For nine days in August, Fulbright Alumnus Suzanne Tierney of the Greater Pudget Sound chapter made a difference in the Dominican Republic through an EnvisionFulbright service trip. Suzanne accompanied a group of sixteen student volunteers and seven medical professionals on a trip to Las Canas, Dominican Republic. Working together with the DR-based NGO 7elements, Suzanne and her team distributed over 150 reading glasses and medical supplies to almost 200 people out of mobile clinics and pharmacies set up at each of the five locations they visited.
Suzanne distributed glasses those who need them most. The glasses make a huge impact not only in an economic sense, as those with restored vision can do more and perform more tasks, but also a personal impact, as Suzanne describes, “the look of satisfaction on each face was priceless.”
Over five different locations, Suzanne helped administer eye tests to determine the strength of the lens necessary and distributed those respective glasses to the individual. She also spoke to over 15 students and informed them about the existence and details of the Fulbright Program. She served over 45 hours to help provide a basic resource that provides a huge positive impact.
“This experience made a huge personal impact. I am still processing the feelings. It was one of the most joyful experiences of my life to connect to these people, Dominicans and Haitians alike.“
Suzanne used her Spanish to interact with the patients and to test their vision. Along with a reading chart, she also had the idea to bring postcards from her hometown to test the patients’ short distance vision. These postcards served the dual purpose of allowing her to share her community with them and to encourage dialogue between them.
While many of the people she helped treat were Spanish speaking Dominicans, there were also Creole speaking Haitians with whom she communicated with the help of an interpreter. She first learned from guest speakers who came to 7elements that many Haitians come to the Dominican Republic to work in the sugarcane fields and are employed and housed in shantytowns (called bateyes) by sugar companies. Suzanne was able to experience firsthand the deplorable conditions of three such company owned towns where she and her team set up mobile clinics and a pharmacies.
“The learning opportunity was also impactful,” Suzanne writes. “Prior to this trip, I did not know the full situation [about the Haitian bateyes]. … I am inspired to share the stories I heard not only with friends and family, but in my professional life.”