Service Week at Batey San Jose
Each year our school has a service week where each class chooses a project in the community to serve others.
This year the 12thgrade partnered with the 5thgrade to visit a Batey and bring them games, crafts, and also build them some playground equipment. The whole McAllister clan went along to help as well.
You may remember from our first letter that a Batey is where Haitian laborers who work the sugar cane fields live. The company provides basic housing, but no clean water, no toilets, etc. Workers are paid an average of $0.50 USD per day to cut cane with a machete –they are actually paid by weight, and sometimes in script, so many are in debt to the company store. At this rate, the typical family lives on about $135 PER YEAR.
Some background on Batays that we wrote earlier in 2010…
Sugar Is Not So Sweet
Have you ever had an employer confiscate your identification so that you couldn’t return to your native country? Have you ever been told what you will be paid only after 3 months of work? Have you ever been paid in script that is only good at the company store? Have you ever tried to leave your job, only to have the police arrest you and bring you back to your place of work? If not, then you can give thanks that you aren’t a Haitian migrant worker in the sugar cane fields of the Dominican Republic.
The school we are teaching at uses experiential learning that is project based in order to reach the kids on a deeper level, and in our first week of orientation we were able to experience this first hand with a “mini expedition”. We spent 3 days looking at sugar production in the DR, and we learned that it is in many ways one of the remaining forms of human slavery still in existence in this present day.
Some Haitians come here voluntarily seeking work outside their impoverished nation, but many others were ‘arrested’ and brought here forcefully under an agreement between the two countries dictators last century – DR President Trujillo paid Haiti’s “Papa Doc” Duvalier $2M per year to conscript 20,000 Haitian laborers annually. They and their descendants are not recognized as citizens of either country – they are “stateless”. As such, they have no rights, no access to health care, education, or even marriage licenses. Their poverty runs much deeper than a simply lack of material things, they are constrained to their fate by a number of factors completely outside their control.
These workers live in shantytowns called “Bateys”, where they lack access to clean water and basic sanitation. Our team went to visit one of these locations to hear their stories and distribute ‘Agua Pure’ water filters so that they could have clean water – clean water alone can reduce infant mortality by 50%. The visit was truly eye opening, as the workers explained that even the modest gardens they try to plant are destroyed by the company overseers. This particular Batey had never had visitors from outside, and they were very thankful to receive the filters, with the thanks going appropriately to God.
This is not a uniquely Dominican problem. One of the largest sugar companies is owned by a American family of Cuban descent, and this is just one of the many facets of slavery still existing around the world. We can all pray for God’s kingdom to advance in these dark places.