“We were told that the child had been left there because his mother could not face seeing her child die.”
Stories like this are not uncommon in the sugar cane plantations where filthy conditions, extreme poverty and lack of basic services plague the daily lives of hundreds of families.
Dunne was part of the Dominican Republic Experience, a program of Canadian student and adult volunteers that travels to the D.R. twice a year to support the community development work in the impoverished Yamasa district.
Since the first trips organized by then high school teacher Roger Perry in the early 1990s, schools and clinics have been built and staffed through contributions of money, manpower and medicine supplied by the program. The teams that travel there now regular bring several Physician Travel Packs to supply the ongoing needs of the clinics and the young doctor they are supporting.
The main clinic in the town of Yamasa is staffed on a rotation basis with pediatricians, gynecologists, G.P.s and surgeons. Carmen, a full-time nurse, offers basic care along with Mercedes, a nurse who works part-time.
The satellite clinics in the very poor outlying areas are serviced by the team’s sponsored physician, Leonardo de Jesus Acosta, affectionately known as Dr. Leo. Medicine for the clinics is carried in large tool kits in the back of a truck. Dunne says, “These clinics are very basic but a valuable means of getting medical help to the remote locations.”
It was while visiting one of these satellite clinics that the team came across the dying infant. “Dr. Leo was able to use the medicine we had brought with us to save the baby’s life,” reports Dunne. “We have two photos: the infant Riley when we first found him, and the same child, one year later, happy and very much alive.”
Riley’s life is not the only one to be transformed by the medicine offered through the PTPs. Dunne says that over time, the quality of life of the whole community is changing. “I personally have witnessed a real improvement in the health and the lives of the people who are residing in the often deplorable conditions at Antonce since we began bringing PTP kits with us.”
This may help to explain Dunne’s appreciation for the packs, and the feeling that it’s Christmas in the tropics when the medicine arrives.
“We are so very grateful to the companies who donate the medicine,” she says. “Our nurse Carmen, close to tears, sang us ‘Feliz Navidad’ when she opened her first PTP.”