Less than 24 hours after arriving in the Dominican Republic, I felt my heart break at the sight of the devastation before me. As representatives of Business Connect, Jereme Lambert and myself had traveled to check on a supply of Kohler Clarity water filters recently provided to families in desperate need. What we found when we landed was devastating; we had arrived at a secluded, impoverished, illiterate, and forgotten group of communities called Los Bateyes. We were greeted by the sight of babies bathing in filthy buckets full of dirt and leaves, flies feeding off of families’ only food supply, and young children playing with rusty metal roofs as toys. The ground was overrun with trash that no one seemed to notice, and feces from nearby outhouses ran in a stream through the center of the communities. This inhumane picture of devastation is the reality of many Haitian people living in the Dominican Republic today.
Many Haitians have migrated east to the Dominican Republic in hopes of a better life. But once arriving, there are few places to find work other than in the sugar cane fields cleaning and cutting down crops by hand for pennies. Their income is just enough to keep their families alive, but never enough to leave these communities of poverty and sickness.
As we trekked across rocks, mud, and sharp plastic trash exploring one shelter after another in these communities, I met a young boy named Mario. His face was full of curiosity as he tried to understand our presence and our appearance. He proudly showed us his family’s home; a small semi-private hut with no bed, no toilet, and no oven; a home completely susceptible to insects and heat. It was after spending a couple hours touring with Mario that my feet started to get sore and I noticed his lack of footwear. “Where are your shoes?” I asked the 10-year-old boy in his language, expecting him to say that he had left them in his shelter, or that perhaps he did not prefer them. But his response jolted me. “I’ve never had any shoes… Will you buy me some?” he asked.
That’s when the reality of where I was standing hit me. It is one thing to witness people living in poor conditions through a screen, but to have children describe to you in their native tongue an example of how desperate their situation is, is heart wrenching.
We were watched closely by community members as we drove off in the only car in sight for miles. Our hearts were hurting to leave such kind and grateful people in poverty as we returned to safe food, secure shelter, and many other modern conveniences.
The filters provided help protect residents from the harsh chemicals present in their water supply. As without them, the poorly chemically-treated water is just one of many daily struggles these communities face. We were happy to see that even though Los Bateyes is still struggling tremendously, progress is being made to end their water crisis, to eliminate waterborne illness, and to grant the residents the humanity they deserve.
A couple weeks have passed since our return, and I am so grateful to be part of a team working to improve the situation in these communities. Business Connect truly changes lives, one glass of clean water at a time, and although I am no longer there physically, I think of the communities often, and hope you will too. Reach out today to join our network and support the vision to end devastation like this around the world.