This page was last updated on July 5, 2019.
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A statement on the current situation involving deaths of US tourists in the Dominican Republic
Julia and Julius Ariail, mission team leaders
June 27, 2019
We have had several questions about the recent series of tragic deaths of tourists from the US and other countries in the Dominican Republic, and would like to respond below.
The team leaders and missioners from Christ Church Valdosta were quite aware of the reporting about a string of tragic deaths of US tourists in the Dominican Republic before they left and while they were in the Dominican Republic. At this time, no one knows whether this is an unconnected series of deaths or something more sinister, but as of now the US State Department has not elevated its travel caution for this area as the deaths continue to be evaluated by several police and public health agencies. Almost all of these deaths occured in high-end resort hotels. However, the missioners were based in an Episcopal conference center, very much like our diocesan Honey Creek, in the central highlands of the Dominican Republic and ate meals prepared and served by veteran conference center staff including an Episcopal priest, all of whom have years of experience working with mission teams from the United States. One of the missioners on the team was a medical doctor, who came prepared with a supply of both prescription drugs and and other over-the-counter remedies for common ailments. The Dominican village of El Pedregal where they worked on various projects has a very capable medical clinic staffed by a Dominican medical doctor, and the nearby city of Jarabacoa (only minutes away) has a hospital and several medical clinics should an emergency arise. First-class Dominican hospitals were in Santiago, about an hour away. During the one afternoon and evening they were in Santo Domingo preparing to fly back to the US the next day, they stayed in a brand-new hotel facility screened by the mission team support staff of the Diocese of the Dominican Republic in advance. This hotel is located in the Colonial Zone of the city, the historic and therefore the most-heavily visited section. Because of all of this tourist traffic, it is also the most heavily policed area in the city, with 24-hour patrols by both regular police (armed) and tourist police (unarmed, available to help tourists with whatever might arise). The mission team support office of the diocese has three full-time, bilingual staff members who stay in contact with all mission teams in-county at any given time. One of our team leaders carried both US and Dominican-carrier equipped cell phones, and could contact those staff members around the clock if help was needed. The three teenagers on the team were never out of sight of one or more of the adults on the team at any time.
The two leaders of this team have years of experience in the Dominican Republic, with Julia being on her 18th trip and Julius on his 30th trip. Approsimately 50 mission teams from Episcopal dioceses in the United States come to work in the Diocese of the Dominican Republic each year. Every trip is planned months, even years, in advance. Each trip has its own set of precautions depending on circumstances, and this one was no different. Our particular mission team has been working in the Dominican Republic since 2001 and has never had any incident even remotely similar to those being reported. Five other Episcopal mission teams were in-country during the same time as the Christ Church team, and no incidents involving any of them have been reported.
For more information on the situation involving the deaths of US tourists in the Dominican Republic, go here:
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Now that our 2018 trip is completed, the following after-action documents are available: trip brief report as bulletin insert | trip summary report | daily diary | comprehensive photo album | highlights photo album | Trip Planning Page
All information about our 2019 mission trip to the Dominican Republic will be placed on this planning page just as soon as it is avalilable. Contact information for the team leaders: Julia Ariail, (229) 563-0074, firstname.lastname@example.org; Julius Ariail, (229) 563-0209, email@example.com.
If you would like to receive email messages with updates about the Dominican Republic mission program at Christ Church, please sign up here and check the “Dominican Republic Mission Trips” box. For an overview of this mission program, click here. For scanned copies of the thank-you notes received from the students in the K-8 Episcopal school in El Pedregal who received scholarship assistance from us for the 2017-2018 academic year, click here.
Julius has started a new photo album on his Facebook page for photographs related to our trip. This album is open to the public. You can access it here.
Team roster as of May 1, 2019: (firm commitment):
1. Julia Ariail, Valdosta GA
2. Julius Ariail, Valdosta GA
3. Bonnie Hanson, Valdosta GA
4. Caroline Hiers, Thomasville GA
5. Meg Hiers, Marietta GA
6. Phyllis Hiers, Valdosta GA
7. Steph Johnson, Valdosta GA
8. Bella Pozo, Thomasville GA
9. Mary Jeannette Pringle de Quezada, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
10. The Rt. Rev. Moisés Quezada (June 22-23), Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
11. Fred Richter, Statesboro GA
12. Paul Stevenson, Valdosta GA
13. Emily Taylor, Valdosta GA
14. Casey Wesselman, Myrtle Beach SC
15. William Whatley, Statesboro GA
The team is limited to 18 missioners because of the size of the in-country chartered minibus transportation we will be using. The team roster will be set after January 31.
After considering all of the preferences expressed for the 2019 mission trip schedule, we have decided that the trip will be from Monday, June 17, to Monday, June 24. We know that this was not everyone’s choice, and we appreciate all of the input that led to this decision. These dates were also those requested by Padre Canela at the Campamento. On October 11, those dates were approved by the DR diocesan office.
The decision on flights for the 2019 trip has been made. All missioners will have the choice of starting the trip either at the Valdosta airport or at the Atlanta airport on Monday, June 17. All will fly back to Atlanta on June 24, where missioners can decide on their own to leave the trip in Atlanta or to fly on to Valdosta that same night.
Here are the designated flight numbers and times:
Monday, June 17
Delta 3818 VLD 6:10 a.m. –> ATL 7:25 a.m.
Delta 686 ATL 9:50 a.m. –> SDQ 1:16 p.m.
