VICKERY ELECTRIC CONTRACTING LTD. You may remember John Vickery, one of EB’s editorial advisors, from his article about his trip to Indonesia that we published several years ago. Well, John’s been travelling again, this time to the Dominican Republic.
He sent us an excellent story about what he learned and saw in D.R. but, due to space constraints, we have included just the following from his tale. With dramatic increases in HIV, youth pregnancy, poverty and massive unemployment, the World Bank is reaching out to the trades in an effort to correct these trends—an interesting turn, considering the approach towards trades for the past 30+ years.
You will recall I visited an Indonesian university called UNSOED in September 2003, and I’m happy to report the effort bore fruit. While there, I represented technical support to the engineering staff at UNSOED and, most gratifying for me, was helping Prof. Hari Presatgio attain his Master’s degree, especially because his thesis was on power quality, which I introduced to him. He is now teaching this program to the students at UNSOED. We also supported Dean Sasmojo Kamsari’s (also of engineering) efforts to construct a hydro generation station/classroom near the university. And although the dean passed away last year, the classroom was built. As a result of my involvement with UNSOED, I was visited by Blair Buchanan in November 2006. Blair has been involved in humanitarian missions in the Dominican Republic for about 10 years, and he asked me to help establish an electrical trade college in Consuelo, D.R. Working in Consuelo, Canada’s Grey Nuns—along with the World Bank-financed educational effort, INFOTEP—have approached Canadians, like Buchanan, to help them establish a skilled trades college.
The biggest problem with the nation’s economy and political structure is that there is virtually no middle class, and little infrastructure. And we all know how the trades have historically offered a strong avenue for the establishment of a solid middle class structure, and are ultimately responsible for a nation’s infrastructure. I flew to Santo Domingo, D.R.’s capital, then travelled one hour to Consuelo, which is located in the centre of a sugar cane plantations. Consuelo started as a batey—a small community of plantation workers and their families—but has since grown into a city of about 60,000 people.
Though a poor community of scattered sheds with limited water and electrical power, it’s the home of such baseball greats as Sammy Sosa, Manny Lee and Tony Fernandez. One of the first places I visited was Casa de le Cultura—a huge concert and theatrical facility built by the Grey Nuns in an effort to create a cultural centre for the community. Like everything else in the town, it has been stuck at three-quarters completion for about a decade. The second place I visited was La Loma’s College, an INFOTEP-financed post-secondary educational institution. It has about six classrooms in three separate buildings. I was shown the facility considered for the electrical trade classroom: a 1000-sf concrete building expected to train 22 students per class (there’s a considerable waiting list). We then travelled to La Ramona to meet the manager of INFOTEP, who took us to the military college to see the standards expected for the electrical program. A colonel of the college took us to a large trailer behind the school, which was full of state-of-theart electrical lab equipment. Unfortunately, they cannot afford—nor do they have—the technical support to maintain this system. (Speaking as a former professor of Durham College UOIT, believe me, it’s not easy to teach students without them burning things up.) Here’s one of the main problems with D.R.’s standard electrical practices: there are none. The country takes what it can get. Everything here is second-hand and adapted accordingly. They need electrical professionals!
Finally, the Grey Nuns asked me to give them a detailed breakdown of the costs required to get the Casa de la Cultura facility operational from an electrical perspective, and what it would to get the electrical trade school going. I was also asked to meet the directors of the local school board to explain the need for the trade system. Back here in Canada, we are about to start our fundraising drive for La Loma’s College, and we’ve already raised $100,000 for Casa de la Cultura. The Rotary Club of Canada is issuing funds for electrical lab workbenches. A group of local businessmen is organizing a charity bike ride through the mountains of British Columbia to raise some $40,000. For my part, I hope to embark upon a speaking tour next month across Southern Ontario’s electrical industry associations’ meetings in the hopes generating awareness and sustainable funding for the trade school for the next several years. We hope to start trade school construction next summer.
Some places in the world require a miracle to get them out of their quagmire, but the Dominican Republic isn’t one of them; it can easily turn its fortunes around with a little international support. If you can help out in any