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Updates from the Islands
The following are reports by Captain Susan Shiels of the Salvation Army. She went to the Dominican Republic after Georges as part of the Salvation Army's Relief Effort. You can contact her personally by e-mail at: Susan_Shiels@USC.salvationarmy.org. You can find some pictures on another website by Captain Charles Fowler. -Gert
This is what she wrote me before she left for the Dominican Republic:
I haven't been at a disaster site since St. Louis in 1993. I've been trying to do as much reading on it as I can before my departure and your web site is one that I have returned to over and over again. I'm hoping that my lack of practice in the Spanish language will not be a hinderance. I haven't spoken Spanish fluently since 1979. My husband keeps telling me it will be like riding a bicycle and that it will be sufficient for my needs. My responsibilities will be serving food and in-kind household supplies from the refugee centers or shelters. I may or may not go further into the country assisting in the rebuilding of homes. Needless to say, I'm a little anxious and hope that I have the opportunity to meet the families you mentioned. The internet has proven to be quite a world community. My husband will assume my responsibilities here for our four boys as well as both of our work in The Salvation Army in Omaha for two weeks.
Today Susan e-mailed me that she had returned to the US safely. Here is the first part of her 'adventure'. It is very interesting reading material and gives a very personal viewpoint of the good work of the Salvation Army. -Gert
Date: Mon, 9 Nov 1998 15:29:44 EST From: Susan Shiels (Suzhomaker@aol.com) Subject: Good news I may get around to writing again, but at least I am home today, and find myself with time on my hands. I still feel like I'm in a state of recuperation. I feel a weariness that hasn't come for lack of sleep. I am sleeping beautifully, as usual. I can always hear my mom telling me, "Just lay there. You don't have to sleep." Did she say to close our eyes? I can't recall. But as soon as I do, I'm asleep. The weariness comes from memories of long days of work and a new world that is still going on even though I'm gone. The Caribbean is a true paradise for visitors. I may never know what it's like to really live there, but it is a true paradise when it's not home; that I do know. This is the first page of a nine-page report I submitted to Major Dave Dahlberg at National Headquarters' disaster office: REPORT FROM SANTO DOMINGO NOVEMBER 3, 1998 OVERVIEW There are two refugee sites where hot meals are being served. At the Cantinflas in Ramon Matia Mella, 250 meals have been served daily for the past 20 days. The meals are prepared by Home League members of the Santo Domingo corps. A refugee site is temporarily housed in a school in the neighborhood known as La Cuarenta, feeding 150 hot meals each day. 500 snacks are served daily in another school in the neighborhood known as Tres Brazos (consisting of a small loaf of bread or doughnut, water and juice). On Sundays, this snack is followed by two open airs, one for children and one for adults. Another meal is served daily in Cotui, the corps in which The Salvation Army began its ministry in the Dominican Republic, 300 meals per day or 6,900 meals to date. Of all the refugee sites, Tres Brazos is the most desperate looking. This center is full of children, though it is not certain whether the effects of the poverty surrounding them occurred before or after the hurricane. The majority of the male children under ten years old do not wear any clothes or shoes. Their distended stomachs remind you of the pictures depicting poverty- stricken countries meant to accent the pleas for assistance from the more affluent countries. The two North American teams have conducted evangelistic meetings in Spanish. Each team has had enough people who speak Spanish to assist in the Sunday services of the Santo Domingo Corps as well--preaching, leading and singing. Tres Brazos is also the neighborhood where reconstruction is going on, in force. The team of North American officers and volunteers build from 8:30 AM until 6 PM, stopping only for a short lunch each day. The Territorial Finance Secretary, Captain Victor Leslie, has come to Santo Domingo to assess the hurricane relief efforts. The reconstruction is in varying forms: The team builds a frame for a new roof, finishing the roof with 48 sheets of galvinized zinc. They build a complete home, for an estimated $10,000.00 pesos, beginning with the wooden frame and design of a carpenter from the Western Territory. One home can be completed in one day, without a floor. Following the same design, the homes are being built by the team. The average cost of the reconstruction being done is estimated at $5,000.00 pesos, some requiring less materials, some requiring more. The plan is to build 50 homes in Tres Brazos in this manner. Government officials have requested the reconstruction of 150 houses in San Juan de la Maguana. Team members spent four days in the corps office assisting Captains Vilo and Yvrose Exantus with these daily reports and other official correspondence. Captain Elsie Cline and Major Bonnie Clark will have spent three days updating corps books, general corps accounting, bank reconciliations, etc. Our days were filled with this work, I stayed with the cooking and serving crew until I was sent to the office for the last four days of my stay. I