Saturday, May 22, 2010

Responsible Long-Term Foreign Presence from the Developed World in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic, located on a Caribbean island just a short plane trip away from the United States and Canada, has a large foreign presence from the developed world. To give an example, for a short period of time I taught math in a bilingual (English and Spanish) private school (pre-K through 12) in the area called OyM Hostos School. This school is American run and staffed by many Dominican teachers but also many foreign teachers, mainly from the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and Germany. The student population is similar with many Dominican students, students of foreign origin whose families now live in the Dominican Republic, or students with one Dominican and one foreign parent. In addition to the foreign nationalities represented among the teaching staff, I taught students who are Russian, Korean, and Spanish. The majority of students with one or both parents as foreigners are German. I can’t speak for the entire country but there is a large German population in Puerto Plata. Furthermore, I have met Austrians, Serbians, Italians, Australians, French, Switz, Argentines, Peruvians, Perto Ricans, Brazilians, and South Africans who live here as well. Our organization, Project Esperanza, works with the large Haitian population but Haitians and foreigners from other Hispanic countries are in a different category than the North American and European foreigners from more developed nations I am referring to here.

Many members of the foreign population live in secluded areas with a high percentage of foreigners as residents. There are some, such as myself, who live more intermingled with the local population, usually married to or in a relationship with a local. My husband is a foreigner as well. He immigrated from Haiti. Haitians typicaly inhabit the areas of Puerto Plata found to be the least desirable and work jobs that are also viewed as least desirable.

All members of the foreign community in a developing country such as the Dominican Republic and more specifically those from the developed world should bevery aware and intentional about the effect of their presece. We should not further a segregation betewen class, race, and nationality, but should use our priviledge of living and receiving education in a developed country to infuse such positive practices we possess into the developing country. A great way I have seen this done here in Puerto Plata is through OyM Hostos School. In this school the foreign presence sets a standard for organization, puntuality, and higher achievement altogether. Dominican teachers and students are a part of an institution that functions much more effectively than many other institutions in their society. They will likely adapt to certain positive practices and carry them, at least in part, to other instititutions in which they have a presence.

It is important to note that it is not simply the North American and Eurpopean presence that makes OyM Hostos School an empowering institution in the community, but it is their presence along with the way the school is run with teamwork and equality. I am aware of a similar bilingual private school in a nearby community that does things differently and has a different effect .Foreign teachers are paid a starting salary that is significantly higher than Dominican teachers. A school run with such underlying principles does not empower Dominican students and teachers but more so flaunts foreigner priviledges, declaring that the key to sucess is to be or become North American or European rather than the key to success being the succesful practices that led the developed world to be able to provide its citizens with certain priviledges.

Those of us who understand that it was not us personally that successfuly developed these countries but we simply benefit priviledges created by those before us will seek to use our priviledges to empower developing communities to do the same rather than to flaunt our priviledges in the developing community’s face as something we choose to remain difficult for them to obtain...something they have to compromise their culture and often personal and family life to obtain. Those of us who understand this and believe this should work toward creating more community empowering institutions and activities with patience, teamwork, and hope.

1 comment:

  1. We do forget that most of the privilege we live in was worked for by those who came before us, not necessarily earned by us. It is easy to become prideful of our superior practices and ways, and to start to think as if we got ourselves here on our own.