All students are through customs and headed home!
Part of the reason I came on this trip was to experience change and diversity by exposing myself to new cultures. Today we went to La Grua, a community of both Haitians and Dominicans that is stricken with poverty, pollution and many environmental problems. Their river (which was more like a stream) was not only used for bathing, drinking and cooking, but for bathing their pigs and dumping their toilet waste in. Their houses were inching their way down the cliff because of erosion. Most of the people were unemployed and unable to provide for their families. Trash was almost everywhere you stepped. But here these kids have huge smiles on their faces, never been happier. What’s wrong with that? America is so heavily reliant on material things as sources of happiness. We have so many privileges in America that we take for granted. We helped pick up trash and played with all the kids. It was a blast giving them piggy back rides, and some of the guys had kids on their shoulders. They were adorable. And although we are doing good things in this community and building good relationships, there are so many other communities like this that need the same attention. And I know we’re supposed to be writing about what we did today, but I just can’t pass up the opportunity to hopefully inspire others to take action. Stop waiting on the world to change.
A Full Day
Today, we got to sleep in an extra hour. It was much appreciated, especially after a long day in the sun yesterday at Dudú. We did a really neat reforestation project at the home base. If you can believe it, we planted exactly 1,500 cacao seeds. We all started by filling little bags with dirt with either our gloved hands or water bottle halves as shovels. Once we had a few done, we split up into two groups to start watering and seeding them. We had to fill a wheelbarrow with filled bags and transport it to a shaded area of basecamp. We watered the bags and placed a fresh cacao seed in each one, straight from a cacao bean. It’s really hard to believe that something so funny looking can produce such amazing chocolate, not only here in the DR, but also in the form of Hershey bars around the world. We got to taste the seeds, and they tasted like sour mangoes and were slimy to the touch. It’s pretty interesting as to why GLA is deciding to plant this particular type of tree. Once planted, given two years, each tree will yield $10 in profit. So far, that’s $15,000 per year starting two years from today. That’s more money than most villages around here see annually. With this much to spend on things other than food, locals will be better able to demand political rights and will be able to afford health care. This simple task to help the Earth leaves more of an impact than it may seem by touching upon all 7 elements of human security – individual, community, food, health, political, economic, and environmental. We really enjoyed doing the work, knowing how beneficial it will be for so many communities. It’s extraordinary to think that one tiny little seed can make such a huge impact. After a hard day’s work of “being the change”, we got some free time to go to the beach, the local store, or just hang around and play cards. We ended the day by watching a Ted Talk about passion and its importance to connecting with others. Passion is something that those who lead must possess in order to be successful. Everyone here at GLA has that necessary inspiration to make a difference, starting right here in the DR.
-Fiona Muir and Lily Krietzberg
Today we woke up early at 7am and we got ready for the day. At 7:30 we had breakfast. For breakfast we had eggs, sausage, toast, and fresh fruit. For our drink we had hot chocolate. After that we packed our day bag and headed out to Caraballo. Some of us stayed behind sick. It took a little more than an hour to get there. On the way, we saw mountains, the Carribbean ocean and lots of palm trees. When we arrived we grabed our materials and went straight to work. We worked on an amazing bottle school with 6 rooms used for a clinic, and a school. Today was our third day helping to build the clinic. Some of us put bottles in the wall and others cut and put up chicken wire. We worked for a few hours then had lunch at 12:30, made by some of the locals. After that we hopped on the bus and went too a public beach. We bought souviners, got henna tattoos, ordered food and drinks and, of course, went swimming. Many of us enjoyed the wifi and some of the girls had their hair braided. It was very relaxing after working for a few hours. We stayed untill about 4pm then headed back to the home base. We met up with the students that stayed home sick and then enjoyed dinner. We had buritos, tortillia chips, guacumole, rice, and beans. After that we had education and leadership. For education, Dave talked about Food Inc. A documentary we watched the night before. For leadership we played rock, paper, sissors cheer and talked about tomorrow’s schedule.
Today was a good day. Everyone got to get up an hour later than normal thanks to Cameron’s graciousness. Three people went on a run this morning at 7 which is better than the normal two. Breakfast was at 8:30 and consisted of eggs, French toast, salami, and real syrup. After breakfast we got on the bus for an hour drive (everything is and hour away) to DuDu for a fun day of cliff jumping and zip lining. The 35 foot drop was conquered by most but a few of us, not going to name any names, chickened out. The water was much cooler than the surrounding temperature of 85 degrees making every jump a refreshing experience. Aside from cliff jumping there was volley ball and soccer. Many competitive games of volleyball were played as Becca and Cameron squared off in an epic battle of wit and agility. Lunch was quite American compared to most other lunches. We enjoyed the luxury of fried chicken (no ketchup) along with the usual rice and beans. We ended up leaving around 4. Everyone was tired after a long day of fun and sunburns. Despite the bumpy ride back to the camp, around half of the bus was able to fall asleep. We got back to the camp, hung out, ate dinner and watched the well-known documentary “Food Inc”. We are looking forward to the upcoming days in the DR.
