Posted by: dominicanoutreach | June 20, 2009

June Posts

Saint Basil

Volunteer Service in the DR

The bread you do not use is the bread of the hungry. The garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of the person who is naked. The shoes you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot. The money you keep locked away is the money of the poor. The acts of charity you do not perform are the injustices you commit. – St. Basil the Great

9:01 AMJun. 20, 2009

The Face of Human Trafficking

11:43 AMJun. 18, 2009

Human Trafficking

Volunteer Service in the DR

This week I have been to the jail four times to interview women who have been swept up by National Police to deal with problems of prostitution in Puerto Plata. Many of these women are victims of human trafficking. One women has been taken to Greece twice and forced to pay huge fees to traffickers to get back to the DR. Almost all the women come from other parts of the country. They are ashamed of what they are doing but feel hopeless about getting out of their life. One women was given an AIDS test where she worked which was in a factory. She tested postitive and was fired. Her family abandoned her and she was left to find work on the streets. She is very depressed about her life. Another women attempted suicide in jail. Her parents were contacted and they came to pick up their daughter who is only 17. Many bar and retaurant owners in the area enslave these women, sell them, and act as their pimps.

The trouble is that the women who are the victims are blamed and arrested. This does not solve the problem. These women need to be given real moral options and opportunities to leave their life and away from the hands of those who are making money off of them. Microloans, job training, medical care, and compassion must be provided as parts of a comprehensive solution.

Next week will be the beginning of an attempt to bring together various NGOs to see what can be done. The US State Department put out this report today on the DR.


The Dominican Republic is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Dominican women are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation to Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Panama, Haiti, Jamaica, the Netherlands, Panama, Slovenia, Suriname, Switzerland, Turkey, and Venezuela. A significant number of women, boys, and girls are trafficked within the country for forced prostitution and domestic servitude. In some cases, parents push children into prostitution to help support the family. Child sex tourism is a problem, particularly in coastal resort areas, with child sex tourists arriving year-round from various countries, particularly Spain, Italy, Germany, Canada, and the United States and reportedly numbering in the thousands . Haitian nationals, including children, who voluntarily migrate illegally to the Dominican Republic may subsequently be subjected to forced labor in the service, construction, and agriculture sectors.

The Government of the Dominican Republic does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these overall significant efforts, the government did not show evidence of progress in prosecuting and punishing trafficking offenders including complicit officials; therefore, the Dominican Republic is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. The Dominican government increased its efforts to educate the public about the dangers of trafficking, improved its assistance to victims, announced a national plan to combat trafficking and took some disciplinary action against lower-level officials suspected of complicity in trafficking activity.

Recommendations for the Dominican Republic: Intensify efforts to prosecute and punish trafficking offenders, especially public officials complicit in or facilitating human trafficking; increase investigations into potential labor trafficking situations; continue to increase victim assistance and shelter services; provide greater legal protections for undocumented and foreign trafficking victims; increase prevention and demand-reduction efforts; intensify efforts to identify and care for all trafficking victims; and continue to increase anti-trafficking training for government and judicial officials.

11:27 AMJun. 18, 2009

Child Trafficking on Increase

Volunteer Service in the DR

Father Regino Martinez, coordinator of Border Solidarity and Jesuit Refugees and Migrant Services says that the trafficking in Haitian children through the border has increased alarmingly in recent months. He said most of these children are transported to the city of Santiago so they can beg on city streets. Martinez told Listin Diario that the increase is the result of the lack of intelligence controls by the Department of Migration and the military authorities in charge of controlling migration from Haiti. He said that Migration simply deports the minors but does not make any efforts to find and penalize those responsible.

9:01 AMJun. 16, 2009

Globalization of Tolerance

Volunteer Service in the DR

Yesterday I read a facinating article by Robert Wright whom I met in 1991 and we worked on a couple of projects together. His article in the Atlantic Monthly (April 2009) leads with this question

For all the advances and wonders of our global era, Christians, Jews, and Muslims seem ever more locked in mortal combat. But history suggests a happier outcome for the Peoples of the Book. As technological evolution has brought communities, nations, and faiths into closer contact, it is the prophets of tolerance and love that have prospered, along with the religions they represent. Is globalization, in fact, God�s will?

This has great implications for volunteer service in places like the Dominican Republic. It suggests that serving others is not only about the abatement of poverty which in fact may be the least of the reasons to volunteer. It may be about the globalization of tolerance and moral evolution.

Wright makes this following appeal: “For all three Abrahamic faiths, then, tolerance and even amity across ethnic and national bounds have a way of emerging as a product of utility; when you can do well by doing good, doing good can acquire a scriptural foundation. This flexibility is heartening for those who believe that, in a highly globalized and interdependent world, the vast majority of people in all three Abrahamic faiths have more to gain through peaceful coexistence and cooperation than through intolerance and violence. If ancient Abrahamics could pen laudable scriptures that were in their enlightened self-interest, then maybe modern Abrahamics can choose to emphasize those same scriptures when it�s in their interest.”

