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2009 Foundation Mission Trip Recap
February 24, 2009
The Pujols Family Foundation embarked on another mission trip to the Dominican Republic, departing St. Louis on January 28th, 2009 and returning on February 2nd. This year’s team consisted of Albert Pujols, Deidre Pujols, Todd Perry and Jen Cooper from the Pujols Family Foundation. Dr. Rob Hanson and Dr. Jan Mueller staffed our pediatrics team and photographer Gina Kelly once again provided excellent support.
We want to give a special thank you to Compassion International for all of their hard work and preparation that made this trip a success. Also to all of the people who invested time, goods, services, funds and/or prayers to the success of this mission trip: We truly could not do this without your support!
By Jen Cooper
There was a definite sense of anticipation as we were preparing for the 2009 Pujols Family Foundation Operation Sound Asleep trip to the Dominican Republic. In many ways, this trip was different from the trips that we have taken in the past. We were carrying a much smaller team – only 7 people total – and only two of them were doctors. In the past, the focus of our trips has been medical, dental and eye care. However, this trip’s primary mission was to provide the first set of beds to some of the poorest families in the village of Batey Aleman.
We knew that this trip was going to be an adventure. That became clear on the morning of January 28th, when we were supposed to leave St. Louis. With over 6 inches of snow and ice covering the streets, we were not sure if we were even going to make it to the airport. However, we all made it safely to the airport. After catching our connecting flight in Miami, we were off to our destination of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. As soon as we arrived in Santo Domingo, there was a sense that things are different there. What you come to realize is that you have no idea how different it is in most parts of the country. After settling into our rooms and catching up on some much needed sleep, we were ready to set off the next morning to do what we had come to accomplish.
We took the hour and a half ride out to Batey Aleman. This particular village has become somewhat of a home base for our teams. It was the natural decision for where we were to launch Operation Sound Asleep. After the 2008 trip to the Dominican, Albert and Dee Dee saw the almost unbelievable conditions that people were sleeping in. I had seen pictures that were taken of these “beds” but nothing could have prepared me for seeing it in person. Many families had constructed something similar to a bed out of whatever they could find. In a lot of cases that would be a board on cinder blocks with sheets stacked on top to provide some kind of padding. If a family was fortunate enough to have a mattress, it was in such a state that you would not even let your dog sleep on it. And there wasn’t just one or even two people sleeping on one of these beds but many times there would be 4 or 5 sleeping on one bed. We contracted out the building of the bed frames and mattresses to a local Dominican company. They showed up each of the three mornings that we were in Batey Aleman with the next group of beds to be distributed. In all, 51 beds were distributed to the village and this is just the beginning. The Pujols Family Foundation has a goal of placing 300 beds into the homes of some of the poorest families in the Dominican Republic.
You almost do not even realize how much something like this means to a family. We often take for granted that we have a bed to sleep in every night. When we would bring a new bed into a home, the response from the family was overwhelming. There were grateful thanks, big hugs, tears flowing and praises to God. Pujols Family Foundation’s Executive Director Todd Perry said, “Going out and delivering these beds and seeing the response from the people has been among the best moments I have experienced as part of the Foundation.”
While part of the team was out delivering beds, our two doctors Rob Hanson and Jan Mueller, were kept plenty busy seeing patients back at the Compassion International school. They came prepared to treat as many people as possible and refer any cases that required more extensive treatment. After they had examined each patient, with the aid of their translator, they also prayed with every person. It was amazing to see how God used them in their one-on-one interactions.
At the end of the day, we would take the hour and a half ride back to the city. The team had dinner together every night. It was a great opportunity to share what we had all experienced that day and to reflect. I was constantly amazed by how much there was to share. Many nights we were at dinner for hours.
On our last full day in the Dominican Republic we traveled to Los Pajas. This village was a longer drive, over 2 hours, with a large part over uneven dirt roads. Rob and Jan were set up to see as any patients as they could within that day. Overall the children were suffering from many more ailments than what we had experienced in Batey Aleman. Many times it was difficult to see that but it was a comfort to know that we were able to help them. In addition to the medical care given, we started to do some scouting of homes, in hopes that we can eventually bring some beds into this village as well. We have great hopes for Los Pajas and look forward to being able to invest in this village like we have been able to do in Batey Aleman. There is a lot of ground to sow into and a great harvest that awaits.
The next day we packed up all of our suitcases as we were preparing to come back home. As we were driving to the airport, we went along many of the same roads that we had traveled over the past 4 days on our way out to the villages. It felt different this time though. I felt blessed to know that when I got home that I would have a safe place to return to and a bed to sleep in. I felt sad to leave the precious children that I had become so attached to over the past several days. I felt grateful for the opportunity to come and serve. But most of all, I felt expectant to see the amazing work that God is doing in the Dominican Republic.