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HABITAT FOR HUMANITY – DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
February 16 – March 1, 2008

The Habitat project site is located on the outskirts of San Francisco de Macoris, Dominican Republic (DR). San Francisco is a small city situated in Duarte Province in the northern portion of the country. It is not a tourist area and we saw very few foreigners while we were there.

The Habitat project we worked on is called Mount Zion and consists or 43 housing units comprised of five single family houses, one duplex and nine two story fourplexes. Construction started in 2006 so by the time we arrived all of the single family houses, the duplex and four of the fourplexes were structurally completed. The individual living units range from 42 to 52 square meters each (444 to 534 square feet). They are concrete block construction and are designed to resist hurricanes and earthquakes. To learn more about Habitat in DR and other Latin america & Caribbean countries visit Habitat for Humanity.

The Team I was with was made up of twelve Canadians originating from Ontario, Alberta and BC.team_photo  We were joined by a group of 12 Americans for the first week and in the middle of the trip we spent the weekend at Las Terrenas, which is a fairly laid back tourist area on the north coast.

We spent part of a day at the beginning of the trip and a full day at the end, in Santo Domingo. We stayed in the old part of town and were able to walk through some interesting history connected with the discovery and original exploration of the Americas. Santo Domingo was where Columbus set up the first colony and where he is now buried. We saw buildings that dated from the early 1500’s

buildingWork at the build site was all manual labour – no power tools, no power equipment of any kind except a cement mixer on a couple of days when a LOT of concrete was needed. We moved large piles of sand and gravel in buckets and wheelbarrows and hundreds of concrete blocks by hand. A rope and pulley raised concrete, mortar and blocks up to the second floor. Shovels dug holes and wheelbarrows moved dirt.

We saw various sides of the DR. Santo Domingo and Las Terrenas, which are on the higher end of the economic scale, San Francisco, which has some visible poverty but for the most part appears to be to be lower to middle income, and some rural areas that were defiantly on the poverty end of the scale.

 carnivalWe experienced the DR Independence Day (Feb 27) first hand by attending the Carnival in San Francisco. Masses of people and lots of noise.
 
We visited the “Instituto Dominicano de Investigaciones Agropecuarias y Forestales” which is a research centre for the growing of coca (chocolate) beans (www.idiaf.org.do). Here they crossbreed and clone different varieties of cocoa trees to improve the varieties available to the DR growers. Cocoa is a major export crop for the DR.

The two weeks sped by very quickly and we all had a wonderful time mixing with the locals both at the work site and other offsite activities.