I am in the process of gathering members for our 10th annual Teachers’ Social Justice Tour to the Dominican Republic. This is a not for profit project, and because of the intimate nature of our site visits, we must limit the number of teachers we can bring. To preserve the integrity of the project, we do this only once a year. Registration tends to fill quickly, so please contact me ASAP if you are interested.
During eight days, a diverse group of teachers from Pre-K through University come together to meet with local activists, teachers, and communities to learn about the root causes of extreme poverty, the effects of globalization, and our interconnectedness with one another.
Unlike many other travel projects to this area, the focus of our travel is not to help, but to learn from and share with the people and communities we will be meeting with. Although as a gesture of solidarity, we will bring medical supplies and other needed items, this is not the focus of the project. We hope instead to build solidarity between teachers and activists, and together gain a deeper understanding of our interconnected struggle.
Over the eight days, we will meet with groups to gain first-hand experience and knowledge on these integral themes:
1. Global migration and human rights: the exploitation of Haitian migrant workers on the sugar cane bateyes and beyond. The just integration into society of Haitians of Dominican descent. We will meet with MUDHA, the group started by the late Sonia Pierre, known as the Cesar Chavez of the Haitian migrant worker and their descendants. She was imprisoned at the age of 13 for acting as a translators for striking cane cutters, and rose up to become the first bring the plight of “stateless” Haitian migrant workers to the International Court of Justice. We plan to meet with her daughters who have continued their mother’s work.
2. Free Trade: Under current international trade laws, workers typically earn about 83 cents an hour making clothes for Victoria’s Secret, Justice and other familiar labels. We will meet union organizers who have risked their lives to start a union in the free trade zone. We will visit the AltaGracia project, a factory that pays workers 3x the normal wage to meet the demands of university students organized through Students Against Sweat Shops.
3. Women’s Issues: The double marginalization of women will be explored in several contexts. We will learn about human trafficking and sex tourism from women led organizations in health as well as from sex workers doing innovative forms of peer education that include guerilla theater, publication of comic books, and massive public outreach campaigns.
4. Education: we will meet with the leadership of the Dominican Teachers union and learn how they have organized millions of Dominican’s to take to the streets demanding that the government live up to its constitutional promise of funding education at a modest 4% of GDP. We are scheduled to meet with Maria Teresa Cabrera, the first woman to lead the Dominican Teachers Union. Additionally, we plan to meet with rank and file Dominican teachers in a workshop where we will give a presentation where we share the struggles we face in the U.S. linked to neoliberal, corporate “reform”, and hear their personal stories of struggle and organizing.
5. We will explore environmental justice issues, as we meet with Dominican youth organizing to project the health of their communities and natural resources from global mining interests that put profits before people.
6. Voices from the Harvest of Empire: As Junot Diaz asks in Oscar Wao: Did you know the U.S. occupied the Dominican Republic twice? No? That’s ok, your grandchildren will never know that we occupied Iraq. We will explore the legacy of the two U.S. occupations and learn how they connect to the present. Gain insight into the political events that caused massive migration to the United States and continue to exacerbate the cycle of extreme poverty.
There are many other visits planned; read about them on our website.
Although we work hard and have a rigorous travel schedule, we also have a lot of fun together. We will have an afternoon of white water rafting and horseback riding amidst towering waterfalls in a lush tropical landscape. Later we will share nights of camaraderie with music, dance and night time adventures.
We are a welcoming group, and our teachers group always winds up being quite diverse. Over 100 teachers have participated over the years, and many have returned two and three times.
Because of the intimate nature of our site visits, participation in limited to approximately 25 participants. As our program continues to grow in popularity, the tour fills to capacity very quickly. It is likely that half of the places will be reserved before March 15, 2016.
Please let me know as soon as possible if you want to be a part of our teacher's group and I will send you the registration materials via email.