A taste of Sunderland arrives in the Dominican Republic

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A CARING couple have taken a taste of Sunderland to those living in poverty in the Dominican Republic.

Ann and Ray Barnes have spent the last seven years making mercy missions to the Sun Camp in the Puerto Plata region, which works with local people and refugees from nearby Haiti.

As well as donating clothes and toys, on their last visit the caring couple took a haul of candy rock from Sunderland sweet shop Sweet Home Alabama, decorated with pictures of the Wearmouth Bridge.

Ann, 61, said: “The Sun Camp is doing marvellous. Diane, the woman who runs it, is Canadian but lives in the Dominican and has friends come over from Canada and help.

“We took candy rock and some baby clothes. The kids loved it, though it did start to melt in the heat.

“I wasn’t very well so couldn’t do as much as I wanted to do.

“We’re hoping to keep going out, but obviously we need the money to get there.

“We would go back tomorrow and help them if someone would pay for us to go.”

Ann and Ray love the Dominican Republic so much that on a previous visit to the Sun Camp, near Munoz, they decided to mark their Ruby Wedding anniversary by renewing their vows.

In between visits, the retired couple from Pallion raise funds by selling Ann’s handmade cards.

They use the money to help both the refugees and locals break out of a cycle of poverty.

On recent trips, they bought a freezer for young woman who was making and selling ice lollies to support her family.

Ann and Ray have also paid for uniforms for two young children, as pupils in the Dominican Republic must have uniforms before they can attend school.

“It is nice to be able to see who you are helping and for this girl it meant such a lot for her, selling these few ice creams,” Ann said.

“The people out there would give you an arm and a leg.”

Martin O’Neill, who runs Sweet Home Alabama, found out about the couple’s charity drive after chatting to Ray, 62.

He said: “I knew it was something they would not have in the country so I just sent it over.

“I know they grow sugar there, but I don’t think they turn it into sweets and the rock says it is from Sunderland and has a picture of the bridge.”

For more information about staying at the Sun Camp, or how to become a volunteer, visit www.suncampdr.org.

Twitter: @janethejourno