Teachers and books welcome in summer in Dominican
Oakville Beaver, David Lea
July 16, 2008

Desks, books, blackboards, chalk.

While many Canadian students are happy to be away from these things in the summer, other students around the world see these everyday objects as luxuries.

Beyond the beaches and resorts of Dominican Republic, there is an under-funded education system in desperate need, but there are organizations like Power Trips Inc., doing their best to help.

"Basically we're into doing 'extreme school makeovers'," said Judy Warrington, Oakville resident and the group's founder.

"We've been focusing on schools in mostly rural areas where there are a number of one and two-room schools in very, very bad condition. Their floors are cracked, their walls are cracked, their roofs leak, their desks are all broken, the blackboards are broken, teachers have no chalk or paper or resources to work from."

Warrington and volunteers from her organization have been partnering with the Oakville Rotary Club to collect used furniture and supplies from local schools.

On Friday, a team of volunteers from the rotary club and Power Trips Inc. were at Sheridan College to fill a U-Haul truck with dividers, whiteboards, shelves and other items Sheridan no longer needs.

In August, these items along with desks, chairs and other furniture collected from various schools will be loaded into a 40-foot cargo container and shipped to Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic.

From there, local rotary clubs will distribute the items to schools.

Warrington already has an idea as to where some of the items will be going.
"In March and April, we did a women's training centre that is quite large and made of cement blocks. The sound in there is terrible, so these dividers will help to reduce the noise," said Warrington during Friday's pickup at Sheridan College.

Besides fixing up the schools, Warrington said the group also makes an effort to improve the quality of education offered to the country's children.

"Each August when we go down the teachers are not in their classrooms, so we do offer professional teacher education workshops," said Warrington.

"This can include classroom management, sports clinics, health clinics, dental workshops and then basic teaching techniques for language and mathematics."

The hope is that by giving children better quality education under better circumstances, more children will stay in school.

Armed with a greater education, Warrington hopes these children will be able to break the cycle of poverty gripping so many in Dominican Republic.

While getting all these volunteers and supplies to the Caribbean nation may seem a daunting task, this August's trip will be the 19th time she has done it.
Warrington is not alone in her efforts.

"The U-Haul people help us, the people at the storage facility help us, all the different schools and places I find this furniture, that would otherwise end up in a dumpster, help us," she said.

This really becomes a community process," she said.

Warrington noted this team effort continues in the Dominican Republic where she meets with principals, parent associations and Rotarians between shipments to determine school needs.

The cost of this endeavour is considerable, but the volunteers raise the money to get themselves to Dominican Republic while the cost of shipping used furniture is considerably cheaper than buying new supplies in the country itself, Warrington said.

A former instructor at Appleby College, Warrington's desire to help others came from a combination of her husband's Rotary work, international service exposure while at Appleby College and her Christian faith.

Warrington is amazed at how far the group has come since it began eight years ago.

"It has grown from the first group of 12 in 2000 from a school in Toronto, to the point where we're now putting 150-200 volunteers a year into these projects," she said.

"That means we're starting to make a considerable impact."

For more information visit www.powertripsinc.org.