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Gifts and School Supplies ...

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Jerry and I bring SW gifts on our cruises to distribute to staff and crew who have made an impression or went the extra mile. This year we are bringing apple butter from the farms in Wilcox. (I think the containers are nicer than the contents!) Recipents usually are our room stewards, the casino dealers, our wait staff, etc., etc. I'll let you know what the reactions are.

And, ever since we went to Fanning Island in 2005, Jerry and I have been purchasing school supplies to deliver to a school during one of our island stops. This year we chose to purchase and deliver supplies to a school in the Dominican Republic.

We went shopping on Sat and were able to take advantage of tremendous back to school sales ($.17 for spiral notebooks; $.25 for water paint sets; $.50 for colored chalk; $.50 for crayons; some Eng/Spanish flashcards and coloring books). Jerry is hoping to be able to bring the box on the plane as his "carry-on" luggage.

Now I have to do some research to find a school ...

What about you guys?

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Sadly our experience was not very good. We had heard that the children in Costa Maya needed school supplies and we loaded a 30" rolling duffle bag with all types of school supplies and had the name of someone in town to drop them off too. When we got off the ship and walked to the end of the pier we were stopped by 2 soldiers (with machine guns on their shoulders) and pulled aside. We were detained for nearly an hour when they went through every crayon box, every pack of markers, every single page of every composition book, etc. We were made to feel like criminals. They finally left everything thrown all over the ground and walked away - leaving us to pick up the things and put them back in the bag. When we told the "contact" about our experience he simply shrugged his shoulders and took the bag of supplies. He seemed upset when we asked for the bag back. We often wondered if the children even got those supplies.

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MaryLou - how sad!

I have been in touch with someone from the school. They are very close to where the ship docks and have offered to give us a tour of the school, etc., etc. In reading their website, they rely heavily on US monetary donations. I hope that our experience is rich and fruitful. Will report back upon our return.

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Wanted to add the post script to our stop in La Romana, Dominican Republic:

We were greeted at the "taxi" stand with a driver and a representative of the school: Manuel spoke no English so I had an opportunity to practice my Spanish. Inexis is the woman whom I contacted about the donations and she was our "escort extradinaire". We stopped by the administration office first and dropped off the two boxes of supplies. We were then driven through their downtown and had a visual and verbal tour which was fascinating.

Our stop at the school lasted about 2 hours. We got to see the whole enchilada and met wonderful volunteers, teachers, staff workers and kids! All kids in the DR must go to school. Classrooms and teachers are at a shortage; students are abundant.

The next stop was the clinic which is adjacent to their hospital. Oscar de la Renta was born in La Romana. He spearheaded the funding and donations for the clinic and the equipment (state of the art!) and got other patrons to be involved

Our day with Inexis and Manuel ended about 1:30 in front of their JUMBO (think super, superzied Super Walmart). Jerry and I shopped like a local (totally in Spanish) and then walked back to the ship.

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