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Tears in Dominican Republic

Thandiwe Vela
Northern News Services
Published Friday, May 4, 2012

It took Yellowknifer Jacquelyn Fraser and a group of volunteers just one hour to tear down the home of Marcelino Lopez, 82, his daughter-in-law Yameri, and his two grandchildren, Angie Paola, 11, and David Miguel, 12, in the poor town of Agua Negra in the Dominican Republic.

NNSL photo/graphic

Yellowknifer Jacquelyn Fraser hangs out with children in Agua Negra, Dominican Republic, during a charitable trip in April. Fraser's group built a new home for David Miguel Lopez, 12, far left, his sister Angie Paola, 11, their mother, and grandfather during the trip. - photo courtesy of Jacquelyn Fraser

The GNWT worker and 11 others built a home for that family last month, on a humanitarian trip to Agua Negra, the riverside town literally called "black water" for the sewage that flows through the dirt streets when it rains.

"The demolition only took about an hour," Fraser said. "You could see the flood line where the moss had grown on the inside and outside - it was, sadly, very easy to tear it down."

Yellowknifer was with the volunteers in the Dominican Republic during their service trip to the Caribbean city, April 10 to 24. Despite their lack of construction proficiency, they all worked side by side with the local contractors and volunteers, sweating under the sun as they passed cinder blocks, mixed cement, and heeded instructions from the local contractors.

The group of Rotary Club of Yellowknife True North members, Christians, friends and unaffiliated humanitarians from different cities in Canada was brought together by Yellowknifer Dane Mason, who has travelled to the Dominican Republic to do humanitarian work for the past six of seven years.

It was Fraser's first time in the Dominican Republic, and she "fell in love with the community."

"And I'd like to think it was mutual," Fraser said. "I'd love to go back."

Each day, the group of 12 reported to the work site in Agua Negra, about a 30-minute drive from their ocean-side resort in Sosua, Puerto Plata. By the end of the two weeks, they had built a home for the Lopez family with a stove and new beds; raised the foundation of a second home above flood levels; smooth-coated a third home, and paid for Marcelino's grandchildren, Angie and Davie, to go back to school in September.

Fraser's favourite part of the trip was the day the group took the kids and families from the community of Agua Negra to a public beach for a pizza party.

"That was one of the best days of my life," Fraser said. "Some of the children had never left the community before, and they actually got to swim in reasonably clean water - cleaner than what they would be used to, and it was just awesome to see how excited they were."

It was the last day, when they said goodbye to the people in Agua Negra, that Fraser cried.

"I cried only when we had to leave on the last day, when I had to leave Agua Negra," she said.

"I was happy, I loved every second of every minute of every day that I was there."

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