By: Cynthia So
Batey Libertad has seen its share of visitors. Youth from the batey are adept at using Facebook and have accumulated friends from across the world. Students are motivated to learn English, knowing they can practice their skills each time a group comes to visit. More importantly, over the years Batey Libertad has benefitted from community development projects that have provided colorful cement homes, latrines, better roads, community centers, potable water, and scholarships for education. Service-learning programs have provided mutual benefit for both groups visiting the batey, as well as for the community.
Batey Libertad is unique in many ways, making it an ideal destination for travelers who wish to experience a different side of the Dominican Republic. The community has been overwhelmingly receptive to visitors. Families welcome visitors into homes, share meals and stories, and build friendships across cultural lines. Over the years, leaders have developed within the community, helping to facilitate the logistics of trips and homestays, and working to maintain a safe and welcoming environment within the batey.
Yspaniola is a non-profit that seeks to provide enriching service-learning experiences for individuals who wish to visit the bateys. Yspaniola initially developed from a service-learning trip led by undergraduate students from Yale to Batey Libertad in 2005. The students were inspired by their experiences in the batey and wanted to continue a productive partnership with the community. By collaborating directly with community leaders and residents, we ensure that projects are valued and needed within the batey, and that they can be sustained after groups leave the community.
The blog also provides useful information for students and inspires lively debate and increased interest in exchange and the development of Hispaniola.