-Benjamin McCourt, Aiden Prentice
Caraballo / Cabarete
Today we woke up at 7:00 in the morning and we ate breakfast at 7:30. We ate eggs, toast and fresh fruits. After everyone finished getting ready we got on the bus at 8:00 and we went to Caraballo to help work on the bottle school. The locals were really friendly and helped us a lot. For the school, we cut wire, filled bottles in the wall and cemented and painted it. We finished our work at noon and a local person make us lunch. We had rice, chicken and fresh fruit.
After we ate, we got on the bus again and we went to Cabarete beach. There were a lot of tourist and venders selling things such as; bracelets, jewelry and Henna tattoos. Some girls got their hair done in cornrows. At the beach, it has a lot of tables and chairs for visitors. Then the water is really blue and a lot of people were kite surfing and swimming. Also, the weather was really nice and there was a nice breeze. It was really relaxing and enjoyable. We all liked it a lot and can’t wait to go back again. We stayed 3 hours at the beach and then got back on the bus. Unfortunately, the batteries of the bus died and ours mentors pushed the bus until it worked again. It was really hot in the bus but it took only a few minutes to get it working again.
When we all got back to our home base, we went into the pool. Then we hung out until dinner 6:30. For dinner we have two types of spaghetti, with fresh fruit and other dishes. We started our leadership activity at 7 pm. First we learned about climate change and discussed the cause of it. Then we all took the True Color Personality Test. We all learned about ourselves and our weaknesses and strengths. Today was really fun and we can’t wait for tomorrow’s activities!!
-Shealah and Annie
Today, we went to Caraballo, a small village about an hour away from base camp. Caraballo is the home of the biggest bottle house in the world, and GLA has been spearheading its construction. Our group is going to be able to complete it by the end of the trip. That’s not something that everyone has the opportunity to say. It’s so amazing to be able to finish this building, and even more inspiring to know that it will make a tremendous impact on the little village of Caraballo, as well as other surrounding villages. There were so many children there. We learned later that the DR is one of two countries in the world where the children born in a country to illegal parents are also illegal. Due to this illegality, the kids have extremely suppressed opportunities. Thanks to the construction of this building, about 5,000 people, a majority of them illegal immigrants, will have access to medical service. The work was, at times, physically difficult, but it was very rewarding. Besides, it was nothing in comparison to the hike up Brison yesterday. We did everything from painting to filling the walls with plastic bottles to cutting chicken wire. The children were a big help. They were adorable, and also really interested in our phones. A group of kids got a hold of someone’s phone, and it was a struggle to get it back. They clearly understood our limited Spanglish, but just held their hands up as if to say “One more minute”.
Our lunch was cooked by locals in the village. Everyone got a heaping pile of a steaming rice dish. We gave our leftovers to the children, and they happily accepted. The essence and necessity of community is so powerful there. A village like Caraballo is comprised of people working together for the overarching cause of the well-being of the community. Most towns in the US could learn a lesson or two about the true meaning of neighbors from Caraballo. Later, in place of leadership activities, we watched the documentary “11th consequences of climate change, including exponential population growth, use of toxic pesticides, and the overall attitude humans have towards nature. We have such privileges in this world. We have a moral obligation and responsibility to lend both hands to those who do not have such privileges. -Lily Krietzberg and Jocelyn Ding Hour”. I highly recommend it to anyone who has Netflix. It explains the true consequences of climate change, including exponential population growth, use of toxic pesticides, and the overall attitude humans have towards nature. We have such privileges in this world. We have a moral obligation and responsibility to lend both hands to those who do not have such privileges.
-Lily Krietzberg and Jocelyn Ding
Just to highlight a quick quote for you Dave..
“The essence and necessity of community is so powerful there. A village like Caraballo is comprised of people working together for the overarching cause of the well-being of the community. Most towns in the US could learn a lesson or two about the true meaning of neighbors from Caraballo.”
Today we woke up at 7 and took a long bus ride to the base of Brison Mountain. The hike was around 2 miles up and 2 miles down. The steep inclines and hot temperatures caused everyone to slow down and take multiple breaks. After about 2 hours, we made our way to the top where we were greeted by locals who served us a delicious meal of beans, rice, chicken and fruit. Everyone was most excited about the ice cream, which was the main form of motivation throughout the hike. While at the local’s house, we got to see what their everyday life consists of as well as their living conditions. On the way down, we got to enjoy the beautiful views and an easier walk. During the hike, we also learned about the deforestation within the community due to the farming methods and need for land for cattle. We also learned that with the help of GLA and the Peace Corps, pipes were put in place to provide a water spigot at each house. As hard as the hike was, we learned a lot and felt a great sense of achievement when we reached the top. We have continued to learn about leadership, human security, the lives of Dominicans and have had our own physical and emotional strength tested in various situations. We are all having fun playing cards, going to the beach, interacting with locals, and are excited for the rest of the activities!
All students have arrived in country and are ready for their program! Stay tuned for blog updates!