Illustration and Design
Barahona, Dominican Republic
Batey Rehab Project
Illustration for Fair Trade
In December of 2016, I had the opportunity to go to Barahona, Dominican Republic and intern with the Batey Rehab Project. The Batey Rehab Project helps people who live in the Batey’s, the slums of Barahona, Dominican Republic. They seek out architecture students to build houses and jewelry students to teach women to make goods for their fair trade shop. At the time I was a jewelry student at the Savannah College of Art and Design. I had also taken several illustration classes and was trying decide between the two majors. I was able to combine these interests as the jewelry and illustration intern; my responsibilities included teaching women how to make jewelry as well as creating instruction manuals for the women to use. I did not speak Caribbean Spanish, so I used my drawings as well as my limited high school French to break the language barrier. I learned so much about the fair trade industry as well as how jewelry is made, from raw stone to finished product. Larimar, a beautiful aqua colored stone only found in the Dominican Republic, was used for a majority of our jewelry projects. I had opportunity to work with Alejandro, a local jeweler, who created stone polishing machines using old car parts and other things that most people would see as trash. He is probably the most resourceful person I’ve ever met. It is truly amazing what people can do with the materials they are given.
When I say I learned how jewelry is made from start to finish, I mean it quite literally. About twenty of us interns piled into the bed of a truck and drove up a mountain to see the larimar mines. I got to meet the miners, and go into a mine tunnel. As a person who is terrified by small tunnels, I can’t imagine working in one all day. I now have a much greater appreciation for the cultivation of natural resources.
BRP was a very well rounded experience. I got to combine my passions for illustration and jewelry making while making a difference in other people’s lives. I met women who were victims of sex trafficking and I got to see the empowerment that making jewelry gave them. I saw extreme poverty and conditions in which I can’t imagine living. The locals were some of the most grateful people I have ever encountered. Barahona is one of the most naturally stunning places I have ever been, with its bright green mountains and larimar colored water. I will close with a quote from Alejandro. On the bus that took us to the airport to fly back home he said, “All of your love and all of your work God will return it to you."