It is the third day in the Dominican Republic for the North Carolina A&T men’s basketball team. Every day includes an 8 a.m. breakfast and a 9 a.m. trip into Santo Domingo. A&T is coming off of lost in an exhibition game the previous night. But this morning, David Conrady tells a story that puts that loss into perspective.
Conrady is the national director of Score International, a Christian ministry that in part invites American college basketball teams to the Dominican to witness a different culture. “We’re going to visit some young women who have had very rough background,” he says.
He states the women’s histories include being sold into prostitution by their husbands and fathers. “They have escaped and the one way they are able to support themselves is through making arts and crafts and selling them.”
Conrady finishes his story and leads the Aggie basketball players to the small bus that continues to escort them throughout town during their trip. But today it is short drive over to the store where the women work. For sale are t-shirts, trinkets, Dominican Republic plates and dishes and other items.
As players and coaches buy merchandise to assist the troubled ladies, there is more despair in the back of the store. The A&T players visit one of three orphanages set up by Score International. As the Aggie players walk around to the back of the store, there waiting for them are numerous orphans excited to have the visitors there.
Aggies forward Bruce Beckford picks up two little boys and carries them around the room as they smile with enthusiasm. Teammate Bryan Akinkugbe joins in by picking up two little girls. Meanwhile, little children are running around the players with noisy chatter. A rocking horse is getting a good work from one little boy, while two adorable little girls pose for pictures. Conrady leads the players out of the orphanage as the questions about what can be done to give those children a better life begin. Apparently it is difficult to adopt from the Dominican, but they can be supported through Score.
The orphanage is an eye opener for the players. But their education is not over as they prepare to visit the beach. As the players walk toward the water, they see a new form of capitalism. There is one man trying desperately to sell shades. It is amazing how many shades he can hold in one hand while showing off what he has in another. He is persistent in his attempt to make $5, visiting each member of the Aggie party of 27 at least different five times.
There are also two men who each have a horse, trying to convince people to ride. Price: $5.
Two females rope off an area of the beach and set up tables to do foot and back massages. Price: $10.
Uphill is an outdoor bar across from an outdoor restaurant. Players buy chicken sandwiches and Sprites while trying to figure what they owe the owners in American money. This exercise takes an hour before the owners and the players finally settle on a price that will give each party their money’s worth in American dollars. But today’s show stopper occurs near the heavens. A man climbs a 50-foot coconut tree barefoot and without a harness to throw down coconuts, so he can prepare them for the players to drink from the fruit.
Today is a lesson in money means to those who have to work so hard to make $5 just to survive and stay away from danger.