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Trip to Dominican Republic full of “Aha moments”

“It’s a true cultural exchange”

By Barbara Lockard
Chris North has been to the Dominican Republic so many times, she’s losing track.  North, professor of Communication and Public Health at Ohio Northern University, is planning another trip November 23-30.  If memory serves her, it’s her “ninth or tenth.”

A program of ONU, the Dominican Republic trip this month will also include five students; Hannah Stokes, professor of psychology; and Jeff Allison, retired faculty member, College of Pharmacy. The congregation of Ada United Methodist Church also provides support, as it has for previous trips.  

North hesitates to label the project a mission trip.  “It’s a true cultural exchange,” she said.  “This is not people from America going to save poor people in another country.”

North added that, although they can’t accomplish a lot in one week, it’s a great opportunity to sit with, shadow and learn from the Dominican people.  The group will also try to find out what resources are needed that could be found cheaper and easier in the United States.  

Clinics and Schools
As in past trips, North has chosen to work with Solid Rock International, an organization that works exclusively in San Juan de la Maguana, a city in the western region of the country.  Solid Rock operates a clinic and schools and the organization’s philosophy is, “By Dominicans, for Dominicans.”  North likes that focus.  

“They seek to empower the local people,” added North.  “Our group hires a Dominican physician and will shadow the Dominican staff.”  

The cultural exchange trips had been limited to ONU students in North’s Ethics and Global Aid class. Since she is on sabbatical, working on a textbook, this year’s trip was opened up to all students.  Those traveling this month include three pharmacy and two nursing students.  

According to North, these trips have marked the first time that many students have traveled out of the United States.  

“Teaching is my passion,” she added.  “I love to see the students experience those aha moments and to watch them really absorbing the Dominican culture.”  

The students will work alongside the physician and some of the healthcare workers but will also take on their own projects.  Because they are students, the projects must be within their scope of practice.  They have collected toothbrushes and toothpaste and will work with the children on dental hygiene.  Each student will also do a home visit.

Chris North loves to travel. Her destinations have included many countries in Central and Latin America, most of Europe, the Galapagos Islands and Japan.  “The only place I haven’t been is Africa,” she laughed.  

We’re sure she’ll remedy that!