Monday, June 24
Delta 759 SDQ 2:20 p.m. –> ATL 5:56 p.m.
Delta 3968 ATL 9:16 p.m. –> VLD 10:20 p.m.
As of 10 a.m. on January 10, the cost of these flights from and back to Valdosta was $1,474.23. The cost of the flights from and back to Atlanta was $943.13.
We will not be purchasing a group ticket for this trip.
We are happy to report that we had a good meeting on October 24 and again on February 6 with Padre Ramón Canela and his wife, Ivelisse Espinal, at the Campamento in El Pedregal, and that these projects have been approved for our 2019 mission trip:
* Paint murals of animals and trees in the second kindergarten classroom. (We did the first classroom last year).
* Construct a concrete block bedroom for a villager, Pirlulu, replacing an existing plywood structure on the side of a house. Pirlulu is Leidy’s cousin and Elena’s grandson, and our team has supported his education in a special needs school for many years.This construction started on May 1, and you can see an online album of photographs showing progress here.
* Install oscillating wall fans in the second-floor main dormitory rooms. These will be installed by the time we arrive.
* Conduct sewing classes for a group of the village women and teenagers.
* Form a group of local teenagers and our missioner teenagers, and facilitate projects for them — bracelet making, sewing classes, a service project at the campamento or in the village, and a day trip to Rancho Baiguate, a nearby eco-tourism facility.
* Conduct a veterinary clinic for a local animal rescue program. For a short video about this project, click here.
* Sponsor the splash party for the village children.
During the time we will be at the Campamento, the teachers will still be on post-planning duty but the children will be out of classes. The teachers will be available to help us with the VBS and other activities as needed.
[PLEASE NOTE: THE TEAM ROSTER HAS BEEN SET, AND ENROLLMENT IS NOW CLOSED.] If you are interested in joining the 2019 team, please contact us to discuss your interest and your possible role on the team. Once you receive an OK to join from us, then send a $100 deposit made payable to Christ Episcopal Church with “DR Mission” in the memo line to the church (see address below). Then proceed to choose your departure city and purchase your flight tickets. Send copy of the airline confirmation to firstname.lastname@example.org . The team will have a maximum of 18 members. An additional trip fee of approximately $650 will be due sometime in the spring of 2019. This money will pay for our room and board while at the Campamento, the costs of in-country transportation, supplies for our projects, and an overnight hotel stay in Santo Domingo on June 23.
All missioners will have the choice of starting the trip either at the Valdosta airport or at the Atlanta airport on Monday, June 17. All will fly back to Atlanta on June 24, where missioners can decide on their own to leave the trip in Atlanta or to fly on to Valdosta that same night.
DR Dinner and Auction on May 3: Our annual DR dinner and auction to raise funds for scholarships at the K-8 school we support and for a portion of our project costs is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 3, at the Cotton Corner in downtown Valdosta. Tickets for this event are now on sale for $25 in the church office and in the parish hall after the 10 a.m. services. The list of items in the live and silent auctions is here. For photographs from the 2018 dinner and auction, click here.
Daily Schedule updated June 12
Dorm Map with Roommates
What You Need To Know for June 17
2019 Team T-shirt Color Choices
Daily Prayer Sheet
Photographs and reports
Packing list (updated for the 2019 trip)
Communication, cell phones and laptops (updated for the 2019 trip)
Lessons Learned (updated for the 2019 trip)
Missioner Information Form – Medical
Missioner Information Form – Individual
Email messages about the 2019 trip:
July 5, 2019: The final team message
June 27, 2019: It’s not over….
June 13, 2019: Almost ready to go
June 6, 2019: Information for June 17
May 30, 2019: Commissioning
May 23, 2019: Voting on our team t-shirt color
May 16, 2019: One month and a dsy away
May 9, 2019: Bedroom construction progress, team fees sent to the DR, and scholarship fundraising
May 2, 2019: New Missioner!
April 25, 2019: Photographs and reports, and more
April 18, 2019: Holy Week
April 11, 2019: Team fee, packing list, and auction items list
April 4, 2019: Team fee due, two information documents
April 3, 3019: Home Team update
March 28, 2019: Silver and Larimar Crosses
March 21, 2019: Teen project(s)
March 14, 2019: Sewing project
March 7, 2019: Dog rescue project, flight times changed again
February 28, 2019: Painting project, Dog rescue video
February 21, 2019: Valdosta Flight Times Changed, Veterinary Project
February 14, 2019: Bedroom construction
February 7, 2019: On-Site Planning
January 31, 2019: Fourteen missioners
January 24, 2019: Poster with the 2018 team
January 17, 2019: 16 missioners
January 10, 2019: 16 missioners
January 3, 2019: 16 missioners + 2 in discernment
December 27, 2018: Christmas Greeting
December 20, 2018: Successul fundraiser
December 13, 2018: Scholarship thank-you notes are in!
December 6, 2018: Fundraisers – silver crosses and books
November 29, 2018: Silver and Larimar crosses as fundraisers
November 21, 2018: Team slots are filling up
November 15, 2018: Time to join the team
November 7, 2018: J&J away
November 1, 2018: List of projects and how to join the team
October 18, 2018: Decisions on flights
October 11, 2018: No flight decisions yet
October 4, 2018: June 17-24, 2018
September 27, 2918: Two date options
September 19, 2018: Planning meeting on September 23, 2018