The Batey Foundation works hand in hand with a Dominican NGO, Friends Around the World, in recruiting student volunteers from the US to participate in 7-10 day trips to the Dominican Republic. These trips focus on work in the bateys and on learning about the Dominican Republic’s rich history and culture. Service Work and Cultural Exchange are pillars of this program:
Service - U.S. Volunteers, work alongside batey community members and Dominican volunteers. In this sense the project is a lasting collaboration between American students, The Batey Foundation, Friends Around the World, local community members, Dominican volunteers, and the local municipality. For all projects, as part of the collaboration, batey community members are an integral part of the brainstorming, planning and creative processes, and execution of projects, utilizing local labor and expertise to achieve project completion. For this reason, the service work is genuine and important to the completion of much needed infrastructure projects. We also provide service opportunities for Dominicans living outside of the bateys who are interested in and actively engaged in community service work. These Dominicans are an integral part of the service work we do. Unfortunately, most Dominican citizens are unaware of the problems that plague the batey communities. To raise awareness about the reality on the bateys, The Batey Foundation seeks local Dominican volunteers to support our mission. The individuals are accessed through Civil Service organizations, such as the The Lion’s Club and Youth Lion’s Club, through youth groups, and through various service oriented NGO’s and religious organizations. There is nothing like communal working, sweating, laughing, mixing cement, and carrying blocks to help break down cultural and historical barriers!
Cultural Exchange – The Dominican Republic is known throughout the world for its unusually vibrant culture. More importantly, however, student volunteers and batey community members have the opportunity to build lasting friendships. The Batey Foundation and Friends Around the World share a long and trusting history in the communities where we work, as well as effectively bridging the cultural gap between U.S. citizens and Dominicans. It is through these relationships, built on deep mutual trust, that The Batey Foundation and Friends Around the World are effectively able to facilitate lasting cross-cultural experiences and relationships. From the worksite, to cultural outings, to trips to the beach, to dancing, to bus rides, to communal meals, Dominicans and Americans share everything!
It is through this communal work and sharing, and the subsequent profound and lasting relationships, that true exchange happens. Through these friendships centuries of misunderstanding, conflict, separation, and power differentials slowly fade away and true understanding begins to happen. Additionally, through these relationships, the somewhat innate and often debilitating fear of poverty that many U.S. students have prior to having experienced it firsthand dissolves, and is often replaced with a renewed sense of commitment to social justice and the abolition of poverty. With this commitment, student volunteers return to the U.S. to raise awareness of the plight of people living on the bateys through slideshows, fundraising activities, letter writing campaigns, etc. This is the ultimate goal of the cultural exchange of The Batey Foundation.