to adults at half the cost of private clinics. Whilst we were there we were able to receive a tour of the clinic and learn about the services that they offer. Fun fact: John, one of our Rayjon trip leaders, worked at Sonrisas for a few years when he lived in the DR. It was awesome to see the work that Sonrisas is doing and the impact that they are trying to have on dental care in the DR. There are also great opportunities to get involved with Sonrisas and the Smiles Foundation. Definitely check out their website! http://www.smilesfoundation.org/index.html
El Arca or L’Arche in English is an organization that has communities around the world that provide care for adults with developmental disabilities. We visited the only home in the Dominican Republic that provides care for 11 people. At El Arca, the residents participate in a variety of activities such as arts and crafts, cooking and sports with the help of assistants. When we were there we were given a tour by Juan Miguel who has been working with El Arca for about 12 years. When we arrived the residents were making coconut jewelry. I asked about the process of making the jewelry and was told that it took about a day to make a piece of jewelry and there were a lot of difficult steps involved. The residents of the home also make a variety of coconut and bead jewelry for sale to help raise money for the home. We definitely bought a bunch while we were there. It is unfortunate that this is the only home of its type in the Dominican Republic as typically people with developmental disabilities would be considered an outcast by the rest of society. Dominicans are definitely making strides in the right direction to improve the quality of life of the population and these two organizations are prime examples of this. Here is a video of El Arca de Santo Domingo so you can see a bit of what the home is like. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fdaUrCa99E