Students from Bishop Smith and St. Joe's taking part in Dominican Republic Experience mission trip to deliver medical supplies
Tina Peplinskie/Daily Observer Students from Bishop Smith and St. Joe's in Renfrew are currently in the Dominican Republic on the annual mission trip. Taking a break from packing medical supplies on Feb. 2 (back row from left) are Brandon Cliche, Clint Young, Father Scott Murray, Jodi MacDonald andTara Crossman; middle row (from left) are Caleigh McMullan, Aiden Strachan, Emma Hebert and Emma Neville; front row (from left) are Cassidy Murray, Avery Jones, Sydney Perry, Jo'lyn Dagenais, Meredith Johnston, Lindsay Burbage, Cassidy Dashnay, Jaymie Barnabe, Athalia Voisin and Kali Anne Apperley. Missing from the photo are Rory Donohue, Cassie Campbell.
As Tara Crossman prepared for her fourth trip to the Dominican Republic, she was hoping to see more improvements thanks to the work of the support of students and staff from Renfrew County schools.
On Feb. 2, 16 students – nine from Bishop Smith Catholic High School and seven from St. Joseph's High School in Renfrew – created a hub of activity in the Bishop Smith foyer as they packed hockey bags full of medical supplies bound for free medical clinic in Yamasa, Dominican Republic which has been supported by the Dominican Republic Experience group for more than 25 years.
The bags were filled thanks to the generous donations of local medical professionals including doctors, optometrists and dentists. By the time all of the items were transferred into hockey bags, there were 27 bags in all filled with much-needed medical supplies. Thanks to fundraising efforts, the group was also able to purchase seven Physician Travel Packs (PTPs) which accounted for an additional 14 boxes of supplies.
Each time Crossman, who co-ordinates the trip along with Mark Conrad, has gone on the trip, she has seen changes. The second trip was the most drastic change as she didn’t event recognize the medical clinic as since a second floor had been added. Residents in the area are now able to receive dental care along with medical care at the facility. Years ago the dental patients were sitting in wooden chairs, but last year the group was able to deliver proper dentistry chairs so now there are two dental offices.
Another major difference is that women in the community are becoming more self-sufficient. Conrad explained the Marguerite Centre offers courses for single mothers to help them learn different skills in order to support themselves and their children.
“The area has come a long way,” Crossman said. “Women now own their own small businesses, which we didn’t see before. Also in the Bateys, it is more of a community with people caring for each other.”
Accompanying the students on the trip are five adults – Crossman, along with Bishop Smith principal Clint Young and Rev. Scott Murray from Our Lady of Lourdes Church, who are both first-time participants on the trip; Jodi MacDonald who has done the trip once before and veteran Rory Donohue who is taking part in his fifth trip.
The group departed on Saturday, and has already been keeping up a feverish pace of activity. It’s already delivered the medical supplies, visited its sister school in Yamasa San Martin de Porres where the students performed a special dance and where Young was able to serve as principal for a short time.
Father Murray was able to help celebrate mass as parishioners prayed for the mission trip and welcomed the visitors. The group has also met with Grey Sister Noelia Hernandez and delivered bags of food to those families with the greatest need.
Other activities planned for the week include helping to paint houses as having a painted house is not a luxury the poor can afford. Having a painted house is a sign of status however, so the gesture is a gift of citizenship, Conrad explained.
Through fundraising efforts, the group has been able to fund two graduates at a cost of $1,000 per year, so the group is going to meet one of the students who will begin studying science in the fall.
While in the Dominican Republic, the members of the group are billeting with local families.
While there was a lot of work to be done, the group will also visit Santo Domingo where everyone will have a chance to be tourists.
The group returns home on Saturday.