Dear Friends;

I am writing to inform you of a serious event that took place on our most recent service trip to the Dominican Republic last week. Overnight from June 8 to June 9, 3 men armed with pistols broke into our hostel with the apparent intent to open the hostel door for 3 or 4 other men and then to rob our group. There was a fight, during which the hostel owner and I were injured, and the assailants left without hurting anyone else or stealing anything. None of the students on the team were directly threatened, though an armed man was in their dorm room demanding they stay on their beds and stay quiet. Fortunately, none of the injuries appear to have been serious: bruises, scrapes, stitches and a concussion all of which appear to be improving.
Obviously, this is a very serious issue. The hostel involved is the same one we have used since 2006 (for those familiar with the trip, it was John’s building that was attacked) without previous incident. In reviewing the events, I cannot find any particular activity on our part that made us targets except for the simple fact that we were foreigners coming and going from the same building daily. I suspect someone was on the lookout for a target of opportunity, and our group of 10 (7 women) became that target.

We changed our lodging the morning after the event, moving to a different neighborhood and to a hostel with more security features: a front gate that can only be opened by the front desk, a 24-hour staffed front desk, rooms and apartments with doors that can be locked individually and with security bars on the windows. We chose to finish out the remaining 4 days in the Dominican Republic and we continued our clinical work during those days.

Although there must be changes to this project to address these issues, I feel that the nature of the actual work in the community will not change much. None of these events were related in any way to the work in the community, nor were they related to the fact that we were a medical team. I truly believe that we were targeted because we were foreigners, nothing more and nothing less. I forsee the greatest change to the project being on the logistical side: where we stay (a more secure place), setting a “curfew” by which time people need to be on-site at the hostel to make sure all are accounted for, how we travel within Santo Domingo, etc.

Please contact me if you have any concerns or questions. For those who have previously traveled to work in the DR, I hope you will still consider doing so in the future. For those who have supported our work, I hope that we will continue provide the work in the DR which has earned your support.