The Dufferin Peel Secondary Unit helped to subsidize a portion of the travel expenses for teachers from St. Michael Catholic Secondary School and Father Michael Geotz Secondary School on a “life changing” mission trip to the Dominican Republic from January 24-31, 2014.
With help from DPSU, St. Michael Catholic Secondary School Teachers Lisa O’Donnell and Randy Sanabria joined Urszula Cybulko, Chaplaincy Leader with St. Michael and Joann Mansfield, a teacher with Father Michael Geotz on the trip to the Dominican.
The teachers and students travelled to el Seibo to work with Sister Maude Rhenuad, with the Congregacion Hjias de Maria to learn of the struggle Haitian people face while working in the sugar cane fields. The mission continued on their work in a batey, a company town where sugar workers live, in La Higuera.
Here, the students were able to work with children in the schools and the elderly in senior’s homes, giving them an opportunity to learn first-hand the struggle Haitian people face while working in the sugar cane fields of the Dominican.
“This experience helped our students gain some perspective on their own wants and needs,” said Sister Cybulko, in a letter to Peter MacDonald, President of DPSU-OECTA.
Inspiration for the Mission Trip was found in the documentary, The Price of Sugar. The film exposes the many Haitians who immigrate to the Dominican Republic seeking greater opportunities, and instead often become enslaved, typically working 14 hour days for little pay. They are housed under terrible condition in the bateys, without electricity, clean water, education, healthcare or adequate nutrition.
Sister Cybulko called the Dominican Republic Experience “a priceless encounter” giving students the opportunity to experience class outside of the norm.
“Our students have returned with a greater sense of empathy and compassion for the needs of others,” she said.
While on the mission the students; kept journals; engaged in reflection and prayer; and had discussions about political, economic, social and religious realities. They distributed food packages and clothing donations to those living in the batays, and had the opportunity to participate in Sunday Mass, surprising students by the strong faith experience while visiting.
The students prepared a visual presentation which detailed their reflections from the experience for the entire school community during the Ash Wednesday school liturgy.
For more photos and student reflections from the mission trip, check the blog: drmissionteam.tumblr.com