The gift of a kiss

It began with a group of energetic Canadian teenagers and a concern for the underprivileged in the Dominican Republic.

Nineteen years ago, the first group of high school students from the Pembroke-Renfrew area travelled to the D. R. to offer assistance to the struggling community of Yamasa. That year, and every year since, young people’s lives have been changed as they make the trip.

Because of the repeated efforts, sustained financial support, and recent involvement of parent groups, the community of Yamasa has changed as well. There is now a clinic with a full-time local physician, Dr. Leonardo de Jesus. Accompanied by nursing staff and visiting healthcare professionals, “Dr. Leo” also operates several satellite clinics in the surrounding area.

Focusing on maternal and infant care and foster programs, the community has seen a vast improvement in the general well-being of its population, including school attendance and work productivity.

Teacher Roger Perry, who began leading the missions in 1992, reports on a visit to a sugar plantation earlier this year:

“Dr. Leo and I drove to a batey called Antonci. It was here, three years ago, that a group of high school students and teachers discovered a starving infant who had been abandoned by her mother. She was near death. With a promise of financial support from a team member, our nurse found an elderly couple, themselves severely malnourished, who agreed to look after the child. Food and medical aid were supplied. When we returned we found ‘Chichi’, her new parents, and two other foster children doing well. As we were about to leave, Chichi gave me a wonderful gift. She asked me to get down and then gave me a big kiss on the cheek.”

To HPIC and its donor partners, Perry writes:

“You and your people do such a tremendous and important work; we can never thank you enough for allowing us to help these destitute but beautiful people. God bless.”