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Students aid school, clinic in Dominican Republic

Eight Lincoln-West High School seniors will leave Monday morning for a week in the Dominican Republic. There they will combine a school project with a mission of mercy.

It’s the fourth year that teacher Robin Hamrick-Guerrero and her husband, Lenin Guerrero, have led a trip to the impoverished Veron district in Higuey, capital of the La Altagracia Province. Lenin Guerrero is from the Dominican Republic. 

In the past, the group has brought a year’s supply of drinking water to a school, along with supplies such as notebooks, pencils and glue. The school’s 300 students rely on a cistern and share a single sink and toilet.

This time, the Cleveland group will also take along medical goods, including sutures, diabetes test kits, syringes, gauze pads and bandages, to a free clinic. For the many premature babies born at the clinic, they will bring items such as caps, blankets, diapers and nebulizers.

The senior capstone project fits a section of Lincoln-West’s International Studies curriculum that requires students to “take action” and improve living conditions for others. Cleveland students, whose own households often struggle, typically learn during their visit that things could be worse.

“I see a greater appreciation for what they do have,” said Hamrick-Guerrero, who teaches English as a second language. “They get to see poverty on a different level. There are no support systems; there are no government systems in place to help people who have fallen on hard times. They lack access to quality education. They lack access to good health care.”

The group of two boys and six girls, who include a refugee from Burundi, started raising money for the trip in the fall and eventually collected $8,000.

Private donors included immigration attorney Margaret Wong, the local community development corporation, the Strongsville Optimists Club and Hispanic UMADAOP, an agency that provides residential treatment services.

The students also made and sold empanadillas at the school. The Puerto Rican meat pies, made with beef or chicken, are popular at Lincoln-West, where students come from a wide variety of ethnic groups and speak an array of languages.

Esperanza, a Hispanic education-advocacy group, contributed book bags filled with school supplies. Cleveland-based MedWish International, which collects unused medical supplies and equipment for developing countries, sold items to the Lincoln-West students for $2 a pound.

Many of the students who accompany Hamrick-Guerrero have rarely ventured far from Cleveland. For them, exposure to the Dominican Republic, which features scenic beauty as well as severe poverty, is life changing.

“They get a cultural experience, they want to be travelers,” Hamrick-Guerrero said. “It’s a big awakening.”