(Marilyn Wark, director of Speech-Language Pathology Services in the School of Communication
Sciences and Disorders, gives a firsthand account of a recent faculty/student mission
trip to the Dominican Republic.)
Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) students and faculty returned to San Pedro,
Dominican Republic, earlier this year to serve the speech and hearing needs of those
living in poverty. Independent of the Loewenberg School of Nursing, with whom they
had partnered in 2010 and 2011, CSD students planned and implemented a week-long itinerary
of service and education for the children and instructors of the Central Auditivo
Experimental del Sordo (CAES). (An archive of the students’ experiences can be found
The Dominican Republic is one of the most impoverished countries in the Caribbean.
Faculty and students again provided free audiology services to the needy.
Despite their exhaustion from travel and anxieties of serving in a country with language
and cultural differences, our students quickly connected with the children they encountered
in the CAES. CSD faculty had visited CAES last year, so many of the young children
greeted the students with smiles and signing about getting hearing aids, as well as
unique signs for our students’ names, which is customary in deaf culture. Unfortunately,
the need for pediatric hearing aids is greater than the supply of aids available.
Future plans for providing additional aids are being developed.
The students also spent time at the Casa De Luz orphanage, where CSD faculty and students
had built relationships in previous years. The image of sad, “helpless children” in
an orphanage was replaced by children who were full of life, and eager to interact
with the CSD team in any way they could. Our students’ experiences at Casa De Luz
exercised their audiology and speech-language pathology skills, and served as a reminder
to leave their expectations behind and be open to new, bright opportunities.
In addition to service, CSD students and faculty also had the opportunity to visit
the Asociación Dominicana de Rehabilitación (ADR). This rehabilitation facility, located
in the center of Santo Domingo, took our team by surprise — it was truly comprehensive
and forward-thinking, offering occupational therapy, physical therapy, prosthetics,
speech therapy, audiology, psychology, early intervention, special education, technical
training and more, for children and adults.
On the final day of the trip, the CSD students presented a monetary gift from the
proceeds of the Mid-South Conference Silent Auction to the staff and supervisor of
Casa De Luz. Additionally, an emergency fund for Casa De Luz was established with
the director of the local foundation, with whom our team works throughout the year.
The final day was filled with bittersweet feelings of excitement and sadness — soon
our team would be home,
but they would be leaving behind many wonderful people and
numerous opportunities to serve.