Serving Children with Caminante:
A Learning Opportunity for JCU Students in the Dominican Republic
All JCU students who join in this service learning opportunity will enroll in a 3-credit ISJ/ II R course entitled “Contested Seas: Exploitation and Resistance in the Caribbean Basin.” This course explores the historical, social, and cultural forces that have created the conditions of poverty on the island of Hispaniola, shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti. By studying the rise and fall of sugar production and the subsequent rise of sex tourism on the island, students will be better equipped to see how their service work at Caminante Educational Project addresses the needs of Dominican and Haitian children.
The Caminante Proyecto Educative (Caminante Educational Project) is a non-governmental community organization located in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic, that strives to protect children’s basic rights and to strengthen community supports for poor children and their families. Situated in a community plagued by sex tourism, Caminante is particularly committed to opening opportunities for youth that keep them away from this exploitive trade. Caminante provides a holistic family-based approach to supporting children. Many impoverished Dominican families rely on the income their children provide. Many youth are forced to sell services on dangerous streets and beaches. Realizing that many parents cannot easily forsake this income, Caminante provides a range of education, job training, and entrepreneurship opportunities to parents. Since public schools provide, at most, four hours of instruction a day, Caminante has established a network of “homework rooms” to extend learning time for children. But many children, of Haitian origin, are denied access to public schooling altogether. Caminante works closely with local police and government agencies to get the necessary documentation to get these children access to public schooling.
John Carroll student spend 10 days in the Dominican Republic (DR) in late May (at the conclusion of the semester). They will enroll in a 1-credit service learning course, developing and delivering their service learning project in the DR. The goals for their time once in the DR are two-fold: first, students will work to implement their projects. Second, students will reflect upon their experience in class meetings and journals. Professors will ask students to consider how their expectations have been met and frustrated and how they might adjust their plans as they deal with local realities. Overall, we will emphasize the importance of our partnership with Caminante, insisting that open communication with their staff is the only way to succeed in meeting their needs.
The service projects for 2017 focused on developing and delivering lessons in the “homework rooms” run by Caminante. While all JCU students are welcome, there is a special need for early and middle childhood Education majors, as well as students with Spanish language proficiency. The goal is create student teams that can develop and deliver age-appropriate and culturally sensitive lessons about Caribbean history. The goal is to enrich the curriculum offered by Caminante, as well as to apply the lessons learned in the class “Contested Seas.”
Students will stay at the Hotel Zapata, a beachside hotel in Boca Chica. After completing their service work for the day, students will have the opportunity to relax in the waterfront cabanas at the Hotel Zapata. The owners of this hotel are deeply involved in local efforts to reimagine the tourism industry in Boca Chica, running dance and fitness trips, as well as sponsoring fundraisers for Caminante. Students will also have the opportunity to delve into the food and culture of the Dominican Republic, including excursions to the city of Santo Domingo.