Social Work in the DR
I have the privilege of working not only with the pastor here but also have the benefit that her husband works in the government. Last night I sat down to figure out exactly what the government provides and does not provide. After spending a year studying the history of the United States aid to the poor as well as England, it interests me to find out what the DR does for their poor. Especially since so many are poor in this country.
The first thing I learned is that there are certain “pueblos” (small villages) that are tagged as poor. These villages are treated with care. They are given electricity for 6 hour a day, even though you never know what 6 hours you will get it. They are given free health care clinics and reduced priced medications. The grocery stores in these pueblos are able to sell the food at reduced prices with the aid of the government. The government recognizes that certain areas of the country have higher poverty rates and are therefore provides aid based on the location.
The second aid provided is government medical insurance. Anyone can apply for this card that grants access to reduced medical care in various different hospitals and clinics. Medical care (in comparison to the US) is cheap. When we took a missionary to the ER for an eye problem, it costs $100 for the eye specialist to drive into the hospital from his home to see her. In the US just stepping into the waiting room of the ER costs $100, before you even see a doctor, let alone a specialist. Not to mention the entire time at the hospital was less than 2 hours, that was only because we had to wait to the specialist to get there. In one of the poor “pueblos” we took a little girl who fell and cracked her head open on the concrete slab to the clinic. Medical care was completely free, including the stitches that she needed. Her medication cost 30 pesos ($38 pesos is $1). Although these costs seem ridiculously cheap to any US citizen, in the city $100 is more than 2 days wages and in the pueblo 30 pesos maybe one days wage.
The third aid I have learned about is distribution of food. The current governor of Santiago is providing bags of food complete with rice, beans, fish, sugar, etc. One bag of food will feed an average family for 3 days. These bags are given out to different churches and organizations to deliver the food to the poor. They do not have to report anything back just distribute the food.
The last aid that I have learned about is the gas cards. All kitchens here are run on propane gas. The families are given card to purchase gas for their kitchens.
It is interesting to me that the poor are given aid mostly by the area that they live. The system here seems so much more simple than the aid in the US. There is little aid in comparison to the amount of aid given in the states but by designating certain areas as poverty stricken areas the poor are given aid. Though the poor are allowed to live anywhere, rent mostly determines the locations of the rich and the poor., much like in the states. I am excited to continue to learn more about how they deal with the poor differently than in the states.
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