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Starting in 2009, EWB-RHIT teamed up with Brooklyn-based NGO named the Batey Relief Alliance working in the Dominican Republic to fund and operate a clinic in the rural village of Batey Cinco Casas, one of the only clinics in the area that provides free or low cost healthcare to both Dominicans and Haitian descendants. Originally planning to work on a project improving water quality, we quickly switched to the more pressing matters of expanding the clinic and improving health in nearby communities. View a brief video about our program!
In the 1960s, sugar cane workers lived in small towns (bateys) based around the sugar cane plantations. In Batey Cinco Casas, several buildings were constructed to act as dormitories for the workers. When the sugar cane industry rapidly deteriorated, all the workers were left without jobs and the entire area became severely impoverished. The buildings in Batey Cinco Casas were abandoned until the BRA came into ownership of two of them. They installed a medical clinic in one of them, while the other sat right next to it in disrepair. The BRA currently operated the initial clinic at maximum capacity and wished to be able to use the adjacent building to treat more patients, such as through an outpatient center, as well as to hold basic surgeries such as for cataracts.
Over the five years EWB-RHIT collaborated with the BRA, we have worked on three main projects. The first objective was to construct a roof over the unused building in Batey Cinco Casas so that it was enclosed and patients could begin to use it. There were many different considerations that went into the design: lighting, ventilation, resistance to hurricanes and earthquakes, as well as the structural integrity of the old building with the roof’s added weight. The second project was to implement a piping network and septic system for the newly renovated building so that patients, doctors, and administrators could wash up and use the restroom while waiting to be seen, after surgeries, or, perhaps at some point in the future, if they would need to stay overnight for any reason. After conquering the rains of Hurricane Irene and completing the septic system, we moved locations to the nearby community of Batey Santa Rosa, which the BRA had been working with to provide medicine and improve quality of life. After meeting community members, many mentioned that there were few functional latrines left in the community since many were completely filled and that they didn’t have the means, specifically on the technical side, to construct more. We decided to collaborate with the community to provide latrines that lasted longer, were easier to maintain, and were relatively inexpensive so that the community could continue constructing latrines after our collaboration was completed.
Both in Batey Cinco Casas, as well as Batey Santa Rosa, we have seen great improvements during our times together. The clinic, once the roof was completed, started adding functionality to the building by adding an x-ray room as well as expanding services such as for cholera patients. After the septic system was completed, they added a cafeteria to serve clean and well-prepared food to the patients waiting to be seen as well as a new surgery center, with the planned bathroom expansion, onto the back of the building we helped renovate. Matilde, our contact within BRA, declared that the projects were a great success and that they highly motivated everyone in the clinic to work towards the continued expansion and treatment of more patients in the facility. In Batey Santa Rosa, community members had constructed three latrines on their own and, after the monitoring trip, planned to continue raising funds and constructing a latrine each month to continue improving sanitation. They had also taken the design into their own hands and added lights to the latrine, as well as testing out a few variations on the design such as having a masonry black wall at the base of the latrine to keep water and mud out during rainstorms while also protecting the wood from rotting. Overall, we are very proud of the work both groups have accomplished as well as of how much our engineers have learned both culturally and about project management from assessment through to the final design and implementation!