Beauty and Poverty in the Dominican Republic

Communications Officer Sara Fajardo is in the Dominican Republic reporting on CRS programs and sharing her experiences with us.

A patch of turbulent skies, a “the engine-needs-a-part-change” delay, and seven hours later I find myself touching down in Santo Domingo. Applause erupts as the airplane lands on a strip of asphalt surrounded by verdant tropical plants and gray-blue ocean waters.

José Adames is waiting with a CRS sign in hand right outside of the baggage claim area. A smile spreads across the expanse of his broad face as I approach. He grabs my suitcase and directs me to a 4×4 white pick-up in the parking lot. Adames knows the roads well. He has been a chauffer with CRS for four years and has traveled the island visiting projects.

The mid-afternoon sun was high enough to turn everyone to silhouettes as we drove down Avenida Las Americas. “This job has moved me to tears,” Adames says, “there are people who have everything, and it’s never enough. Then there are those who we serve.”

From the passenger window I admire the vibrancy of the Caribbean palette, rich pinks, bold blues, deep purples, and even neon greens abound. The Dominican Republic makes up two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola that it shares with Haiti. It is home to over 9 million people, of which more than 2 million or 25 percent, are living in poverty. CRS has had a presence in the D.R. since 1947 and has actively implemented community development, health, emergency assistance and peace building projects throughout the country.

“You know,” Adames says as we drive underneath a bridge decorated with wrought iron stars, “we’ve gone to communities in which their very standard of living is an emergency, you can imagine how difficult things becomes when an actual emergency hits.” He told me of how gratifying it is seeing the impact that CRS has on the lives of his countrymen. “after natural disasters we’ve helped people rebuild their towns. It’s so moving to see them again in their modest homes. They are so grateful. It is our work that has helped them get back on their feet.”

“Other people,” he adds, “spend their work day counting the hours until they’re off. For me I lose count. There is one more hour I’d like to give.”

Quickly the tone changes, the conversation turns to the national pastime, baseball. A few blocks from the CRS office he points out plants alongside the road that are so lush and shiny people often ask him whether they are made of plastic.

Tomorrow I leave for Dajabon near Haiti’s western border with Rosalba Gómez. I’m eager to see, capture, and share with our supporters some of the projects that have so moved José.

– Sara Fajardo

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