An audio and video podcast of my trip hitchhiking around the world by sea.
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Big Steps


After a full day of meeting with local boaters and organizations, a nice lady looked me in the eye and said graciously, “You’re not going to change the world…” Moments later, I bellied up to the bar at the Yacht Club with a man known in Luperon as Karaoke Dave. “Do you think you can change the world? Because you never will. You know why? It’s filled with people.” Ironically, both were people who had been very supportive of my intentions and actions in the community.

When Dan and I returned to the boat from the Kids Alive school, we had a little bit of money left over. Dan learned there were some areas in Luperon we could probably help out with, so it seemed like a good idea to donate the remaining money we had raised to the needs of a community we had enjoyed so much. We started asking. Homeless Haitian kids who needed to be fed. Medicine at the hospital for unable families. Building houses in the outlying “campos”. There were needs everywhere and people trying to help.

Meanwhile, the word seemed to have spread about Dan and I. Almost daily, someone from the boating community would ask us what we were doing with the kids and how they could get involved. One couple even went out to the school to, you guessed it, sand boards. Then one morning, at the bottom of fresh cup of Dominican coffee, the obvious hit us. There are people making a difference and there are people who want to make a difference, we should introduce the two.

The idea was simple. “Charity Night”-a night when anyone interested in getting involved could listen to those already involved and donate to the cause they connected most with. I got to work, first to secure a time and place at the marina. Then investigating all of the people and organizations who were already doing good things in the community. That’s when I started running into problems or should I say opinions.

Everyone had a different opinion and each opinion was a passionate one. Ways it would work. Why it wouldn’t work. What I REALLY needed to do to make this happen. On top of it, there was an average 3 degrees of separation from the people who were actually involved. Finally, the evening after being assured I was not going to “change the world”, I had just about had it. There was one full day left until the event. I had a couple leads but nothing solid and now I was being assured I was NOT going to change the world.

That’s when I learned of Viejito (little old man). It was the day of the event and I had secured one or two people to speak. Through the grape vine I learned of a man who years ago made a living diving for lobster. The man known as Viejito all but lost his hearing from improper decompression over the years. Then, unable to hear the car honking, Viejito got hit-damaging his right leg. A short time later an infection occurred on his left leg from another incident which eventually led to amputation.

Maria, Viejito’s wife, does laundry 6 days a week at the marina and is the only source of income other than their livestock which they had just sold the last of. I walked into the steamy room, yards from retired boaters and in broken Spanish asked her what she needed. She handed me a letter from the hospital. The cost for a prosthetic was 54,000 pesos. Maria had 20,000. We had a new goal for the evening.

Karaoke Dave handed me the mic. I introduced myself then the people doing things in the community. Finally I took the mic back and shared with the people about Viejito. Dan and I had $300 left from donations so I announced we would match the first $300 (approximately 10,000 pesos). “I donate 10,000 pesos!” Yelled one lady from the back, “And I challenge anyone to beat it!” “10,000 pesos!” Another man yelled. By the end of the night we not only raised the 30,000 pesos needed, we raised nearly twice that 57,052 to be exact. In 8 minutes we raised almost twice as much as Dan and I raised in 8 weeks!

With the exception of singing “Play That Funky Music White Boy” for karaoke and a little bit of dancing, I just sat on the outskirts and watched. Maybe it was me, but there was something in the air that night. People were laughing, singing, happy. Everyone got to be a part of something special and somewhere in Luperon, Viejito-who I had yet to meet, was going to get another chance to walk.

The next day about 20 boaters went down to the local baseball field and challenged the Dominican kids to a game of softball. The gringos got whooped and following the game had a hot dog cook-out with Presidente’s on the house. A few days later, Dan and I got to meet Viejito and share the good news. Another special memory-sitting in the back yard, chickens running around, while Dan, Maria, Viejito, and I smiled and chatted while eating corn on the cob.

We may not have changed the world, but one man’s world is going to get a whole lot better.


1 david { 02.23.08 at 6:06 pm }

Completely and utterly awesome. I am inspired.

2 chris { 02.23.08 at 7:14 pm }

Derek, we are praying for you and Dan, we believe you can change the world, even at the pace of one at a time. GO FOR IT

3 John Kimble { 02.27.08 at 9:11 am }

Moment by moment, you are not only changing the world for those you are helping directly, but you are influencing those of us who are watching and listening to dream, dream of a better world and how we can make a difference on a daily basis. Remember it took just one person to provide shelter for a couple and a child centuries ago….a child that continues to change the world, one heart at a time.

4 Ellen Antill { 03.03.08 at 7:16 pm }

You guys are amazing in numberless ways . . . I’ve gotta say, trolling for sharks is one REALLY BIG one!

5 Jenny Antill { 03.05.08 at 2:54 pm }

D-I love this last post…changing one world at a time…indeed.

Leave a Comment