Emily’s Birthday Trip to the Dominican Republic: Part 4 – Casa de Orientacion y Desarrollo Real (CODR)

Emily’s Birthday Trip to the Dominican Republic: Part 4 – Casa de Orientacion y Desarrollo Real (CODR)

Million Mile SecretsEmily’s Birthday Trip to the Dominican Republic: Part 4 – Casa de Orientacion y Desarrollo Real (CODR)Million Mile Secrets Team

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Emily:  One of my best friends lives in Arlington, Virginia, so I don’t see her very often.  We met in college and have been friends ever since.  The first (and last) time we took a vacation together was to Barcelona, Spain in 2007.

Casa de Orientacion y Desarrollo Real (CODR) Staff And Students

I thought it would be super fun to celebrate my 30th birthday with her in the Dominican Republic.  So we planned a trip to 3 locations, including Santo Domingo, Bayahibe, and Bavaro (near Punta Cana) over the course of one week.

Emily’s Birthday Trip to the Dominican Republic Index:

  1. Trip to the Dominican Republic — Introduction and Planning
  2. Santo Domingo Hotel – Sofitel Nicolas de Ovando
  3. Activities in Santo Domingo – Zona Colonial and Latin Dancing
  4. Casa de Orientación y Desarrollo Real (CODR)
  5. Eating in Santo Domingo
  6. Bayahibe – Isla Saona and Hotel Bayahibe
  7. Bavaro Hotel – Barcelo Bavaro Palace Deluxe
  8. Activities in and Around Barcelo Bavaro Palace Deluxe
  9. Eating in and Around Barcelo Bavaro Palace Deluxe
  10. Delta Flight back from Punta Cana
  11. Conclusion and Blog Giveaway

Casa de Orientaction y Desarrollo Real (CODR)

My friend, Hardy, started a non-profit, Casa de Orientacion y Desarrollo Real (CODR), to educate women in the Dominican Republic.

Hardy With CODR Staff And Students
Hardy (Far Left In Yellow Shirt) With CODR Staff And Students

CODR is a house for at-risk women to stay and go to the nearby university.  The primary mission is to “maintain a group home for female students so they can attend university in a safe and nurturing environment, and to offer them the opportunity to be involved in different enrichment activities while enrolled.”

Kristen: Today’s focus was on CODR, connecting with the Executive Director, Hardy Florentino, and the young ladies enriched by the CODR program in the “centro” part of Santo Domingo.  We met the thirteen young women from ages 18 to 24 who are being sponsored by CODR to live in the city and attend school.

Mural At The CODR House

There are 13 young women in the house, all in their early twenties.  When we first arrived, we all sat in a circle and introduced ourselves in Spanish and English.  The girls were all from the Dominican Republic (DR) and studied various subjects like medicine, industrial engineering, and business.

CODR Student Getting Hands On Learning In Medicine

They posted their goals on the walls, and reading them was inspiring.  One woman describes her goal of graduating with a degree in medicine and opening her own clinic.

CODR Student’s Goal Of Opening Her Own Clinic Posted On The Wall

The goals revolved around studying, giving back to the communities, and their families.

CODR Students Giving Back To Their Community
CODR Students Giving Back To Their Community

Community service is a big part of CODR.  Students are encouraged to participate in community services projects along side their studies.  Community services projects include organizations like World Vets – an organization devoted to providing veterinary relief and aid during disasters.

Hardy With World Vet Staff And Volunteers
Hardy With World Vet Staff And Volunteers

Emily: I was impressed by the youthful exuberance they displayed alongside an obvious whole-hearted dedication to their dreams of fulfilling work and prosperous futures.

Kristen and I also introduced ourselves and encouraged the girls to study to make their lives, and their families’ lives better.  Hardy told them the story about how we met each other at Indiana University and became friends in 2004.

After introductions, I asked them if they liked to Latin dance, to which I got enthusiastic replies, “yes!!” They put on merengue and started dancing with us.

Emily Merengue Dancing With A CODR Student

Some of the girls were such amazing dancers and I wanted to take lessons from them!

Then we ordered lunch.  We ordered fried chicken or beef, rice, and pasta salad. We all sat around to eat together.

After lunch, we opened the gifts and tried to organize it with them the best we could.

CODR Students Opening Their Donations

There were a lot of donations and the girls tried to organize it all as much as possible.  First, they grouped items that were similar, such as a pile for clothes, a pile for toiletries, and a pile for toys.  Then they counted everything and  instructed each other how many of each toy or book to put in the bags.

The CODR Students Quickly Organized All The Donations

They did this one their own and the result was 150 gift bags for 150 kids for an upcoming kid’s camp!

Children At The CODR Kids Camp With The Gift Bags
Children At The CODR Kids Camp With The Gift Bags

I was impressed how the girls took the initiative to create the gift bags and how well they worked with each other.

The Girls Worked Well Together And Had Fun Putting Together The Gift Bags

Here’s a video of us!

Kristen: Dancing, and a ‘plato typica Dominicana’ (typical Dominican food) was followed by delving into the three suitcases full of various items collected by Emily.  Toiletries, clothes, and children’s items were sorted and arranged into gift bags.

CODR Students And Staff With 150 Gift Bags For The Kids Camp

These gifts would then be dispersed at the kids camp through their volunteer work in the village of Mata.

More Children At CODR Kids Camp With Their Gift Bags
More Children At CODR Kids Camp With Their Gift Bags

The girls were so sweet and invited us to stay the night, and to come back again.  I didn’t want to leave!

Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo

After that we went to see the university where the girls study.  It was the first university in the New World and dates back to the 1500s!

Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo Was The First University In The New World

We walked around the large campus and saw different buildings for subjects such as science and fine arts.

The Campus Had Different Buildings For Each Subject

We went to a park in the university and the park had different sections for the town a person is from, or things they like to do.  For example, there was a small section with benches for Hardy’s hometown, and another sitting area for religious students to meet and socialize.

Hardy said that the seniors would help the freshmen learn their way around the university and give them advice.

The University Park Was Separated Into City Sections

Kristen: The walled in university had a meeting space for students from specific areas of the country to connect with one another.  We watched as students took pride in their space and planted branches from a nearby tree into the fertile soil along the perimeter that would grow into trees.

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