It would benefit the DOminican Republic to be more tolerant of Haitian immigrants, people of the darkest skin, and practice of non-catholic faiths. It is in their self interest. Wright warns:

“And if some people find it dispiriting that moral good should emerge from self-interest, maybe they should think again. At least, the Abrahamics among them should think again. The Hebrew Bible, considered a holy text by all three Abrahamic faiths, sees the pragmatic value of virtue as itself part of divine design.

This theme emerges in various parts of the wisdom literature of the ancient Middle East, notably the biblical book of Proverbs. Proverbs announces at its outset that it aims to impart a sense of integrity, justice, and honesty. Yet the very next verse shifts into self-help, promising that the book will teach shrewdness to the simple and prudence to the young. In the logic of the wisdom literature, there is no great gap here. You learn virtue by learning the wisdom of virtuelearning that virtue is in your self-interest. And its part of Gods plan; the world is designed to translate self-interest into moral good via wisdom. In Proverbs the personification of wisdom, Lady Wisdom, says, The LORD created me at the beginning of his work. When God drew a circle on the face of the deep  when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker.

Self interest is not true altruism although there may be some evolutionary benefit. In my book on Altruism I explore the biological origins of altruism. But even altruism that may be done to protect the genepool may lead humans to a higher moral consciousness. Wright explains this as he writes:

“Of course, the fact that ancient scripture sees the link between prudence and virtue as a reflection of divine purpose doesn�t make it so. But if, as a matter of fact, the prudent pursuit of self-interest has over time led humanity closer to a moral truth�namely, that people of all ethnicities and faiths deserve respect�that lends at least some heft to the argument that there is a larger purpose in human affairs.

The scriptures do strengthen this argument�not by asserting it but by corroborating it. In all three Abrahamic religions, amity and tolerance cross national or ethnic bounds when people feel they can gain more through peaceful interaction than through conflict. And the fact is that history has relentlessly expanded the range across which these dynamics hold.”

To put the point more technically: history expands the range of non-zero-sum relationships�relationships in which two parties can both win if they collaborate, or lose if they don�t. Technological evolution (wheels, roads, cuneiform, alphabets, trains, microchips) has placed more and more people in non-zero-sum relationship with more and more other people at greater and greater distances�and often across ethnic, national, and religious bounds.

This seems to be the reason we�ve made moral progress since the days when, according to Plutarch, Aristotle advised Alexander the Great to treat non-Greeks �as though they were plants or animals��a position that itself was an advance over the days when citizens of a Greek city-state didn�t consider even other Greeks fully human. And even that degree of bigotry was an improvement over the days when the scope of non-zero-sumness, and of amity, didn�t go much beyond a hunter-gatherer village.”

Wright goes onto say “None of this guarantees moral progress. People often fail to play non-zero-sum games wisely (and often fail to perceive the non-zero-sumness�their interdependence�in the first place). The world is full of conflicts that illustrate this fact. Indeed, the outcome of the global project is sufficiently in doubt as to suggest that, if there is some overarching purpose to history, it isn�t ultimately to ensure moral progress, but rather to give our species the choice of either making moral progress or paying the price; either people of different faiths, ethnicities, and nationalities get better at seeing the perspective of one another, and acknowledging the moral worth of one another, or chaos ensues.”

I lbelieve that working in populations where ethinic and religious conflict occur is not a lost cause. Humans can change but only if we engage in the heavy lifting in modeling compassion, service with no hope of reward, and the practice of altruism that rises out of and above self interest.

“If you trust the end-time scenarios laid out in any of the three Abrahamic scriptures, you can rest assured that there will eventually be, in one sense or another, a happy ending. But even for nonbelievers, the scriptures carry a modestly reassuring message, at least when read in light of the social and political circumstances that shaped them: people are capable of expanding tolerance and understanding in response to facts on the ground; and even mandates from heaven can change in response.”

9:54 AMJun. 12, 2009

Gift of a Journey Spawns Gratitude

Volunteer Service in the DR

Every once in a while a surprise shows up in life. It reminds us that life is a journey and the seeds we plant along the way sometimes appear years later in mature and benevolent forms. A student of mine from 20 years ago gave me a 10 day trip to a conference in Europe as a gift of gradtitude. I did not think I would be able to go to Holland, Germany, and Austria for this conference but at the last minute the way was made possible. It creates in me an even stronger desire to pay forward.

Now that I am back in the Dominican Republic, from now till Christmas, there is nothing more important than building our second school.


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