St. Cloud, MN Rotary Club Installs 2 New Projects in Dominican Republic
This past April, business and community leaders with the Rotary Club of St. Cloud, Minnesota teamed up with Rotary International and the Rotary Club of Santo Domingo-Colonial in the Dominican Republic to support World Water Relief (WWR) in the assistance of 2 southern Dominican communities. Altogether, the club’s monetary contributions amounted to over $38,000 in grants and donations toward the efforts of WWR’s WASH in-Schools (water, sanitation & hygiene) program at two primary schools in the communities of Batey 7 and Batey Santa Maria.
The word batey describes a community of mostly Haitian migrant workers who originally arrived in the Dominican Republic to work in the sugarcane fields and either brought their families or started new ones.
La Escuela Basica Ramon Bolivar is the primary school in Batey 7 within the province of Independencia. It was originally built in 1960 of wood and consisted of three small classrooms with just one teacher who taught three grade levels. Additional classes were held under the shade of trees outside the school building to accommodate the growing community and the increasing number of students. Today, there are 12 teachers and 344 students that fill six classrooms.
Before the Rotary-WWR project, there was only one very old and unused hand-washing station and no potable water on site. The students were literally drinking water out of a hose that came from the highly contaminated aqueduct system of Batey 7.
La Escuela Primaria de Santa Maria is the single primary school in Batey Santa Maria located in the district of Tamayo, about a 15-minute drive from Batey 7. This school currently has eight teachers, 210 students and four classrooms. Before the new WWR program, this school had only one run-down hand-washing station and no potable water. The only potable water available to the students came from costly bottled water or the often-unreliable addition of chorine to the water. Both school directors spent a large portion of their allotted government stipends on drinking water, instead of valuable learning materials such as books.
The Rotary Club of St. Cloud, Minnesota wanted to do more for these schools and their communities than merely sending a check to help. They wanted to directly participate in the installations of both purified water systems and the hygiene education programs. So, on April 11, 2015, eight of its members arrived in the provincial capital of Barahona to help the WWR staff with the installation of the water filtration systems and the construction of the hand-washing and drinking stations. The members asked to be paired with local Dominican assistants from the communities, and together they spent 4 days digging trenches for pipes, mixing cement, constructing a pump and system house, and helping with the often-temperamental electrical work – all under the hot Caribbean sun. At La Escuela Basica Ramon Bolivar, they even helped the WWR engineer dig and construct a new cistern, something the school never had.
St. Cloud Rotary Club Members helped the WWR hygiene educators teach 3 days of WASH education to each and every one of the students at both schools. Members also painted, alongside the students, a beautiful mural at La Escuela Basica Ramon Bolivar.
Because the work was finished after the end of the school year, both directors requested that we hold the inaugurations of each system for the first week of school, in late August. It will be a wonderful opportunity to ring in the 2015-2016 school year with clean water and improved knowledge of the principles of WASH.
Now, thanks to the great generosity of the St. Cloud Rotary Club and its associates at Rotary International and the Colonial chapter in Santo Domingo, DR, La Escuela Basica Ramon Bolivar and La Escuela Primaria de Santa Maria no longer have to purchase potable water, but can spend their school budgets on more enlightening, fun, and educational materials such as books, games, and recreational equipment.
On a weekly basis, WWR will continue to maintain the water purification systems and provide hygiene education, preparing and teaching the students, school staff and communities how to maintain their own programs until 2025, when the 10-year program ends and the school is ready to carry their programs independently into the future.