served as the Captain's secretary as well as the secretary for the Territorial Finance Secretary for the Caribbean during his visit. I am overwhelmed by the difference in everything there. How many of you have ever heard of an open air? A public address system blasting music and preaching into the neighborhood. The lack of laws preventing such noise pollution allows the singing and the fantastic rhythm music to spread throughout the streets. Wow, such music. I will miss that the most I think. Last Sunday, the morning worship concluded with a half-hour jam session of reggae, rock and roll, rhythm (a metal rod rubbed across what looks like a cheese grater) and loud singing. The same thing happened after the evening worship. Both meetings ended with brand new converts to Christianity at an altar and there was no game. The leader of the meeting simply said, "Is there anyone here who knows that Jesus is not their Savior," when hands were raised, they were instructed to come forward to pray. Just like that. And they did. And then we started jamming to the music. Our team added guitar and cornet accompaniment, so the music really rocked. I will miss that the most, I'm sure. I will write again as things come back to me, but I just wanted to let you know that I am home. Sincerely, Sue Shiels
Date: Mon, 9 Nov 1998 15:46:23 EST From: Susan Shiels (Suzhomaker@aol.com) Subject: highlights These are taken from the daily work report, just some of the events I thought were human interest highlights. The first paragraph, for instance, outlines the need for things like mobile communications. Activities were concluded at 1 pm today (only at the construction site) because of lack of communication; the team was unaware that more building materials were on the way. The construction site is inaccessible due to the lack of both private residential and public telephones. The North American team has started another housing project. The main problem here is lack of resources. We could easily build fifty houses here at a cost of US$800.00 each. The local residents are extremely excited about our work and ministry. 2,615 parcels distributed from the Santo Domingo corps (rice, beans, sugar, cornmeal, oil, matches, spaghetti, powdered milk and cookies) Funeral: a 22 year-old man was murdered and robbed. His mother was able to pay for the body to be prepared for burial and for the coffin, but could not afford to have the removal of the body or the committal. The North American team pooled their own money to give to the woman, they conducted the funeral service itself, with 20 in attendance, and watched as the body was removed from the house. Visit to the AIDS Childrenīs Home: 4 visitors, 20 children visited Home dedication: the first home built was dedicated by the North American Team Immediately after dinner, we went to do our feeding program at the refugee site. The government plans to move these people away to another site, because the school is needed. Yet, several hundred people, (approximately 234) including children as small as one year old, grandmothers, elderly men, physically handicapped young people joined the line for the small food basket that we were giving out. As always the need is greater than the supply and so, some people had to go away without receiving the token meal. Food distribution time was followed by open air meetings.
Date: Thu, 19 Nov 1998 15:08:50 -0600 From: Susan_Shiels@USC.salvationarmy.org Friday, October 16, 1998 Today we put together more bags of food in preparation for the families coming to the Restaurant. We served 137 families. The bags included everything mentioned previously, plus cooking oil and cornmeal. We used a human chain to load a van with 200 food bags. These bags will be taken to an outreach center housing people affected by Hurricane Georges by the cadets. After giving out the food bags and cleaning up the Restaurant we traveled to the Refugee Center and served 360 people with water, juice and a bread roll. In addition, we brought shovels, rakes and plastic bags and assisted in picking up the garbage. No one has taken care of this up to this point and it was absolutely disgusting. Many of the people at the Refugee Center jumped right in and helped. They were excited about it and we wondered if the only reason it had not been done before was because they did not have the tools. The team members were bitten by red ants but felt good about helping the people to help themselves. The area looked so much better when we left. We spent a long time at the Refugee Center and Dan had the children singing Sunday School songs. They seemed to have a great time. We still have not received the chickens that were ordered and paid for by Captain Exantus. It is incredible to know how difficult it is to secure resources here. Captain had spent the day at the chicken company and got nowhere. One of the cadets spent the evening there but to no avail. The cadet told us that people behind him in line managed to get ahead of him because they were willing to pay more. Friday, October 30, 1998 615 parcels distributed from the Santo Domingo corps (rice, beans, sugar, cornmeal, oil, matches, spaghetti, powdered milk and cookies) The Territorial Finance Secretary of the Caribbean Territory with headquarters in Jamaica, Captain Victor Leslie, accompanied the North American team to Cantinflas, the restaurant that the Santo Domingo corps uses for the preparation of hot food, 1500 parcels since the relief effort began, as well as a distribution