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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.
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:
- Trip to the Dominican Republic — Introduction and Planning
- Santo Domingo Hotel – Sofitel Nicolas de Ovando
- Activities in Santo Domingo – Zona Colonial and Latin Dancing
- Casa de Orientación y Desarrollo Real (CODR)
- Eating in Santo Domingo
- Bayahibe – Isla Saona and Hotel Bayahibe
- Bavaro Hotel – Barcelo Bavaro Palace Deluxe
- Activities in and Around Barcelo Bavaro Palace Deluxe
- Eating in and Around Barcelo Bavaro Palace Deluxe
- Delta Flight back from Punta Cana
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
The goals revolved around studying, giving back to the communities, and their families.
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.
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.
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.
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.
They did this one their own and the result was 150 gift bags for 150 kids for an upcoming kid’s camp!
I was impressed how the girls took the initiative to create the gift bags and how well they worked with each other.
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.
These gifts would then be dispersed at the kids camp through their volunteer work in the village of Mata.
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!
We walked around the large campus and saw different buildings for subjects such as science and fine arts.
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.
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.