Oakville sends care package to Dominican Republic
Oakville Beaver, Krissie Rutherford
Feb 3, 2006

A plane loaded with 15,000 pounds of supplies for impoverished kids and families in the Dominican Republic takes off today from the Trenton Air Force Base.

The goods in that plane and the muscle that got them to Trenton are the result of a huge number of local volunteers who, over the past three or four years, have lent a hand to the cause.

Wheelchairs, bikes, medicine, clothes, shoes, games, household goods, school supplies - you name it, it's been gathered, packed on skids, transported from Oakville to Trenton, and today, Trenton to the Dominican Republic.

"The community involvement for this project has just been overwhelming," said Judy Warrington, Oakville's driving force behind the project and a well-known face in the run-down villages of the Dominican Republic, where she's been leading volunteer groups for more than a decade.

"Imagine their surprise and the looks on their faces when they receive all of these things in the DR."

The goods are targeted towards organizations Warrington is partnered with through her volunteer company, Power Trips, including International Child Care (ICC), which supports health development work in the Dominican Republic and in Haiti and responds to children suffering from tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, malnutrition and physical disabilities.

"The items we've collected are geared towards the needs of those organizations and the communities where those organizations work," said Warrington. "We're basically trying to work with their wish list."

And the reason Warrington is able to send this enormous amount of goods down is because of a government-run humanitarian program out of the Trenton Air Force Base. It's a pilot-training program that allows people to ship goods for humanitarian reasons, while giving pilots experience flying weighed-down planes.

"I'm on the list to send goods to the Dominican Republic, and it only happens once every few years that this comes up," said Warrington, who worked with her Rotary Club four years ago to send 15,000 pounds of books to the Dominican Republic to target literacy programs.

Since the last trip, members of the community have continued to support Warrington's project - rotary clubs, local churches, schools, athletic organizations, and even organizations from as far away as St. Catharines and Weston have been chipping in.

"Sometimes I wake up in the morning and there are bags and boxes sitting on our doorstep," she said. "It's been absolutely amazing - I think it's almost a Canadian thing. We have so many people who are interested and wanting to recycle meaningfully."

Because the response has been so big, Warrington has been storing the goods in her garage and in a local warehouse called Mini Storage Space, which has been donating space for the last four years for the cause.

"The space was getting short and tight and then the government came along and said, 'How would you like to send a trip,' and I said, 'Oh my gosh, would I like to!'" she said. "The timing was unbelievable."

St. Mildred's-Lightbourn school students, under the direction of Judy Ross, took care of a lot of the packing and labeling of goods.

"They were a huge help - they put in a lot of Thursdays at the warehouse space - it was a huge gift from those girls and from Judy," said Warrington.

The help doesn't stop there, either. Oakville's KMS Royal Moving Company donated trucks and personnel to assist Warrington and her crew to gather the skids and transport them to Trenton.

"Honestly there's been so much help, it's hard to know how many people have assisted us in this cause," said Warrington, who made special note of the contributions of Charlie Guy, executive director of ICC, Canada.

To illustrate how the supplies that arrive today in the Dominican Republic will help organizations like the ICC, Guy shared the story of a Dominican 12-year-old boy named Miguel.

He was born with a severe developmental delay because the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck during delivery, depriving him of oxygen. That meant at the age of 12, Miguel was at the developmental age of a two or three year old.

"In the Dominican Republic, children with disabilities are often considered an embarrassment for their families, and left with little hope for the future," said Guy.

That's where the ICC comes in.
For the past year, Miguel has been enrolled in the ICC's Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) Program, which sends a rehabilitation worker to his house every week to help him learn more skills and teaches his family how to assist him.

"After just one year in the CBR program, Miguel has learned how to sit still for longer periods of time, to put things in order by size and to put similar objects in pairs," said Guy. "All of these exercises help develop his mental skills and are building blocks for the more complex tasks of daily living."

Miguel did attend a government special education school for a short time, but was asked to leave because they weren't prepared to work with a child of his level.

"Until another more appropriate school is found, Miguel's rehabilitation worker will bring the only education he will receive," said Guy, noting that the ICC program also provides support groups and counseling.

The goods being airlifted to the Dominican Republic, he added, "will assist young people like this."

And Warrington, who is taking 50 people to the Dominican Republic over the March break to do relief work through Power Trips, will have a first-hand look at the good some of the supplies that are flying in today will do for underprivileged children and families.

"We're hoping that we'll be able to see some of these things that we're sending down being put to use by some of the communities," she said.

"Hopefully some of those children's lives are going to be brightened."

For more on Power Trips, call 905-338-2304 or e-mail judy@powertripsinc.org.