Hola, friends! This blog post is very special to me (just admitting my bias up front!) Our author for this month is my niece, Courtney Buratto, who is an incredible woman and fantastic member of our last 2 mission teams.
I am a Nurse Practitioner and had the privilege of traveling with SVI to Sosua in 2018 and early 2020. When asked to write a blog post, I was eager to reflect on the health focused mission of the teams. The more I’ve thought about these experiences, the more difficult it seems to convey the complexity of my time in Sosua.
I thought about the middle-aged woman, without easy access to care, with a serious foot wound and presumed undiagnosed diabetes. We couldn’t ensure follow up and treatment for her chronic disease, but we could care for her wound in hopes of preventing further complications.
I thought about the elderly gentleman with signs of a stroke. We couldn’t understand how the ambulance crew required payment from the family before service, but ultimately, we could get him to a hospital for evaluation.
I thought about the impromptu home visit to a very fragile, elderly man who was dying from cancer. We couldn’t cure his disease, but we could bathe him and give the family suggestions to manage pain and provide comfort.
I thought about a young woman who we determined to be pregnant. We couldn’t remedy the limited prenatal care leading to high rates of neonatal and maternal complications, but we could share in her joy, offer prenatal vitamins and gifts for her baby.
I thought about the well-baby clinic and baby shower for new and expectant moms. We couldn’t improve inadequate well child care which results in increased child mortality, but we could educate and instill confidence in these mothers that they were taking good care of their babies.
I thought about reproductive health sessions with 6th and 10th graders. We couldn’t change that teen pregnancy is a significant issue due to inadequate education and contraception availability; but we could give accurate information, affirm sexuality as a positive and integral part of life, and empower these young women to make informed choices about their bodies.
Then I thought about child sponsorship; on my first trip, a girl in the third grade approached me requesting that I sponsor her. I couldn’t overlook the 40% drop out rate before the 8th grade, but on a return trip Saulimar and I could spend time getting to know each other and making friendship bracelets together.
It is tempting to dwell on what we can’t do and feel that the effort during these trips is inadequate. There is never enough time or resources to accomplish everything as planned; there is no way to ensure long term investment; there are significant limitations to health improvement including transportation, financial, insurance and educational barriers; even defining progress is different in our culture than in Sosua.
Rather, these memories encourage me to consider how much we CAN do. Each of these stories demonstrate meaningful connection and I believe that their impact will be remembered. Mission work is a complicated privilege, full of challenges and frustrations. However, when we allow ourselves to be open to how we can serve on a team, we can learn together to approach the needs of their community in hopes of healthier and safer futures.
Hola, friends! Maddie Clapp, one of our newest members on the SVI Board of Directors, is our guest blogger this month. Enjoy this inspiring post! Gracias and Dios te bendiga!
Almost six years ago, I followed my gut and signed up for my church’s mission trip to the Dominican Republic through New Missions. I also convinced my dad he needed to go with me, although I knew he had reservations. Because I’m persistent, my dad agreed to go on the life-changing trip to one of the poorest towns in the D.R. with me and the team of about 20 people from our church.
I had just graduated high school prior to the trip, and was excited to put my six years of Spanish education to good use. I was pretty early-on in my faith journey: I knew God loved me unconditionally, I knew Jesus died for me, and I knew I was supposed to pray each day. I can’t say my relationship with God was any more than praying for things to go my way or asking questions when things didn’t make sense in my life, even though I went to church every Sunday growing up.
My mom had just been diagnosed with cancer, and I saw how her relationship with God grew through this toughest of times. She studied her Bible each day and never lost faith. I saw that in her and knew that was what I wanted. My curiosity was piqued.
When we left Indy for the Dominican, I was extremely excited and equally nervous. I grew up in the nice town of Fishers, Indiana, and I knew I was privileged; I didn’t realize exactly how fortunate I really was. I felt a sense of culture-shock when we arrived, but I also felt like God had me in His hands. I felt peace knowing I was following His will even in uncomfortable, difficult situations during the week on the ground.
