In April, a 29-member team from Seventh-day Adventist nonprofit healthcare system AdventHealth traveled to the Dominican Republic on a project with Maranatha Volunteers International. These volunteers became the seventh group to help build the much-needed school campus at Ciudad del Cielo, located in northern Santo Domingo. They also operated medical clinics in four communities with limited access to healthcare.

Nonclinical volunteers (and a few clinicians who wanted to give construction work a try) laid interior block walls for Ciudad del Cielo’s large classroom block and auditorium, called an Education and Evangelism Center (EEC). Despite a general lack of construction experience, under the supervision of Maranatha’s in-country construction crew, the 11-member team quickly picked up the tricks of the trade and completed a significant portion of the structure’s walls.

While nonclinical volunteers helped to build a school, the team’s healthcare professionals operated four days of medical clinics in four different communities with extremely limited access to healthcare. “Sometimes we only think about the aspect of money. But it’s also the aspect of access,” explained pediatric physician Vanessa Gutierrez. “Not all [patients] can transport themselves to the places where the hospitals are … There’s a lot of need, definitely.” The medical team treated a total of 883 patients and provided information on where to seek follow-up care to those who needed it.

On the final day of their trip, AdventHealth volunteers assembled and passed out 125 wheelchairs to the local community. This was a collaborative event. The Adventist Church in Santo Domingo compiled a list of wheelchair users in need. Florida-based nonprofit Chair The Love donated wheelchairs, and AdventHealth volunteers presented each chair, cultivating moments of connection with recipients. “I think that the wheelchair is only an instrument for you to express a deep sense of love for someone else,” remarked AdventHealth Corporate Services pastor Sergio Torres. “The wheelchair becomes an instrument for you to give yourself. And just taking the wheelchair to that person is an incredible experience.”

Maranatha has a long history of working in the Dominican Republic. In 1980, after the destruction of Hurricane David, Maranatha constructed 160 houses here. In 1992, the Dominican Republic was the site of a watershed moment of growth for Maranatha, when the organization coordinated the construction of 25 churches over 70 days. Dubbed “Santo Domingo ’92,” it was the first time Maranatha concentrated on one place for multiple volunteer projects. Later efforts occurred in 2003 and 2013, and in 2022, Maranatha returned once more.