Playground Projects in the Dominican Republic in 2017
By Sally Thompson
Member of the Tampa Deanery and DDG Board of Directors
Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida
Posted February 25, 2017

Episcopal schoolchildren in Santana, Baní, play on their new swingset.

The location of the Episcopal church, school, and conference center in Santana, Baní. For an interactive map of this location, click here.

Bishop Holguín and the other leaders of the Episcopal Diocese of the Dominican Republic (Iglesia Episcopal Dominicana) understand that education is the key to escaping poverty, and wholesome play at schools is an opportunity to expend energy in a healthy way and facilitate the education process. Iglesia Episcopal Dominicana, the Dominican Development Group and more than a dozen mission teams from Episcopal dioceses in the United States have recently been building, upgrading and/or assembling playground and equipment at many of the 28 Episcopal schools across the Dominican Republic.

The schoolyard at Santana, Baní, before the new playground equipment was installed.

In 2017 mission teams are working to improve playground facilities and equipment at three schools. These projects should all be completed in the first quarter of 2017. The cost of these programs varies depending upon size/scope and are being covered by generous donations from individuals, parishes and schools in the United States.

Josh Lowy, a member of the playground assembly team at Santana, Baní, with playground equipment parts -- lots and lots of parts.

In orange shirt: David Morrow, a member of the playground assembly team at Santana, Baní, with his eager crew of junior assembly assistants.

The first and largest project is at San Matías School in Santana, Baní. The original primary school was built in partnership with the Tampa Deanery of the Diocese of Southwest Florida in 2002-2003 and expanded to include an upper school in 2009 with the support of several groups including Grace Church, Charleston, SC, assisted by Tampa Deanery members. Playground equipment consisting of a wooden playset, geodome climber, monkey bar swing set and teeter totter was assembled by four volunteers (Sally Thompson, Bill Kunkle, Josh Lowy, and David Morrow) with additional assistance by Missionary Charlie Nakash, just prior to the Dominican Diocesan Convention that took place in Boca Chica on February 10-11, 2017. Padre Luis Garcia and other helpers from the San Matías Church and School mowed the grass, cleared the property of debris, and assisted in numerous ways. Upon completion, the entire school honored the missioners with songs, posters, marching band and presentations.

The assembled wooden playset at Santana, Baní.

Schoolchildren testing out the geodome climber.

The schoolyard at Santana, Baní, after the new playground equipment was installed.

Some of the playground equipment boxes in storage at the Morrow Center before assembly began.

After donors to fund the playground equipment were identified, Bill Kunkle ordered the equipment through Sam’s Club. Upon arrival, the boxes of equipment were transported to the port of Miami, where they were loaded into a shipping container and then placed aboard a freighter headed for the port of Haina in the Dominican Republic. Once the parts arrived and were cleared through Dominican customs, Charlie Nakash transported them to the Morrow Center in Santana, Baní for storage until the assembly team arrived.

At the recognition ceremony at the end of the project, from left: Josh Lowy, Bill Kunkle, Sally Thompson, and David Morrow. The colorful posters were made by the schoolchildren in thanksgiving for their new play equipment.

The team at a worship service in Iglesia Episcopal San Matías on February 8 with members of the congregations of San Matías (Santana, Bani) and San Timoteo (Nizao).

Several teams from the Tampa Deanery will be returning, with help from Texas friends, in June and July 2017 to work on the construction of the nearby San Timoteo Church in Nizao and continue with much needed repairs and maintenance at the San Matías School. Lodging and meals for these teams will be provided at the Morrow Center, which is located just a short walk away within the same fenced compound as the San Matías Church and School.

The Paul and Luke Morrow Conference Center at Santana, Baní.

The main entrance of Colegio Episcopal San Matías in Santana, Baní.

The second and third playground projects are at Colegio Episcopal Santísima Trinidad in Santo Domingo Este, and Colegio Episcopal La Redención in Barahona. Donations from Porter-Gaud School in Charleston, SC, funded the second project in Santo Domingo. Included are a teeter totter and wooden play set which were assembled by a mission team of students from the Porter-Gaud School with assistance from Charlie Nakash during the week of February 16-21. All Saints Episcopal Church in Hilton Head, SC, has donated a wooden play set and geodome for the third project in Barahona to be assembled by team members from this parish in March.

Students from Porter-Gaud School in Charleston, SC, with Missionary Charlie Nakash (gray t-shirt) and members of the Santísima Trinidad congregation next to the newly-installed playground equipment. At far right: Padre José Roberts, vicar of Iglesia Episcopal Santísima Trinidad. To see the location of this Episcopal school and church in Santo Domingo Este, click here.