JENNIFER JACKSON’S PORT TOWNSEND NEIGHBOR: Paths of inspiration lead to donation for refugees in Dominican Republic

LAST SPRING, JESSICA Foster, then a senior at Port Townsend High School, was sitting in a pew at First Baptist Church listening to the speaker, Jeff Lander.

The former youth pastor at San Juan Baptist Church, Lander had left to be Venture Teams manager for Children of the Nations, an international organization whose goal is to improve the lives of impoverished children through medical care and education.

Jessica, who had attended San Juan Baptist, knew Lander and his wife, Connie, who taught kindergarten in Port Townsend. But that morning, Jessica and her mother, Joyce Evalt, just happened to attend the service at First Baptist.

Hearing how Lander’s organization was making a difference did more than move them to tears.

“We bawled our eyes out,” Jessica said. “I said, ‘Jeff, I want to do this.'”

Last fall, Jessica was the one who was speaking to students about her two-month internship last summer in the Dominican Republic, where she worked with the children of Haitian refugees living in bateyes, or company towns for sugar-cane workers.

Her account of how the children have permanent bald spots due to lack of soap SEmD bathing in the river without it caused scalp fungus SEmD moved other students to action.

“This is 90 of them,” said Austin Krieg, 11, indicating stacks of bars of soap. “That’s how many we got at first. Now there are a lot more.”

Krieg is a student at New Day Learning Academy, where students have been collecting bars of soap to send to the Haitian children as a result of Jessica’s talk at the school.

Austin’s teacher, Maxine Peirson, added school supplies from the academy, which she and two other women started last fall to offer options for grade-school-age children.

A group of students who meet with Stephanie Boyle at First Presbyterian Church heard about the soap drive and contributed, Peirson said, as did people who came to New Day’s Shakespeare Night last Friday.

“It was a benefit for Children’s Hospital, but people who knew about the soap drive brought some,” Peirson said.

Betsy Johnson, a home-school mother, added art supplies from her stash, and Heidi Canda, mother of New Day student Holly Canda, knew that Jefferson Little League had surplus uniforms, shoes and equipment in storage that would never be used.

With a van, Canda picked up the soap, supplies and uniforms and delivered them Tuesday to Silverdale, where Children of the Nations is based.

Accompanying the donations to the Dominican Republic is Orcie, a plush orca whale that has been visiting New Day and happens to be migrating in that direction, Peirson said.

“We are sending him with the soap and our love for the kids,” Peirson said.

Jessica, who is attending Seattle Central Community College, also plans to return to the Dominican Republic to visit her host family.

This summer, she and three other students worked in five bateyes near the Dominican Republic/Haiti border, helping at schools and medical clinics.

While people who live the Dominican Republic, the second largest Caribbean nation after Cuba, are not affluent, Haitians, who are brought in to work the fields, have no money or transportation to buy basics, Jessica said.

Visiting the country’s border with Haiti, and looking through the chain-link fence, also brought home the marked difference between the two countries.

“It looks like a desert,” she said of Haiti. “It’s much poorer.”

With clinics so close, Children of the Nations staff were able to help earthquake victims, Jessica said.

The students’ contribution of soap and the other donations will be shipped out in cartons from Bremerton, along with Orcie, who Austin and other students have known since they were in kindergarten.

Back home, the students have been learning about infrastructure that they take for granted, like electrical systems.

For Jessica, living in a place with frequent power outages and limited running water was also a good lesson.

“It makes me thankful for washing machines and hot water,” she said.

This spring, New Day students will be working on NOAA’s “Ocean Literacy” curriculum, connecting what they learned about the Dominican Republic to the study.

That Orcie has migrated from Port Townsend Bay to the Caribbean underscores the main focus, Peirson said: that the Earth has one ocean, not seven, although we call them by different names.

Another lesson learned: that children on the other side of the world, no matter what language they speak, are our neighbors.

________

Jennifer Jackson writes about Port Townsend and Jefferson County every Wednesday. To contact her with items for this column, phone 360-379-5688 or e-mail jjackson@olypen.

More in News

Port of Port Townsend focusing on five capital improvement projects

Stormwater improvement in permitting phase; construction may begin this year

Clallam County Sheriff Brian King, right, carries a ceremonial torch with Special Olympian William Sirguy, center, accompanied by his mother, Katie Sirguy, during Friday’s Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run along the Waterfront Trail in Port Angeles. The event, designed to raise awareness and funds for the Special Olympics movement, brought together law enforcement officers from Clallam, Jefferson and Kitsap counties for a march across the North Olympic Peninsula. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Torch run

Clallam County Sheriff Brian King, right, carries a ceremonial torch with Special… Continue reading

Groups back natural gas initiative

Signature-gathering efforts end July 5

Pictured left to right, Ginny Wagner, Xxzavyon (XJ) Square, Ewan Mordecai-Smith, Elise Sirguy, Mahayla Amendolare and Mallory Hartman cut the ribbon of the little free library at Jefferson Elementary School on Friday. (Darlene Cook)
Students come together to promote reading literacy

Free library constructed near Jefferson Elementary

An Orca spy hops for a better look at its surroundings during an encounter on Wednesday in the Strait of Juan de Fuca near Sequim. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)
Spy hopping

An orca spy hops for a better look at its surroundings during… Continue reading

OMC CEO lobbies on Medicare efforts

Hospital converting travelers to staff

Port Angeles’ Pride on the Pier event set for Sunday

Music, vendors to be featured during three-hour event

Children can receive free lunches on weekdays throughout the summer at multiple locations across Sequim and Port Angeles. Carrie Blake Community Park in Sequim is one of 14 locations between the two cities offering meals through late August. (Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula)
Free summer meal program for children to begin in Sequim, Port Angeles

Free meals for children 18 and younger will be available Monday though… Continue reading

Pedestrian hospitalized after she was hit in construction zone

A pedestrian was injured and transported to a hospital after… Continue reading

Paving work to begin Monday in Sequim

Work crews from Lakeside Industries, PR Systems and Stripe Rite… Continue reading

Port Townsend Summer Band to play ‘Wild West’ show Sunday

The Port Townsend Summer Band will present “Wild West!”… Continue reading