Where to go?

The first challenge was figuring out where to go. Unfortunately our immediate personal network didn’t have any contacts in the Dominican Republic. So we started by researching potential places to rent, as well as sending out feeders to people we knew and Christian mission organizations that we found on the web.

As we expected, finding our own place to rent was difficult. The locations we could find on the Internet were targeted at tourists and others who don’t mind paying American prices for American service. In addition, this wasn’t the sort of cultural experience we had in mind, although it might have been more comfortable in our traditional sense. One great resource we found was the forums at dr1.com where a large number of knowledgeable Dominicans and expatriates hang out to exchange information. These forums were invaluable in asking for local contacts and asking about potential rental places. As is usual with the Internet we would often get mixed reviews but could gradually form a reasonable estimate of what we thought of the place. Gradually we narrowed in on one choice, that was near to the tourist areas, but a little outside the town of Sosua.

Reaching out to our extended network wasn’t difficult, but it was slow. Given that we only started this process a few months before our desired travel time this was one thing we didn’t have. We would go back and forth over email, often taking a week or more for a response, before we would decide that any given connection wasn’t working out. The challenge was our lack of ability to commit much (any) time to the work of the organization. We realized that watching our kids, learning the language and culture, and doing some contract work could potentially occupy all our time. I was not willing to go back to having my wife look after the kids for the day while I was out doing work as that would be just like being back at home. Eventually a friend from our Church connected us with Dr. Jan Tollefson of the Add Your Light Foundation who helps provide white LED’s and locally built water filters to people in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. She was gracious enough to meet with me for a few hours in Calgary one day and discuss the work she was doing. I was really impressed by her desire to setup a local organization that was self sufficient, which meant she actually wasn’t in the country too much. Unfortunately this meant she didn’t have the type of connections we would need to get setup. But she did have a reference. She recommended we talk with Rod Davis (no relation) who had moved himself and his family to a Barrio in the Dominican republic roughly 13 years ago. His work quickly became what is now known as TEARS. We were immediately impressed by the organizations web page which stressed their passion to improve the community holstically through improved water, school, teaching, connecting individuals to God, and whatever other ways they could. They really stressed the immersion aspect of being part of the community, similar to the model Jesus laid, and which was exactly what we were looking for.

Time was running out, but we seemed to have two viable choices now.

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