Island student plans to teach in Dominican Republic orphanage

Island student plans to teach in Dominican Republic orphanage

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— Photo courtesy of Camila Fernandez

Camila Fernandez of West Tisbury, a freshman at Middlebury College in Vermont, is a very busy student. In addition to a full class schedule, Camila is raising money to help fund a one-week trip in February to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic.

Camila, 18 this month, is one of a group of 14 Middlebury students who will travel to the Caribbean country to teach English, Spanish literacy, geography and “anything else that is needed,” to younger students. But first she and her enterprising group must raise the funds for the trip.

The students have organized several creative fundraising events that included on-campus candy-grams and babysitting for a faculty dinner. A battle of the bands concert at Middlebury and raffle is in the works. In an email to The Times this week, Camila appealed to the Vineyard community for support.

The trip is being planned in conjunction with a group called Outreach 360, which organizes volunteer support for the orphanage and disadvantaged neighboring communities with a focus on education — English, literacy, and community health. The Dominican Republic, on the second largest Caribbean island after Cuba, is known as a vacation spot with wonderful beaches and expansive golf courses, but it is also a country with much poverty.

The students will spend their week on a very tight schedule that has them teaching and helping in whatever ways they can for most of every day they are there. There will be little time for leisure, according to Camila.

Camila attended the Oak Bluffs School and graduated from the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in 2010. The daughter of Rodolfo Fernandez and Valeria Esnal, she was born in Uruguay. Her family moved to the Vineyard when she was in the sixth grade.

“Finally a place that I could call home,” she said in an email to The Times. “I love the Vineyard and the community we have here. In my opinion the tight-knit, supportive and helping community is one of the most unique and special qualities the Vineyard possesses.”

Camila speaks Spanish and currently volunteers in with the Open Door Clinic, which offers health care to migrant farm workers in Vermont. She is excited by the prospect of assisting the children.

“It will be a great experience for all of us and hopefully we can make an impact on the children’s lives,” she said. “I know this trip will be an emotional roller coaster. We will be immersed in an environment we are not used to and spending time in a developing country in conditions we are probably not accustomed to. There will be ups and downs, but I think that the important thing is to remember that the reason we are there is to give inspiration and hope to the children that attend the orphanage.”

For more information go to outreach360.org or email Camila at cfernandez@middlebury.edu.

For more information about Camila’s group at Middlebury College and to make a donation, go to http://blogs.middlebury.edu/middstart/2011/11/28/malt-dominican-republic/.

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