Reflections on the Dominican Republic
by Shewina Hassani
Firstly, I would like to give my sincerest thanks to the people that made this trip possible: Dr. Moore, Grace Johnson, Stephanie Sanders, Anny Torres, Eliesset Supulved, Brady Burgos and anyone else behind the scenes who had a hand in making this trip happen. If not for their can-do attitude and continual patience, this trip would not have been possible. In terms of what I learned during my nine days in the Dominican Republic, I learned that the world is a lot more complicated than what meets the eye, but if people want to make things better, it starts at home. As the picture above says, “Love your family and you promote peace” was a tenet that was publicly plastered outside one of the classrooms at Instituto Politecnico Femenino Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes. This quote is true in all ways, because if there is no love at home, there can be no love outside the home.
Everything begins with the family; this is how a tribe is formed, then a village and then eventually a civilization. But without the basic love for one's self/attachments of one's children, one will have trouble extending that love to a stranger. We see it today, in the United States, where family values are rapidly disintegrating with more than 50% of families ending up in divorce. We also see a lack of humanity being extended to strangers; these are all signs of a disintegrating society, because once everything goes wrong, we flee to our family, and if that is not a solidified place of refuge, then it leaves people holistically disadvantaged. I know speaking from experience and coming from a two-parent household, I see how much that blessing has played out with my counterparts who joined me on this trip to the Dominican Republic. After about 1-2 minutes of genuine conversation with various students, a common theme that prevailed was how their families had experienced some sort of division. In Islam we believe that once a wife and her spouse have split up, the child's susceptiveness to the devil exponentially increases. Looking at the way Social Workers providing food stamps in the 60's and 70's operated also illustrates this reality where the government knew that in order to infiltrate the Black community, they had to be split up. So a requirement at the time was that in order for a family to receive food stamps, the head of the house couldn't be present. The interesting thing is that the social workers could show up at a household on any day, so a family was never prepared as to when the head of the house should leave; therefore it led to many times fathers roaming around other households for prolonged periods of time in hopes of having a temporary place to stay before heading back home. This naturally led to significant increase in extra-marital relationships and children being born out of wedlock without a two-parent support system. A relatable song of these times that resonates with this unfortunate reality is “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” by The Temptations. This tenet of holding family values as the key to paramount success in any community is an integral fabric of Dominican society and a tool I hope to implement in my life.