Fishermen Give Back
Reel Life Adventures is a group put together by Michael O’Neal that dedicates itself to providing humanitarian aid in needy countries from the sport fishing community. How it works is Michael puts together a group of guys who in this case go down to the Dominican Republic to provide aid, supplies and labor to help the Dominican and Haitian orphans and impoverished people of Puerto Plata. Usually Michael will contact a host in the destination country who is already there doing this kind of work. Michael Oneal joined up with Brad Jenkins of dominikids.com, an organization to provide on the ground aid to the orphans and communities in need. Brad Jenkins moved his family to Puerto Plata to try and establish an orphanage and rehabilitation center and assist in community transformation. After contacting and coordinating with the host, the group travels to the destination where they will then spend about a week doing work on the ground. At the end of the week the group usually takes a day or two to go fishing. It was nothing short of an incredible trip and we received far more than we gave.
Here are the some of the guys responsible for all this good work. Brad Jenkins is the guy who lives in Dom Rep with his wife Brook and three kids, Michael Oneal is the guy who organizes Reel Life Adventures that takes fishermen into these needy places to help. John was the foreman in rebuilding the house for the mother with eight kids. Brad, John & Michael Reel Life Adventures Crew Steve Barltlow Michael Oneal
Every morning different teams would head to the different villages to work, the missions would range from construction of house and showers to bringing supplies, meds, splints and antibiotics to hospital, school supplies to schools, water purification filters in other areas.
Project #1: House Build in Javillar
One of the projects was the tear down of a dilapidated home and the construction of a new one for a single woman with eight children. Marisel built her own home 8 years ago out of whatever materials she could find. When we arrived on the scene the makeshift house had walls falling in and the roof caving down. It was so termite infested and rotten that the only solution was to tear down and start over.
After tearing down the house and a trip to the hardware store for supplies, we started work on the rebuild. Materials were staged around the now empty lot and the Reel Adventure crew started working on the rough framing.
People from the community started to gather around to offer a helping hand. You saw so many dominican kids and adults both watching and physically getting involved. We found as we brought supplies into the area everybody wanted to be a part of rebuilding this community, even if it was one house at a time.
The take home message for me was that these people were not looking for a handout, they just needed some hope, opportunity, and materials to help transform their community.
Project #2: Showers & Filters in Munoz
Another area of Puerto Plata in desperate need was the village of Munoz. The primarily Haitian population of this village have been relying on a nearby stream for their water supply. The problem was that they use the same contaminated stream to bath in and drink from.
The Reel Life Adventure crew set out to build a showering facility and also distribute water purification systems to several deserving families. Rather than simply hand them out, the families were required to earn them by completing different tasks that would benefit the community overall.
Brad Jenkin’s work is mostly in community transformation, involving the people themselves having a hand in their own improvement. One example of this was for the families to earn the water filters they would have to clear a field that was overgrown and covered with garbage. Each family had to bring a minimum of three bags of garbage and do that every month to keep the filters. The now cleaned and cleared area was transformed into a soccer field where the young children and adults could learn about and play soccer. Thus the whole community had a part in their own betterment. In other words, the filters were not just a handout. This community transformation seemed to work well in all the villages we visited.
At the end of the trip…
Michael Oneal’s model of how this works is to involve a local fishing resort in the destination country which will provide rooms and boats for the crew at the end of the trip. In this case the resort was Cap Cana in Punta Cana on the east side of the Dominican Republic. In addition to rewarding the crew with accommodations and a day of bill fishing,Cap Cana resort was also responsible for gathering money donated to the cause via fishing tournaments held there earlier in the year. Andy New of Cap Cana marina, was responsible for organizing the event and charity proceeds of the tournaments to be used for these humanitarian projects in the neighboring communities.
The Need Goes On…
While the projects completed by the group on this trip were a great success, the need of the Dominican people goes on. In addition to the work done in the villages of Javillar and Munoz the crew spent some time visiting other impoverished areas of the country and distributing some much needed supplies . One of the areas Brad wanted us to visit was a place called Agua Negras. Agua Negras is a densely populated slum situated on the coast where many of the inland streams flow into the ocean.
The name Aqua Negras or “black water” best describes the situation here. Not only do many contaminated streams full of sewage and runoff end up here, the river mouth also serves as a landfill. Many children could be seen playing and rummaging though trash, while others swam in the septic water. Pastor Geoffery who runs the small church explained to us that the lack of opportunity and education leads many of the towns children to prostitution and drugs. The conditions in Aqua Negras were the worst we encountered on this trip.
The crew supplied Pastor Geoffery with a bunch of donated school supplies such as pencils and notebooks to be used in the classes he teaches. These classes will hopefully give the children of Agua Negras a better opportunity through education. One thing we noticed in many of the villages we visited was the eagerness the children had to learn. You would often see a child practicing speaking english with members of the crew.
Want to Help?
For more information on Reel Life Adventures visit www.reellifeadventures.org
Special thanks to Cap Cana Resorts for accommodations, boats, and generous donation to this worthy cause.