While in the Dominican, I saw first-hand how prominent prostitution was and how little resources women have. For example, the clinic we spent a few days in didn’t have an ultrasound machine for pregnant women; we helped fundraise before the trip to address women’s needs, during pregnancy and beyond. I have always been passionately interested in women’s health and women’s rights, and seeing the lack of resources and lack of options for these Dominican women truly broke my heart. Women should have equal rights and opportunities; the lack of resources in the DR is related to both gender and where they are born.
One of the most impactful stories of my trip was when a few of us on the team took a quick trip to the city center to buy some gifts for our loved ones on the last day. I had already experienced God’s hand in the Dominican, but His presence was assured to me that day. We walked to a jewelry shop, and on the way we passed a homeless man with one leg begging for food. It was obvious he had physical disabilities, and he was skin and bones. We politely walked by, ignoring his pleas. Afterward, my dad felt compelled to buy this man a piece of pizza and a water; it wasn’t much, but it was the least he could do. When we returned to deliver the man the pizza, he began weeping and talking quickly in Spanish. As I mentioned earlier, I took 6 years of Spanish and had a week’s worth of practice, but listening and understanding had still been very challenging. When he was speaking to us, thanking my dad, his Spanish was clear; it was like God gave me absolute clarity, and I understood every single word without struggle. I translated as he praised God and thanked us profusely for the pizza. It was a God moment, where all of us felt completely wrapped in God’s arms. I will never forget this experience.
After this trip, I went away to college, and fell out of touch with mission work, my relationship with God, and my passion for women’s rights. I still felt compelled and called to all of these things, but I needed to focus on other priorities. After college, I began volunteering at an local organization called Families First, where I trained and became a Sexual Assault Survivor Advocate. Through my training, I realized that many of the problems women have in the Dominican also happen right where I grew up. Fortunately, there are many more resources and education in the US surrounding sexual assault, sex education, and domestic violence than in the Dominican Republic. My passion was reignited.
When Barb (my friend and member of the earlier team) approached me about becoming a Sisters Village Board Member, I felt all the pieces come together. I knew God was calling me to a bigger purpose than working my 9-5 job and occasionally volunteering. My employment has focused on marketing and social media, skills which are valuable in my position with Sisters Village. As the youngest member of the Board, I bring a unique perspective and can help expand the organization's reach.
Sisters Village, Inc. mission is “to connect with and empower women in the Dominican Republic through health education, faith and advocacy”. SVI also exists to spread God’s love and bring awareness to these issues. If you’re new to learning how we achieve our mission, here are some examples- we connect with specific women in the DR, praying for women by name and listening to their needs. In 2020, our supporters helped provide food, which was a critical need for hundreds of families during the pandemic. Another campaign purchased shoes for school-age children. On-going fundraising is designated for local health clinics based on their current needs. We spread the word about the immense need that many women in the world experience daily. During our in person mission trips, we visit 5-6 villages, school and church locations, holding health clinics and education sessions. Most importantly, we spread God’s love and His word through each of these things.
If you are passionate about God, faith, women’s health and rights, advocacy, or giving back, I ask that you continue to follow Sisters Village, Inc. and help make a difference! You can find us on Facebook and Instagram “Sisters Village, Inc.” Stay tuned for upcoming events and details about our 2022 mission trip!
Another reason to be grateful for all our supporters! Sisters Village is an all volunteer organization and you are an vital part of our mission and impact in the Dominican Republic. Here's another chance to make a difference, starting at midnight (CT) on April 24!!
Check out the donation platform link below and #livegenerously!
As National Volunteer Week wraps up, Thrivent announced that they will be donating $50,000 in a flash fund opportunity to amplify the impact of all donations made on April 24 through Thrivent’s online giving platform*. We would be honored if you’d consider donating to Sisters Village, Inc. to both support our mission to connect with and empower women in the DR through health education, faith and advocacy, AND to recognize the amazing volunteers who serve and learn with us! Aprendemos juntos! To donate and learn more about this opportunity go to: https://bit.ly/2OMKScS and enter Sisters Village, Inc. in the "Search for Organizations" window. Muchas gracias!
First Trip to the DR 2008
Barb Settles Huge - Founder and President
Dan Huge- Advisory Council Chair