by Ken Taylor
For the past eight years, parishioners of St. Thomas’ St. Catharines have organized an annual mission trip to the Sosua area of the Dominican Republic.
Our team has been the hands and feet of Christ as we bring aid and comfort to the poor and sick Dominicans and Haitians.
While there we have worked with the Samaritan Foundation, a non–denominational Christian organization whose head office is in Welland, Ontario.
The impetus and request for the mission came from them to Not Just Tourists (a medical humanitarian aid organization run by Ken and Denise Taylor). The enthusiasm and commitment of many volunteers have kept it going.
Each year St. Thomas’ team has been composed of between 14 to 36 people. In the past two years alone we have raised over $100,000 through church dinners, auctions and private donations. We are regularly joined by parishioners from St. Brendan and St. James’ Port Colborne, St. James’ Niagara Falls and First Grantham United Church St. Catharines.
We welcome additional participants seeking to make a positive difference for people who have so little!
What have we done while there?
We have divided ourselves into three separate teams.
The construction team, which assists in the construction of houses, has built chicken coops and last year worked on a cistern to provide water for a village of 250 families.
One year we contributed to the construction of a school.
The school team examines the school children, plots their growth on charts and tests their vision.
The medical team runs free medical clinics and distributes free medicine in many different communities in the area. In advance of the trip, Not Just Tourists volunteers (some of whom accompany us) spend many hours organizing medicine and supplies.
Our days typically start early. Two or three small buses leave for the worksites at approximately 8:30 a.m. While on route there have been prayers and boisterous hymns sung in Spanish as we travelled on almost impassable roads to remote villages. On Sundays we have attended a village church and participated in very enthusiastic fellowship with the people we serve.
Accomplishments to date have included paying for and contributing to the construction of more than 20 homes, building a water cistern for a village, paying for a waste water treatment system, annually providing residents of a village with food for each family for a week, supporting and visiting a drug and alcohol rehab centre, supporting mothers’ centres with baby supplies, as well as donating medical supplies and medicine to Roman Catholic sisters who support a hospital for the poor in Puerto Plata.
The medical team has seen between 1,000 and 1,500 patients and the school team assessed up to 1,000 children each trip.
Thanks to the support of West Jet, each year the team has taken over 1,500 pounds of humanitarian aid for distribution. The medicine alone which we took this past year had a value of over $100,000.
Team members return home feeling gratified that we have been able to help our fellow humans in this way.
“Glory to God whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.” Thanks be to God.
Doctor Ken Taylor is a member of St. Thomas’ St. Catharines.