Dominino

In July 2012, while I was living in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, studying Spanish I was lucky enough to meet Tabea Thomaschke, founder of Dominino (site is in German).

Founder of Dominino, Tabea with one of the children from the school.
Founder of Dominino, Tabea with one of the children from the school.

As a child, Tabea had always been interested in making a difference in children’s lives and had a love for the Dominican Republic as she used to travel there with her family. As she grew older, she began working toward her goal of helping children in the poorest areas of the D.R. She started a not for profit organization called Dominino. She went into the area of San Luis, known to be one of the poorest and most dangerous areas of Santo Domingo and she started a school for the children of the community. At first, it started out very small, with only a few children, but as her funding grew, she was able to support having more children take part. The school provides education in Spanish and some German for young children, provides a meal each day and lots of love and attention from the staff. These are three very basic things to most of us in North America, but education, food and love are three things that are severely lacking in this poorest of the poor community. The school now has close to 20 students and is making a huge difference in their lives by giving them the education which will hopefully encourage them to get out of the cycle of poverty. All of this, started by a young woman in her 20’s.

I visited Dominino while I was in Santo Domingo and wish that I could have gone back again! I knew that we were heading to a poor community, but I didn’t really know how dangerous it was until I learned that taxis refused to enter the community at all … ever. Simply because it is dangerous. We got off a local guagua (bus), then climbed on moto conchos (3 of us on each) and were driven about 5-10 minutes away to the community of San Luis.

It is here where we were greeted by some very shy, but bright children who were very excited to see Tabea again, and the couple of others of us who came to visit. Some of the children were incredibly shy. Often, in fact, not even speaking to staff at the school for quite some time until they begin to feel comfortable. These children often come from abusive homes, their health is neglected, their education is non-existent and they don’t really know what it is like to be loved and cared for.

We sat with the children, singing songs and playing games. And then, they were served fresh fruit, yogurt and cereal to fill their empty tummies before heading outside to play a couple of active games in a closed in area. All the while, I was there capturing photographs of the children in their environment. Some of them were excited to be photographed and couldn’t wait to see their photos on the back of the camera. Others were cautious, but smiled shyly. Yet, a couple of children simply were scared of the white lady with the big camera. Yes, I did make a couple of children cry. To which, of course, I then stopped photographing them. I had no interest in traumatizing the children!

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The most heart warming part for me in the end was that two of the children who were scared of me and my camera at first, came around and actually wanted their photos taken by the end of the few hours we were there.

One of the little girls who originally was scared of my camera.
One of the little girls who originally was scared of my camera.

Dominino is a not for profit organization that does good work for underprivileged children. They accept donations and you have the opportunity to be able to sponsor a child for a year to ensure that they continue getting education, food and love. The Dominino Facebook page is in German, but Tabea has excellent working knowledge in both English and Spanish.

Below is a collection of photos from my visit to Dominino. I can wholeheartedly say, my favourite photos from my seven weeks in the Dominican this past summer.

The Tubagua hillside community

This morning, I took the opportunity to walk around the roads close to the Tubagua Plantation on my own, looking for photo opportunities. I was blessed with beautiful vistas and friendly people along my travels.

I headed out a nearby dirt road where the owner of Tubagua had told me I would find a few local houses. I thought it would be interesting, so I threw on my sneakers (so glad I packed them) and headed up and down the rolling hills on a dirt road that was hard to walk on, let alone drive on!

The hills were a more than a little bigger than I expected. As I headed down my first hill I was already wondering how I would ever find the energy to climb back up it.

Tubagua, Dominican Republic
Tubagua, Dominican Republic
Off the beaten path – Local road where I walked and met locals.

Then, I headed up and down, up and down, up and down several large hills. At the top of each hill was a spectacular view of mountains and fields in every direction.

Tubagua, Dominican Republic
Tubagua, Dominican Republic
Tubagua, Dominican Republic
Tubagua, Dominican Republic

I walked for about half an hour, taking photos, saying ‘Hola’ to the locals. When I got to the big white house at the top of a hill I decided I had better turn around so that I could make it back up all of the hills on the way home. Besides, I couldn’t see anything past the white house, so I thought it was a good place to stop.

Tubagua, Dominican Republic
Tubagua, Dominican Republic

On my return walk, I stopped at a house where a young boy was cutting into a coconut and asked if I could take his photo. He immediately stood up, put his coconut and machete away and grinned proudly. I explained that I actually wanted his photo while he was preparing the coconut. So, he posed again for me and I got this lovely photo of him.

Tubagua, Dominican Republic
Tubagua, Dominican Republic

I then asked if I could take a picture of the family, as there was a woman standing in the doorway smiling at me. This was the boy’s aunt. So, I began to gather them and another girl together for the photo when more people came walking up the road. I politely said ‘Hola’, and then asked them if I could take their photo. One of the young men immediately spoke to me in English – good English! I politely told him that I needed to practice my Spanish, so he slowly continued a Spanish conversation with me.

Tubagua, Dominican Republic
Tubagua, Dominican Republic

Unfortunately, after my long and interesting day, I can’t recall the names of these two young men, but before they continued on down the road, they did take a moment to tell me that they were Jehovah’s Witnesses and they were in the area talking about the bible.

When we were done chatting, I turned around ready to now take the family photo that I had wanted to capture, but now two women were sitting talking to the aunt and preaching the word of the Lord. The quickly invited me to sit down, and as not to be impolite, I obliged and sat down under the big tree with them. The younger of the two women politely handed me a booklet with a message in English.

Tubagua, Dominican Republic
Tubagua, Dominican Republic

They continued to talk, but I didn’t understand much of what they were saying. I guess I haven’t learned much for religious words in my studies so far! The older woman didn’t want me to take her photo, so I didn’t, but she did however offer me some fresh almonds that she was carrying with her. Yes, I’m aware I shouldn’t take food from strangers, but, well, I did! And the almonds were very yummy!

When the ladies left, I took a moment to take a couple of photos of the family. Unfortunately I couldn’t explain posing very well, so it isn’t my best family portrait ever, but then I got them to hug and I liked the second one better.

Tubagua, Dominican Republic
Tubagua, Dominican Republic
Tubagua, Dominican Republic
Tubagua, Dominican Republic

I sat and chatted with these folks for awhile and they were very patient with my slow conversation and encouraged me by telling me that my Spanish was quite good and that they could understand everything I was saying. YAY ME!

What a lovely little solo adventure I had this morning!