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Tilton School Service Continues in the Dominican Republic

Sarah O'Neill
During spring break, Tilton School students and faculty members continued an over five year relationship with The Batey Foundation in the Dominican Republic. The partnership continues to grow and change the lives of our community as well as the children and families of the bateyes.
On March 9, members of the Tilton community travelled 1,700 miles south to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. There, they spent a week assisting the foundation with construction of a school.

Providing much-needed support to children and families in the Dominican Republic, The Batey Foundation is an organization Tilton has worked with since 2014. Through the years, the school has sent over 100 members of our community to the bateyes. The foundation is a non-profit with a mission to “raise the living standards of the present generation of children and their families living in the bateys of the Dominican Republic, who are severely affected by poverty, disease, and hunger, while promoting sustainable development for future generations.” A batey (plural bateyes) is a rural community in the Dominican Republic inhabited by sugar cane workers.

This annual trip is organized by Tilton School’s Julie Caldwell, (World Languages Department Chair, Spanish Teacher, Director of Community Service).

"It has been exciting to bring students to the communities of San Luis and batey Naranjo over the past six years, and to see how the infrastructure projects (baseball field, community center, garden, school complex) that Tilton School has been involved with are being used to meet real needs in the communities."

The first day of the trip consisted of orientation with program leader, Leyri Garcia. The group then took a tourist bus called a Guagua to the community of San Luis, located on the outskirts of Santo Domingo, and the Batey of Naranjo. The group saw infrastructure projects that past Tilton School students have contributed to including a baseball field, community center, and garden.

During the next days of the trip, the group worked hard by digging a trench for building a wall around the school playground, as well as transporting dirt to level out the road leading to the school. They learned how to mix cement in order to fill in the trench and also spent time with the children from the school. While half of the group contributed to several projects at the work site, like moving cinder blocks, mixing cement, sifting sand, filling in the spaces between the cinder blocks with cement, and digging another tench, the other group ran activities to keep the school children entertained.

The worksite was a busy place with several different projects going on. In addition to the actual construction, student Yanyu (Rain) Shi ‘21 designed a mural on the side of the new classroom building. This mural was completed by the end of the trip, and included a tree with the quote “En Comunidad Crecemos Mejor” (“In Community We Grow Better”).

In addition to hours spent on the worksite, students explored and immersed themselves in the culture of the Dominican Republic. They went for a ride on a newly built Teleferico (gondola ride) that goes over the city and had dance lessons, learning the steps for Bachata, Salsa, and Merengue. They visited the Tres Ojos caves to explore the pools, including an exterior pool where scenes for Jurassic Park were filmed and had some down time to soak up rays on Juan Dolio beach.

Every night after dinner, Tilton School students and faculty members gathered together for a reflection. Each year, this service trip proves to be beneficial in a number of ways. Not only are students learning about another culture and making a positive impact, but they come home with lessons learned about themselves and the overall human condition.

For Max Keef ‘20, this was his first trip to the Dominican Republic, an experience he calls “truly life-changing.”

"This trip to the Dominican Republic was truly life-changing.  I learned so much about how people lived, and how little resources they had.Despite this poverty and lack of resources, the children and families were very joyful. They would always wave and say hello when we walked down their street, and the kids were just like any other kids, happy go lucky people just trying to have fun in their early stages in life.  Getting to help these people was humbling and rewarding because, at the end of our project, we got to look back on our progress and see how grateful they were. It was truly astounding."

Tilton School is very grateful for its work with The Batey Foundation, and hope to continue harvesting this relationship for years to come!


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