Santiago.- It is 10:00 AM Sunday Morning, March 19, 2006. Two pickup trucks pull into one of the more trashy streets in barrio Pueblo Nuevo in Santiago. The trucks stop and out jump six young boys armed with shovels and push brooms.
They wear T-shirts emblazoned with the logo “Cleanup Brigade” on the front and the motto, “Help Us to Help You Help Yourselves” on the back (both in Spanish).
The people on this street don’t comprehend what is about to happen. When the boys start to sweeping the gutters and sidewalks, putting the refuse into plastic bags and putting those bags into the trucks, they finally get the idea of what is taking place.
The “Cleanup Brigade” has invaded and is doing its thing. The city of Santiago has not seen fit to clean these streets for quite some time due to many reasons, one of which was a lack of funds.
The idea of a “Cleanup Brigade” is the brainchild of one Robert Bliestein, of Tampa, Florida. When interviewed by this writer, he stated that this is but one of his many past projects to help the Dominican people find their place in the sun.
It must be noted that Mr. Bleistein underwrote the entire expenses of this venture totally out of his own pocket. In fact, he traveled to the Dominican Republic solely to implement this action.
Previously, he has contributed time and money to several orphanages in the Puerto Plata and Santiago areas.
This is his 5th trip to the Dominican Republic on his various efforts to provide a “just a little bit” of aid to communities here.
His idea for the Cleanup Brigade stems from a sincere desire to bring that ingredient of “self help” to the forefront and to try to get community minded people to respond to his beginning efforts.
It would appear that he was successful because when he explained how to organize a community effort to those listening, he received many favorable comments and promises to “make it happen” in their community.
Time will tell.