site for a hot meal. Each morning the building materials for a day's work are loaded by the construction team (half of the North American team). The TFS observed the Tres Brazos construction site. Photographs were taken by the local press. The North American team has completed the construction of the fourth house. Saturday, October 31, 1998 The North American team has started another housing project. The main problem here is lack of resources. We could easily build fifty houses here at a cost of US$800.00 each. The local residents are extremely excited about our work and ministry. Today was supposed to be a day of rest, shopping and relaxation. Yet, the TFS, the corps officer and some of the team members visited other sites where The Salvation Army has opened the work in the Domincan Republic. Corps and Outposts at Moca, Cotui, and Las Carabas were visited. The visiting team participated in door to door evangelism and split into groups to do open-air meetings and children ministry. In Las Carabas, the Salvation Army is the only church in this mountain neighborhood. During the visit, the TFS was specially requested to enter a home and pray for a man who had been in an accident. Immediately, the house became a gathering spot for other members of the community. Seizing the moment, Captain Vilo Exantus preached about the love of Jesus and soon several people responded to an altar call. It appears that the Salvation Army could literally "take over" this village for God and the Army. Sunday, November 1, 1998 We held the morning worship service, with Major Luis Martinez (USA West) preaching. The Corps Officer (Captain Yvrose Exantus) personally cooked and prepared the meals for the twenty nine members of the team as her way of saying thank you for our contribution. Immediately after dinner, we went to do our feeding program at the refugee site. The government plans to move these people away to another site, because the school is needed. Yet, several hundred people, (approximately 234) including children as small as one year old, grandmothers, elderly men, physically handicapped young people joined the line for the small food basket that we were giving out. As always the need is greater than the supply and so, some people had to go away without receiving the token meal. Food distribution time was followed by open air meetings: Captain Betty Vogler (leading) with Captain Susan Shiels (USA Central) preaching in the meeting for the adults (6) seekers). Cadet Beau Perez (USA West) and Lt. Claudine Kube (USA Central) held a separate open air for the children (8 seekers). An evening worship service was conducted outdoors, using a public address system. It was led by a local pastor, with Captain Maria Perdomo (Barbados) sharing the gospel message (14 seekers).
Date: Thu, 19 Nov 1998 15:17:48 -0600 From: Susan_Shiels@USC.salvationarmy.org I have a story to tell and I'm going to tell it as often as I can. The D.R. changed my way of thinking. I don't want the "Shekinah" glory to fade before I speak with the passion that has come from our experience. It seems that many of us, if not most of us, were indeed touched deeply by the experience. It was not an ordinary disaster site, and we didn't help typical North American disaster victims. We were so far away from what we knew as home. In St. Louis in 1993, the victims came again and again for every little household item. I was so happy to write the check, but that's all I offered them. I knew I would have another check even if they came back. Kid's back-to-school clothes? Here's a check. Shoes, bedding, cleaning supplies, photo albums? Anything you want, here's a check. I didn't see them as greedy or as ones who were taking advantage of us. The depth of the pain they were feeling was real. So what was different? If resources were only sufficient to take care of the most basic needs for food and shelter, would we have any joy in our delivering these services? I think that's what frustrated us at first. And yet, we dug in. No promise of money, yet we had to go on. For me, the highlight of the weeks were the Sunday services. Especially after the services, when the music took off. It was young Pedro that said this to me on the first few days at Cantinflas. He asked me how I liked this country. I thought he asked me how I felt about coming to this country, so I answered, "Helpless." He asked why and I told him because we didn't have any money like we do in the U.S. Then he said, "You don't need money. You have God. When you are giving out the food, when you are handing out the bread, they will not ask you for money. They will look for God in you." We have a lot to learn from the land of the "siesta." I have had to take some time to get readjusted to my schedule back here. I have slept more than I usually do, and now here on Wednesday (November 11), I am only at my second day of work and feel like I will be able to catch up before the October Corps Cadet lessons start coming in to be graded. "Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have, give I you." That's the story inside the story of the D.R. for me. lmagine the lack of fear over broadcasting a religious service over the public address sytem into a neighborhood. No neighbors complaining about their football game being interrupted or their individual rights being invaded. That country is less afraid of faith than ours is. Which one is more impoverished? Which country is really worse off?
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