February 10, 2009
Once again this year wish to express our heartfelt thanks to Beyond the Beach and its members for their help.
Dec. 16/09 Thank you
Suellen and Jim Slockbower,
for your Kind Monetary Donation
Message?from the Dream Project
Letter from Mustard Seed
Beyond the Beach Children's Foundation
Greetings from Mustard Seed Communities ? Immanuel!!
On behalf of the children and staffs of Mustard Seed, We wish to thank you
for your generous donation of US$1000.00 and one digital camara received
for the children of Mustard Seed Communities Immanuel when you visited us
last month. We really appreciate your help.
We know that God is never outdone in generosity. What you have done for
our children will certainly be repaid by him a hundredfold. Please be
assured of our continuous prayer for you intentions.
Johanna Ventura and Marverlee Sharpe
Visitors making a difference in the D.R.
Vacationers deliver school supplies
By BILL SPURR Features Writer
Sat. Mar 1 - 4:47 AM
Packing for a week in the Dominican Republic: bathing suit, sunscreen, flip flops, crayons, pencil sharpeners.
School supplies on vacation?
For Gregg Andrews of Dartmouth and other members of the Beyond the Beach Children’s Foundation taking items to donate is as much a part of travelling to the D.R. as lounging by the pool and drinks with umbrellas.
The foundation dates to 2003 when a frequent poster to an online forum about the Dominican wrote about an experience he had with his 11-year old daughter while on vacation in Puerto Plata.
"They went on one of these jungle-type safaris and stopped at a school, and she was quite taken by how little they had at this school to learn with," said Andrews. "So she challenged her classmates to each bring in one pencil and one eraser for each student in a class of 30 children. (The father) mentioned it on the discussion board, and people started saying, ‘Why don’t they challenge the school next door?’ and they did.
"Then he started challenging people on the board: ‘You’re going down in a month’s time — why don’t you take this and take that?’ The bottom line is that in the next 12 months . . . they raised over $80,000 worth of school supplies. It continued into the next year, and it doubled the next year."
Andrews and his wife travel to the Dominican Republic twice a year and are in the midst of planning their 19th trip.
"In a word, it’s the people," he said, explaining why they keep going back. "The people are just so nice. They’d give you the shirt off their back even if they barely have a shirt to cover their back. We’ve been elsewhere . . . but we didn’t get the same feeling anywhere else."
Beyond the Beach has nine directors, each of whom pays $100 annually for the privilege of serving. The group advises tourists on what sorts of things would be most useful to take with them, holds fundraisers for Dominican charities and writes to airlines on behalf of travellers to ask for increased baggage allowances.
"The biggest thing people want is some direction — ‘We’re going to Punta Cana and we’d like to help. What can we do?’ " said Andrews, who tends to fly Air Canada to the Dominican because of that airline’s more generous baggage regulations. "We go to Value Village or the Sally Ann thrift stores when they have sales because we have six months to plan. We take a lot of clothing, and school supplies — those are the two main items. It’s all for kids."
Beyond the Beach has two representatives living in the Dominican, one of them a Canadian, who go to the resorts and pick up the donated items, then deliver them. Some people want to make deliveries to schools themselves, but Beyond the Beach discourages that because it would be disruptive to the school to have a constant stream of people stopping by.
Jean Iannetti of Lingan in Cape Breton has travelled to the D.R. several times over the last decade, prizing the country for its beaches and the warmth of its people. She’s long kept charity in mind when packing for her southern sojourns, but now, after learning about Beyond the Beach, thinks her donations may do more good.
"I’ve always taken stuff when we go — at first, it was just things for the maids. It was just hair bows and other little things, then we took more practical stuff, like toothbrushes and toothpaste. But through (Beyond the Beach), you can get your donations to orphanages and things like that," Iannetti said. "They’re really poor, they’re humble people and they help each other so what they get, I’m sure, they share it."
Andrews said only a small percentage of the tourists who visit the Dominican ever leave their resort to interact with residents. But even a short trip from the airport to the luxury hotels and villas makes the economic situation plain to the tourists.
"They certainly (see it) if they open their eyes while they’re on the buses on the way to the resort because it comes up and smacks you in the face. You’ll see something half as solid as my shed, and there’s a family of six that lives in it, with a dirt floor," Andrews said of the country where the average annual income is less than $3,000. "We’re not making a huge difference but we’re making a little difference."