College student plans fundraiser Saturday to help fund humanitarian trip
On Saturday, Dec. 18, Jamestown resident Ashley Britton and her friend Ashley Dougherty will hold a fundraiser outside of Mc- Quade’s Marketplace. They have named the bake sale Food To Do Good. The proceeds from the sale of baked goods and hot chocolate will help to defray the cost of Britton’s mission to La Romana in the Dominican Republic. Britton hopes to spend a week there in February assisting in the ongoing construction of Good Samaritan General Hospital.
In the late 1980s a Baptist church in Massachusetts was preparing for a major anniversary. These occasions are often used as an opportunity to raise funds for capital improvements to the church or other local concerns. The church in question had no such needs, so they turned their gaze outward to mark the occasion. It was then that they learned about the Haitian Baptist Church in La Romana.
La Romana is about an hours drive from the Dominican capitol of Santo Domingo. For many years it has been the center of the nation’s sugar trade and is home to a major sugar refinery. More recently the city has seen an increase in tourism, but the sugar industry remains prominent there.
The workers in the sugar cane fields of La Romana are, for the most part, Haitian migrant workers who come from the other side of the island of Hispaniola. During the harvest the undocumented workers toil for slave wages. They live in small housing clusters called bateys, often located right in the fields where they work. Conditions in the bateys range from barely tolerable to abjectly miserable.
The Baptist church undertook a mission to La Romana to help repair the Haitian Baptist Church, which had suffered roof damage in a storm. While there, the American church members learned that the local minister had a vision of a hospital that would serve the migrant worker community. It was the beginning of a project that now finds groups going to La Romana on a weekly basis to help out with the hospital construction.
According to Rev. Donald Anderson, the executive minister of the Rhode Island State Council of Churches, volunteers serve two purposes while in La Romana. Some people help with the construction of the hospital, which currently has two functioning floors and is adding a third. Others are part of a medical team that goes out into the bateys to hold medical clinics. Anderson has been leading missions to La Romana since the early 1990s and now takes a group every two years.
Good Samaritan has become one of the leading hospitals in the area. Medical care is available to anyone, and fees for services are based on a sliding scale. “The hospital services the entire community, but it was started to make sure that these Haitian migrant workers were not neglected,” Anderson said.
Although the project was started by a Baptist congregation, a number of other religious groups form teams to go down. While many of the groups are related to a faith community, secular groups like the Rotary Club also participate in the effort. A number of Rhode Island doctors also contribute their services.
Britton is currently a student at Community College of Rhode Island, and works at McQuade’s and the East Ferry Deli. She also somehow finds time for an internship at Sen. Jack Reed’s office. Britton hopes to enlist in the Air National Guard after completing her general studies next year. After her military stint she plans to go on to the University of Rhode Island to study political science and international relations. Eventually she hopes for a career in intelligence work.
The goal of Britton’s fundraising drive is to raise $1,400 to pay for her mission to La Romana. The money will be used to cover her transportation to the Dominican Republic as well as room and board while she is there. Part of the money will also be used to purchase building supplies for the hospital project.
“I wanted to do some volunteering abroad,” Britton said. “I’ve always had an interest in traveling. My grandmother mentioned an opportunity to do a mission church that she heard about through her church. I met with the reverend and got more information about it.”
Britton, who is also hoping to be able to volunteer in Costa Rica next year, will volunteer with the Red Cross locally. Earlier this year she held a fundraiser at McQuade’s for Japan earthquake relief.
According to Britton, the trip to La Romana will be an eye-opening experience. “I’ve seen pictures from previous mission trips,” she said. “It’s just crazy how little they have there. When I go over there I expect to appreciate more. I also expect to help others and make a difference in their lives.”
The Food To Do Good bake sale will take place outside of Mc- Quade’s Marketplace on Saturday between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.