The LatinAmerican Mission Program (LAMP) welcomes Ryan MacRae back to PEI and to the Diocese after a19-month challenging mission to the Dominican Republic (DR). His first challenge in early 2018 was learning Spanish. His co-workers in the DR talk about the speed with which he became proficient. Ryan proved to be resilient as well in his capacity to capture some of the essence of Dominican culture. He formed friendships with groups which are dedicated to community engagement in issues of social justice which affect the majority of the population in that country.
Ryan accepted the DR mission shortly after graduation from Mount Allison University with BA First Class Honours with Distinction in Economics. His studies and his student involvement led him to understand something of “capitalism’s disproportionate global effects”. As a student he was involved with a movement which aimed to convince the authorities of the wrongheadedness of the University’s investment in fossil fuel industries. The Dominican Republic was not Ryan’s first international experience. While a student he was a member of Global Brigades in which he worked with local groups in Honduras on programs of microfinancing. He also chose to spend a semester studying abroad in Ankara, Turkey. There he became involved with the plight of Syrian refugees. His skills as a researcher and photographer accompany his capacity to hear with empathy the stories of people living in oppressive situations.
As part of his work in the Dominican Republic, Ryan was associated with individuals and groups, known for their commitment to engaging Dominicans in their struggle for social, economic, and political change. Many of these are LAMP’s long standing partners and others are new connections which Ryan has made. We thank them for the care, orientation, and safe havens they provided for Ryan.
With La Fundacion Mujer Iglesia in Santiago, he was involved in the day-to-day life of people living in poverty, accompanying them in whatever way possible. He saw first hand the ways in which poverty greatly impacts the life and safety of children and youth. He was introduced to the grinding work of women living in poverty and trying to protect their families not only from personal violence but also from the devestations of the climate emergency.
As well, he worked with a group, called Ciuidad Alternative, in the Capital, where he was asked to do a research on price trends over the past 30 years of land in Santo Domingo, where there is an unimaginable continuous housing crisis. It as a super-crowded city with a population of 3.2 million. As is the norm in the current system, those with wealth can get the best land and those without resources live and work in an unfit and dangerous environment. Ryan’s research revealed that Zone 1, where 7% of people live in poverty, has an average price per square meter of land of roughly CAD $440. Whereas in Zone 3 where 44% of the population lives in poverty there is an average price of land per square meter of roughly CAD$105. The study involved an analysis of housing laws and restriction, the various categories of land use.
A key area of Ryan’s involvement was making contacts and finding information related to material on Canadian Gold mining in the Dominican Republic, especially Barak Gold Inc. During LAMP’s 51 years in the DR, there was a continuous scandal of foreign mining interests extracting the wealth of this country to enrich North American economies. Needless to say the every day Dominicans are left in dire poverty and with polluted poisonous rivers. And they know that Canada is one of the abusers. Ryan began a short documentary video project about Canadian gold mining in the Dominican Republic. He continues work on that documentary.
As in the case in many countries, government does not have the power or the will to stand up to corporate power. One of Ryan’s co-workers said “The biggest problem about this government is their power over disadvantaged people. With the 2020 election quickly approaching, they have already begun to buy votes from the poor in exchange for handouts… strikes and protests in the streets aren’t as common anymore, as the government has begun to give handouts to the lower class. These meager handouts keep the public’s anger suppressed enough to allow government to operate as they please.”
Currently Ryan is a student in UPEI’s Masters in Global Affairs program, the first semester is completed at UPEI. The next phase beginning in January 2020 is at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid. Then various field work and research will complete the program.
LAMP thanks the people of the Diocese, and all Islanders, who have supported our work over the years through the Share Lent Collection and other generous contributions. We give a special thank you to Bishop Grecco and to the St. Dunstan’s University Board for their support of Ryan MacRae’s work in the Dominican Republic during the past year.
LAMP is deeply grateful to Ryan for his openness and trust. He knows that all action for social justice is always both local and global. The same system functions in Canada as in the Global South. His spirit of solidarity with everyday people tells him that their lives are made difficult, even impossible, by the insane accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few. He knows and accepts that the most important phase of LAMP’s “mission” is coming back home and participating in whatever way possible in the work for social justice wherever he finds himself.