Staff Spotlight: Joe South

Program Manager for Project Restauracion, Dominican Republic
Joe hails from Florida and joined the Peace Corps right after graduation. He served in the Dominican Republic, which ultimately lead to developing the project site for the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC) in Restauracion just a few years later. Over the next 4 years, Joe would learn more than any college degree could have afforded him.

What unique qualities does your company posses?

man on a motorcycle

One of the things that attracted me to FIMRC was the fact that they are a small grass roots organization. The personal relationships and trust we establish with communities really sets FIMRC apart from the larger NGOs. We invest in one community.

While we work with groups we do not underestimate the power of the individual. We do not obsess over numbers and stats but rather the impact we can have on the life of an individual believing that impact will have a ripple effect on the community as a whole. I have seen the holes left behind and the people overlooked from large organizations and their infamous "supply drops". What I love about FIMRC is the fact that we get in there and fill those cracks and reach those in need.

Describe a time when you felt especially proud to be part of the FIMRC team.

We were able to build deep-pit latrines for a community of Haitian families who had previously been defecating in fields near their home. This lead to a small cholera outbreak that we were able to stem with our intervention. Myself and other members of our team would trek out to these remote homes and help mix and lay concrete by hand under the intense Caribbean sun. Many developing countries tend to view Americans as wealthy and entitled. It gave me great joy to see the reactions on the faces of our local neighbors as we picked up shovels and started working alongside them. Quickly, the shovel would be taken out of our hands because we were too slow, but its the thought that counts! I am very proud of the selflessness of our team and have a new appreciation for manual labor.

What is your favorite ethnic dish?

It is a "dish" called Yaroa. Take a bed of french fries or plantain mash, sprinkle a layer of shaved pork or chicken, top it off with melted cheese, ketchup and mayonnaise. It is served mostly in the northern parts of the Dominican Republic and is lovingly referred to as "street food". Once you get past the first few episodes of diarrhea its quite a tasty meal.

What is your favorite traveling experience?

I was on a long bus ride from Restauración to big city Santiago. I sat next to an older woman whose face wore the experiences of a life of hardship. Skin leathery from the sun she looked over at me and nudged my shoulder. She seemed to be chewing on something and offered me a bag of what turned out to be peanuts. I gladly accepted as only a fool turns down free food. It was a surreal moment where two people from wildly different backgrounds converge at one moment in time and probably never again. Just as I was pondering this moment she flashed a large brilliant smile as the peanuts she was "chewing" on fell out of her toothless mouth and onto her lap. I could not bear my laugh and she understood the irony of the situation and we shared a good laugh. The people you meet during your travels will form the memories you will hold onto forever.