Interview with Sonia Adames, Social Action Director for the JRMS in Dominican Republic

Entreculturas has spoken with Sonia Adames, Social Action Director for the JRMS in Dominican Republic. Sonia describes the articulation of JRMS members who have set up bases at different points and her message is hopeful.

Articulation of JRMS aid

"It is an articulation of several organizations, not only of the Bonhomme centre or the Jesuits but of all the organized Dominican civil society. Thinking that when there is a catastrophe there are usually security and looting problems, we tried to set up an operation so that aid would be delivered in the best possible way.

We set up a storage centre in Barahona, two hours away from the border. We set up a humanitarian team in Jamani, in permanent contact with Haiti to receive its demands and pass them on to Barahona so that they will reach Haiti as soon as possible. In Haiti we have a commission that is finding out possible storage sites, looking at appropriate buildings and the teams which are ready to receive the aid and distribute it. We are giving priority to religious groups and social institutions with whom we usually work to guarantee that they are organized and familiar with the way we operate.

In addition to all these teams, we have another one, here in the capital that receives all the donations from the economic, social and religious institutions in Dominican, organizes them, loads the trucks that go to Barahona and from there to Jimaní and Puerto Principe, guarded by the blue helmets so that it won´t be looted."

Aid already distributed by the Jesuit Refugee and Migrant Service

"Almost 200 tons have already been sent from this office. We have given priority to their demands: water and food. We had not started to send medicines since we were organizing for the wounded to be taken to border hospitals and we provided the hospitals with medicines. Seven trucks arrived from Santiago, the second city of the country, that also set up an operation centre.

We set up two storage centres. From Santo Domingo we have sent aid to the novitiate of the Society of Jesus in Tabarre, an area at the entranced of Puerto Principe, in the Eastern part."

The Haitian people are not wild

" We have to be very careful how we manage information since Dominican Republic is a border country with Haiti and one being richer than the other, there is s strong prejudice against the Haitians.
We think that any country in similar conditions is exposed to lootings. We have reports of people and institutions who are there that tell us that the panic and public opinion of this side is not comparable to what is really going on. They have seen brave and calm people amidst a population that is dying of hunger. We do have isolated cases, but we have to be very careful when we say that Haiti is a wild country.. We don´t have reports of violence regarding the aid we are providing.

UN and the JRMS

" When the UN, the international agencies and the economic and social institutions of the country approached us, I thought that we might be blocking aid, since the news in the media was that to have a certain degree of trust, aid had to be distributed by us. Thank God that there are other trustworthy institutions such as Caritas and other NGOs that have also set up aid simultaneously. I have not heard again from the UN on this issue but what we said was that all those capable of sending aid to Puerto Principe should do so directly in order not to block it."