During the spring break, a group of students traveled to the Dominican Republic to engage in mission work with the Sunga Sunga organization. The mission trip is under the direction of Dr. BaNikongo Nikongo, an associate professor of humanities and economics at Howard.
“The concern among founders was and remains to ‘Improve the Human Conditions’ of the Afro-Caribbean communities who display aspects of post-colonial exploitation, disenfranchisement and injustice,” Nikongo said.
The mission trip took place from March 3-11 and consisted of daily activities that strived to assist the local bateyes (sugarcane plantations) workers and their families. The work consisted of purchasing food items and supplies such as rice, flour, sugar and beans; furthermore distributing clothes among people in the community.
Crystal Donaldson, the academic and career advisor of African American studies stated, “Sunga Sunga was started in 2005 at Howard University. Sunga Sunga was created to alleviate injustice and improve the human conditions of the communities of the Caribbean and Africa. We travel to the remote countryside hinterland and villages to assist communities untouched by national or international aid.”
Keauna Brantley, a sophomore African American studies and English double major spoke on her experience with the mission.
“The trip was incredibly significant for me,” she said. “It gave me a lot of insight into the logistics of humanitarian work as well as the importance of activism across the African diaspora. It also shed light on multiple issues that I was not aware of.”
Nikongo started the organization in response to the major socioeconomic issues plaguing the Caribbean regions. He wishes to promote more awareness about the trip and its benefits.
“The mission is best served through greater publicity of its goals, agenda and efforts,” Nikongo said. “This is best achieved through continued participation of students and the general public whose responsibility it then becomes to maintain their association with the organization; additionally, by means of traditional communication as well as social media assist in that publicity.”
The mission trip is conducted twice a year for the fall and spring semester. The participants include professors, supervisors and students from several of Nikongo’s classes including “Exploitation of A Third World,” “Black Experience in the Caribbean” and “Race and Politics.”
Senior political science major, Sarena Straughter said, “After learning more about the living conditions and quality of life for most Haitians in the Dominican Republic, I can confidently say that I plan on working to address these issues in the future whether it is through Howard or on my own.”
Students in Nikongo’s class were given an alternative final project assignment in which they must document their observations while on the trip. This project serves as their final instead of completing a traditional in-class assignment.
“In class, there was the option to do a literature review or assist the professor for our final project,” Shaniyah Frazier, a senior international affairs major, said. “From my perspective, it was between a ten-page paper and a ten-day vacation. However, the mission trip was more meaningful than just a vacation. It was a humanitarian aid project trying to help the exploited Haitian population in the Dominican Republic.”
For more information about the mission work, trip and donations visit Sunga Sunga.org.
Copy edited by Lauryn Wilson