For ten days, Texas A&M students traveled the Dominican Republic extensively to explore the global health issues and developmental challenges the country faces. The program, which commenced on January 5, 2015, was an eye-opening experience that exposed them to the real social and economic realities that neither many travelers, nor Dominican citizens, who've spent their lives in the country, often don´t get to see.
The group studied all aspects of the public health in DR including but not limited to environmental health, sexual health and economic challenges in the healthcare industry. While this was a crash course into global health systems in the Caribbean nation, the students were immersed in all aspects of Dominican society and enlightened on social, business and cultural affairs.
Following a busy itinerary, the students met with health practitioners, community leaders and families in rural and urban communities across several provinces. They got a slice of rural “campo” life crossing rice plantations and mountain roads to visit an organic coffee farm, cocoa or chocolate factory, and other tourism and development projects.
While traveling in rural clinics and public hospitals, Logan Laws, a senior at Texas A&M, noticed there was outdated public health information in waiting rooms and learned from a doctor that sometimes there is even a shortage in medicine. What happens if a client is in desperate need of medicine before a new shipment arrives? That´s a question he had to contemplate.
Overall the group found the natural beauty of the country to be one of its most precious gems the island had to offer. ¨The most beautiful thing was sitting on top of a house, seeing rolling green hills, blue skills and feeling the breeze,” Laws said reflecting on a simple but profound moment in Jarabacoa.
In their downtime the students enjoyed mingling with natives and learning to dance Bachata and Merengue, a key component of Dominican culture. "My favorite part was being in the campo. Meeting families and playing baseball with the kids," David Williams, a second year graduate student said as he reflected on the trip. It was his first time traveling outside the US.
The impact of globalization and personal responsibility became a stark reality for Louis D'Angelo Jr., a second year graduate student when he visited Alta Gracia, a unique fair trade business that specializes in US based apparel.
The people's lively spirits were inspiring and a testament to Dominicans´ faith and carefree attitudes even when living in abstract poverty. "In the Campo, they didn't have ideal living conditions but they were full of life," Louis D'Angelo said. "I enjoyed meeting the people and [experiencing] the friendliness. There were open and welcoming attitudes, warmth and a joy of life."
As for personal responsibility in environmental health, "I now see how your personal choices affect global health, everything from your daily behaviors and recycling."
"This group was truly special, cohesive unit and a delight to work with," Entrena President, John Seibel, said who co-curated the tour along with the Entrena staff.