A Visit to the Dominican Republic – Final Thoughts

Before moving onto the addendum, I say a genuine word of thanks to our partners in these three visits: Maestro Cares, GOYA and Altagracia Apparel.  Without them the trip could not have happened.  More importantly we will deepen these partnerships as Catholic Charities celebrates our Centennial and launches our next century of providing help and creating hope.  Above all, I salute and recognize the excellent work of Catholic Charities’ Director of Government and Community Relations, Luz Tavarez, who organized, coordinated the whole trip so effectively and also documented it in video, audio and photo. Special thanks to Catholic Charities Communications & Marketing team, especially Paul Costiglio and Fanny Gomez, for their hard work to make sure these visits were well documented and posted. Gracias!

Now to an “addendum” that are my broader musings – not very definitive or fully developed.  They do seem to me worth sharing to continue much needed conversation and dialogue about important topics of family, work, business, charity, etc… A diverse trip like this re-enforces some, modifies others and above all surfaces new questions and complexities and hopefully spurs renewed energy to positively deal with them.

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Villa Altagracia – Apparel Factory & Workers – Day 4

The day began with three generations of the Hodge family, 11 of us, and luggage, crowded into a mini-bus for a two and a half hour trip from La Romana to Villa Altagracia in San Cristobal, located outside of Santo Domingo. The driver had an interesting approach that included driving ten miles in the wrong direction, slowing down on open highways and speeding up in crowded city streets. Oh well. 

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Our Visit to Hogar Niños de Cristo – Day 3

Today, we spent the day with 36 boys and young men who now call Niños de Cristo and their dedicated staff their home.  We were joined by Donnie Hodge and his wife Ana.  Donny is the owner of Altagracia Apparel.  I’ll write more about this tomorrow after we visit his “fair wage and working conditions” factory in Villa Altagracia and talk with some of the families whose lives have been changed because of these jobs. 

Sadly, some children cannot be raised and nurtured safely with their own families for many different reasons.  Niños de Cristo provides the “family” for about 40 of these youth in the Dominican Republic.  This home is located in the countryside of La Romana, about 1 hour west of Punta Cana.  The home is only 4 years old and took the place of a much more crowded and outdated facility.  This one is simple, clean and warm with a great amount of open outdoor space.  (This is not what we New Yorkers are used to.) Speaking of New Yorkers, the facility’s current psychologist, Karina, is a transplanted New Yorker – Dominican Republic born, but New York raised and educated. Two years ago she returned to the Dominican Republic and is now the on-site psychologist trying to help these youth that have experienced hurt and scars rebuild lives.  Karina guided us through the facility and she demonstrated knowledge, competence, and compassion. These same qualities were present in the home’s program director, Franklin, who oversees the day-to-day life of the home.  He clearly knew everybody by name and they knew him.  He was not a distant administrator but a caring professional that understands the individuality of each young person under the care of Niños de Cristo.  This sense seemed to flow through all the staff we met at the orphanage.

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Our Visit to the GOYA Plant in Santo Domingo – Day 2

Our generous partner in feeding hungry New Yorkers, GOYA Foods, invited us to tour its plant in the Dominican Republic.  This provided an opportunity to see one of their busy factories that employs about 500 people. In addition to seeing the hard working men and women on the floor of the plant we also met the factory administrators. We also saw the finca (land) where gauyabas (guava) are grown. 

I was accompanied on the tour by the director of quality control, a chemical engineer, charged with complying with regulations of both the Dominican Republic and the United States. He said most of the product from this factory is shipped to the United States. He also proudly spoke to me of the care that is taken to ensure no contamination enters into the products. And he shared with me the sad reality of the added precautions required to protect against intentional poisoning as a terrorist action. 

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Catholic Charities Joins Goya Foods and Maestro Cares in the Dominican Republic – Day 1

boys in Dominican Republic

In partnership with Goya Foods and Maestro Cares, singer Marc Anthony’s non-profit organization that works to improve the quality of life for 

orphaned children throughout Latin America, Catholic Charities visits the Dominican Republic to learn more about the children and the work of Maestro Cares. Msgr. Kevin Sullivan illustrates his first day on the island.

Stay tuned throughout the week for more updates from the trip.

Listen Now


 

Take A Step Back This Summer

These are very good weeks to remind others and ourselves that society is broader than government and politics. Sometimes rather than engage its best to “shake the dust from our feet.”  There is plenty of room and need to concentrate on family, work, self, friends, relationships and anything or anybody that can advance love, faith, peace, hope, reconciliation, goodness, growth, happiness, etc.  You get the point.  We can’t always avoid confronting what is wrong, yet, sometimes the best approach is to pause, take a step back, not get caught up in the nonsense and possibly risk the contamination of distraction from what is really important. I’m thinking this is one of those times.

In Honor of 4th of July Family Picnics & BBQ’s

One aspect of the administration’s executive order on the travel ban against nationals from certain countries merits special 4th of July attention, viz. what is a bona fide family relationship?

After the recent Supreme Court decision[1], the administration issued guidelines that interpreted a bona fide (real) family relationship to include parents, children and siblings. They left out grandparents, grandchildren, uncles, aunts and cousins. They also initially excluded fiancées, but then subsequently included them. By that action alone, the administration demonstrated that there is discretion in the interpretation of a bona fide family relationship.

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This July 4th Weekend: Pledge Allegiance to One Another

The following message was sent to our Catholic Charities network for the 4th of July weekend.

Capitol of the United States

Capitol of the United States

Allow me a word of appreciation and thanks for all you do to make our world a better place – each, in your own way, as trustee, staff, volunteer, donor, or friend. 

I attach my own picture of the Capitol of the United States from the visit I made two days ago with Catholic Charities people from throughout NYS to visit with members of Congress and convey to them the need to enact policies and budgets that give due consideration to the needs of the poor and vulnerable.  Included among our discussions were Catholic Charities’ wide areas of concern: children and youth, those with addictions, the hungry and families needing affordable places to live, immigrants who are feeling particularly anxious and those dealing with emotional and physical challenges.

In light of this visit, and as we approach the 4th of July weekend, I am reminded that the title of the Declaration of Independence is both accurate and partially misleading.  It is accurate in that it is a declaration.  And, it is true that it declared the colonies’ independence from England.  Yet, the title can also be misleading because it fails to capture the values embedded in its non-severable concluding paragraph: God, honor, and solidarity:

“And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” Continue reading

Bey’s Twins

Further Name Reflection

via GIPHY

Blue is a color, or mood

Ivy is plant – usually green.

“Blue Ivy” combines a plant with a non-traditional color, or, maybe a mood.

Therefore 2 options for “the twins.”

 

With a sweet fruity flavor…

  • Tangerine Orchid
  • Raspberry Elm

With an ominous foretaste of sibling rivalries and insecurities…

  • Green Thistle
  • Yellow Poppy