March 15 2012
Xavier O'Brien Douglas, BSILR '15
When I reflect on the experience that was made possible for me by the International Travel Grant, I now understand how it was more than just an opportunity; it was a life transforming cultural immersion that has motivated me to travel, explore, and volunteer both internationally and locally on a regular basis. In the Dominican Republic, I was bombarded by everything except what was fed to me by American mediums about the beautiful Island. In spite of the illustrious and mesmerizing depiction of the crystal clear beaches in Punta Cana, the delicious food in Santo Domingo, and the alluring location in the Caribbean, a large percentage of the citizens of the Dominican Republic are impoverished. People are dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods. In fact, some regions have been abandoned by the government. The areas neglected by the administration are forced into self-subsistence and as a result practice the traditional method of appointing the eldest person of the village or community as the interlocutor between the people and the state.
In El Limon, an isolated village on a mountaintop, I was exposed to what was considered a representation of 75% of the Dominican Republic. The roads were unpaved; water and electric systems were not properly facilitated; schooling programs were ineffective. Fortunately, because of what I witnessed, I was motivated to try and help even more; I ensured that I was working at the school teaching students English and Arts & Crafts, as well as, working on the new teaching center and the first ecological house in the village. All this was possible because of the preparation I received from ILR; this journey was merely lessons learned meeting “reality.” After continuously being educated on the issues and problems in the working world, I was shocked to see that gender and racial inequalities led to destitution. Jobs were rarely available for women as well as those who were considered Haitians or whose ancestors hailed directly from Africa.
The Lessons that I learned in Organizational behavior and Labor History resonated throughout my stay in the Dominican Republic. Surprisingly, the program managers did not schedule events properly. Residents of the El Limon community worked as per their own time and enjoyed spontaneity. In order for an organization to be successful, it has to set clear and feasible goals as well as have a time frame for accomplishing them. In El Limon, there was no such thing. Unless there are volunteers from abroad, little would be accomplished by the locals of the village. However, because of my exposure to Organization Behavior, I was able to help the volunteers organize the project.