Harold Encarnacion makes a point during his presentation with Rev. Kate Shaner, left, to children attending 1,2,3…Akita! on Monday, July 17.

Dominica Student is First to Visit First Community

Story and Photo by Michael Barber

When Rev. Kate Shaner learned that one of her friends, 21-year-old Harold Encarnacion of the Dominican Republic, was spending the summer in Branson, Missouri, she was excited and “annoyed.”

“I had contacted Harold to let him know I was coming to the Dominican Republic to visit the Dominica School and Orphanage,” Kate said. “For the past seven years, Harold had always been our translator.”

Harold, once a student at the school run by Dominica Rosario, would not help Kate this time.

“He told me he was working for Silver Dollar City, an amusement park,” she said. “All I could say was, ‘Why aren’t you here?’ He’s like family.”

Harold’s time in America is short, working as part of a cultural exchange program from mid-May through September 25. He will then return to Boca Chica, known for its crystalline waters and white sand beach.

Kate had an idea. The first, second and third graders attending the Camp Akita-sponsored summer program 1,2,3…Akita! at North Campus had chosen to study the Dominican Republic this year. Why not bring Harold to Columbus for a couple of days?

Harold agreed, took 3 days from work, slept in the St. Louis airport the night before, then jumped on a plane Sunday, July 16 bound for Ohio. Harold’s first stop during his short visit was to Camp Akita where he would reunite with many unsuspecting members of the camp staff, high schoolers and college-age youth who know him well.

“I can’t explain the feeling,” Harold said. “First, they saw Kate. Then, she stepped aside and they saw me. They kept coming and coming with group hugs. It was such a pretty good moment. I almost cried.”

One summer staff member, Madison Wolf, held onto Harold for several minutes during a tight hug asking repeatedly, “Is this real?”

The following morning, during the opening moments of 1,2,3…Akita!, Harold and Kate spent time with the children talking about islands, counting in Spanish and identifying colors like rojo, verde and naranja. But the deeper experience of bringing Harold to the children illustrates Kate’s original vision for the Dominica mission; to build relationships.

“I always pray for this,” Kate said. “It’s a new season for this ministry.”

Editor’s Note: The high schoolers from First Community Church began visiting Dominica School and Orphanage in 2010. Since this time, the church, and the First Community Foundation, have expanded awareness and financial assistance to the school and its founder, Dominica Rosario. It is hoped that Dominica will visit First Community Church in September with Harold and the two will be a featured speakers during worship services.