Some say ignorance is bliss, but the ignorance of the world around us does more harm than help. Gaining perspective on the lives of La Gruan inhabitants has opened our eyes to the harsh reality of abject poverty. Our task for the day was to assist the community by picking up trash that has consumed the fields and their lives. Being students who are unappreciative of our own communities’ sanitation, we were surprised by such a polluted atmosphere. The community of La Grua had never been visited by any non-governmental organizations, so our visit was even more special.
Following our trash clean-up, we had the opportunity to interact with the natives. One activity that was incredibly exciting to engage in was the game of checkers. The natives created their own twist on the game with a few new rules, but it was impossible to beat them due to their experience with the game. It is extraordinarily inspiring that the youth of this community found it simple to interact with our whole GLA group. Although it was sad to leave the community, the impact created will stay with everyone forever.
– Abby and Nathan
Goodbye, Las Canas
Today was truly an inspirational day. We were able to come together as a family for the greater good. It is such a life changing opportunity to be a part of something so positive and real. This being our second and last day at Las Canas bottle clinic made me feel like I was able to give and learned that giving is the most valuable gift. The Dominican children put in so much effort into helping us all day long without a single complaint. The passion they share and the strive they have has forced me to come to the realization that I should not only be thankful for all that I have, but also give back as much as I can. Today was definitely an extremely rewarding day to close the doors to a clinic that will be used by people of all ages from that community. I’m proud to say that I was a part of a life-changing benefit not only for the locals but also for me.
Learning a Lot
Today, we went down the road to the village of Las Canas and put the finishing details on the bottle school. The group split off to work on different sectors such as: planting cacao and coffee, painting the interior, and painting a mural of the world on the outside of the school. We are the last group working in Las Canas and in a few days there will be a ribbon cutting there. I think today, more so than other days, we felt extremely productive and motivated to continue from being able to see the progress we’ve made. I feel like I’ve been able to participate in something huge for the people of the community; they have an area for school, a hospital, something they wouldn’t have had easy access to before. The work we’ve done this week and the people in the communities we’ve been in have taught us all so much about the meaning of service and being able to do something greater than ourselves to impact tomorrow’s future. Watching the kids run up to us when we come to the areas, seeing their smiles when they try to teach us Spanish, and watching them light up when we get a project done is the most rewarding thing on the trip.
I felt the wind cutting across my face, and I held the zipline bar for dear life as I zipped down towards the freshwater lagoon below. And then, I let go. For the next three seconds, it was silent. I free fell from 35 ft in the air. Finally, I made impact, and the cold turquoise water quickly enveloped me. Surfacing, I let out a loud, “WOOHOO!”
Today was our “break day.” We went to Dudu Water Park where we ziplined, jumped off cliffs, played beach volleyball, and swam in a cave. It was a day full of fun and laughter. I was really nervous before I tried each of these activities, but I definitely don’t regret any of my decisions because these were truly once in a lifetime experiences.
Someone asked me today, would you mind if we didn’t do any of these fun activities and just worked every day? No, I wouldn’t mind, and I don’t think anybody in this group would. Even though today was amazing, the work we are doing in the local communities is much more impactful and life changing for me. It is the reason, the passion that motivated me to come to the Dominican Republic. I can’t wait to get back to work tomorrow. It is truly amazing to see how our work can impact the local communities. When I step back and look at the work I’ve done, I feel proud. In just a little amount of time, we have done little things with big impacts. Imagine the children who will be learning in the schools we built, the better life they will have in the future, the sick who will be treated in the clinic, the lives that may be saved. This feeling, the happiness, that I get from helping others and taking action is more beautiful, inspiring, and powerful than any beach, any zipline, almost anything.
Last Day in Caraballo
During our last day of work in Caraballo, there were happy moments and sad moments. The day was full of hard work — both on our communication skills and on the largest bottle school in the world. It was so amazing to interact with all the Dominican and Haitian children and families for these past two days, and so heartbreaking to finally say goodbye. Despite that heartbreak, the memories, values, and skills that we have made and improved will never be forgotten. A feeling of accomplishment has appeared in all of us here. I can speak for everyone when I say that we feel achievement in a portion of our individual goals. I know that personally, I have accomplished more than I ever imagined I would during my stay here. It is the final hour of day 4 and I already feel as though I’ve improved in my spanish skills, connected with my own Dominican heritage (my father’s family is Dominican), and helped out a community in need of human security. Everything here is connected, whether we are working together to help build a community or working individually, to better understand ourselves. Our overall goal is to create a better living environment for everyone here, including ourselves. There are so many different places for growth and opportunity; our GLA community, the Dominican/Haitian community, and in our personal communities. This trip has been simply incredible, and I know we will never forget the impact this Dominican community has made on us, and the impact we have made on them.
— Sofia Cabrera
Today overall was both extremely educational and eye opening. We had the opportunity to first hand help build a local clinic and classrooms for the Caraballo community. Although the ride to the community was chaotic and bumpy, the Haitian villagers welcomed us with open arms and biggest smiles. We entered the community and got straight to work. Half the group began mixing cement while the other half collected bottles and tightly packed the wiring. We first had to measure the wire nail the wire into the framing of the building,the fill the gaps with empty water bottles. The empty bottles are used in replacement of drywall. After filling the wiring with water bottles we then covered the entire walls with cement. Although this experience was messy and in all difficult, it was truly life changing. The villagers and especially the children in the villagers were extremely thankful and it ultimately made me feel worthwhile for the effort and hard work we all put into helping build the clinic. Overall today was an extremely empowering day. I woke up feeling nervous because of the little Spanish I know however came to the realization that it’s the actions that speak louder than communication with one another.
Today was our second day and most definitely a challenging one. It really helped to understand more about the community and their daily routine, as we climbed mountain Brison for 5 miles. We learned that because families wouldn’t have direct access to water they would have to walk this mountain and more to get the water they needed. As the children would mostly be responsible for this duty, they wouldn’t get the opportunity to go to school, thanks to the new access to direct water more children can go to school. When we visited the school I talked to the teacher and asked him a couple of questions. They were about 50 students and two classrooms with about 15 desks, he teaches kids from ages 5-12 and has three sessions every day. As we walked by the houses and towns we saw kids that were walking barefoot, but you could still see a smile in their face. All the families that we walked by were really friendly. We also saw the deforestation on the mountain. When we reached the top we had some delicious food cooked by some really nice Dominican ladies, and I got to talk to one of them and she told she was really happy and that she was really happy with all the work that GLA does. This experience definitely helped to let us catch a small glimpse of their daily lives.
Today we began our adventure in the Dominican Republic. We arrived at the airport in Puerto Plata from flights either from Miami or JFK. The flight I arrived on, which departed from Miami, allowed its passengers to experience beautiful island views of the Bahamas. When we arrived in Puerto Plata we went through customs, received our luggage from baggage claim, and headed outside to meet up with our GLA leaders and the rest of the group. From there, we took a forty-five minute bus ride to our home base on the northern side of the DR. On the bus ride, students got a quick look at some of the towns and environments that make up the Dominican Republic and the variety of living conditions throughout the island. We got settled in at the home base; swam for a bit in the pool; ate a delicious dinner of chicken, beans, rice, and fresh fruit; and then met for orientation and a quick leadership seminar. We set goals for ourselves and our experiences in our GLA journals and got to know each other a little bit better with some ice breaking activities. Overall, it was a good start to our Dominican adventure.