Time Capsule Letter – October 2016
It’s Ben! I hope you’re all doing well, and haven’t forgotten me or the team yet! My summer in the DR is wrapped up and now I have a chance to reflect on the great memories we built together.
I wanted to thank you all for giving us the best possible start to the summer that we could have hoped for, you really set a high benchmark for us and started us off in the right direction!
I still remember the first night out on the beach under the stars with the guitar, with such a small group and so supportive was really beautiful (Anelly later told me she was so emotional that she had cried!)
We finally finished and painted both houses in Las Canas (we went with a sky blue colour for both) and everyone is all moved in.
I hope to see you all again soon. Make your life matter. Make me remember you when I read about you changing the world for the better, I’ll be waiting and doing my best until then.
Your Director and friend,
P.S. Do you miss the rice and beans yet!? (How about the fruit?)
Summer Blog Posts
June 6, 2016
All safely arrived!
Today is the first day of our Beachside Service Adventure in the Dominican Republic. After multiple connecting flights, eight of us met at the Puerto Plata airport and rode a bus to the GLA home base. The bus ride allowed us to see many sights in the Dominican Republic such as shops, houses, and of course, the incredible beaches. We all discussed our excitement about the upcoming events on our trip. When we arrived at the home base, we met the girl who flew in to the Santiago airport and chose our rooms to stay in.
As quickly as we could, we made the short walk to the beach with our GLA staff members and swam in the ocean and one of the pools on the home base. It was a great way to start the trip! We had time to explore the home base and meet the GLA staff who are all very nice and supportive. We had a delicious dinner of rice, beans, chicken, fresh fruit, vegetables, and juice. After dinner, we got together to get to know each other, learn what the schedule will look like each day, and discuss ways to make sure we make the most of this experience. We all look forward to the days to come!
– Emily Schulz
June 7. 2016
Hello! Today was our second day here in the DR, but our first full day of activities. We started the day off with a delicious breakfast and then walked to the nearby community of Las Canas where we mixed cement to use as the floors in a house that future groups will work on. We worked very hard and were able to go above our goal and lay the flooring for not one but two rooms. While we were in Las Canas we attempted to speak Spanish to the locals and played games with the children in our breaks.
The second half of the day we went to the beach and then back to the Home Base where we had a dance lesson with the help of the locals we met earlier in the day to learn Bachata, Merengue, and Salsa. Everyone had a great time and worked up an appetite for the dinner that was shortly following. Tonight was our first night of a series of speeches on human security and what roles we can play in it. We discussed this topic further in our mentor group and got to know each other much better by learning about our different backgrounds and perspectives on the world. Overall it was a very successful day of working hard and learning new material that will impact us in life. We cannot wait for tomorrow and the rest of the trip to come!
June 9, 2016
Before: The empty wooden frame awaits bottles to make it a “bottle house.”
After: Bottles now fill the frame of the house under construction.
Five of us began the day bright and early at 7 on the beach with a run. We jogged for about a mile and a half before arriving to the lagoon. We decided to explore further as we watched the sun rise and felt our feet sinking deeper into the sand. When we returned, we enjoyed a breakfast of pancakes, for which everyone was very grateful! We then headed towards our construction site for the day. Upon our arrival, only an empty wooden frame had been built. We worked all day on digging a hole in the back for latrines, evening out the dirt for the floor of the future house, and filling the walls with plastic bottles. This system of ‘bottle house building’ removes waste from the environment, offers a cheaper solution for wall construction, and provides insulation for the family members that are to live in the house. When we returned home, we unanimously decided to go to the beach. The day had been productive and fun but also long, hot, and humid. After our time in the waves we returned to the shore and two of our local friends climbed up a 20 meter tree to access fresh coconuts. The experience was terrifying and seemingly dangerous but the coconuts were worth it! We wrapped up the day with a walk on the beach and some campfire songs accompanied only by the sounds of the waves and the strumming guitar.
June 10, 2016
Today we took a trip to Dudu, a blue lagoon with a zip line, jumping cliff, and really cool caves that you could swim in. We had lunch at Dudu which consisted of fried chicken, rice, and pasta. After lunch we adventured around for a little while then headed to Playa Preciosa. It was a beautiful beach, and we just chilled there for a couple hours. After the beach we headed back to Home Base, but on the way back we stopped and got some ice cream which was so good, especially because it was so hot. Once we got back we showered then headed to dinner. After dinner we went to our mentor talks and our leadership lesson.
June 11, 2016
Today we experienced one of the toughest days of the program, physically and mentally. After an hour+ bus ride we finally arrived in La Grua, an impoverished community that houses Dominicans and Haitians. Due to the lack of drinking water available in the area, GLA has decided to create a water tank for them. We all pitched in and helped dig a hole for the water tank on an elevated area near the community. About midway through the day we traveled into the bateys of La Grua that house a multitude of Haitian families and learned about the harsh realities the Haitians face in their everyday life. We all participated in a discussion about the conditions we saw and worked some more on the water tank hole. Once we arrived back at the Home Base we engaged in more discussions about philosophy, the value of human life, and how we can make a difference once we arrive back home. It was certainly an eye-opening and challenging day.
Visiting the Haitian batey in La Grua, DR
Service in the La Grua, DR, community.
June 12, 2016
The long walk up Mount Brison
Now we can all say “I hiked Brison!”
Today we woke up early for a two hour drive through the mountains. We hiked up Mount Brison all morning. It was very scenic but also very hot, which made the three miles to the top quite difficult. However, as we began to get irritable and tired, we all remembered that the students that live in the rural villages on the mountains have to hike that same trail every single day. We were very motivated and inspired by the things that these people have to do to get an education and live. We ate lunch at the top and spoke with the people in the town. The woman who cooked us lunch said she has to walk up the mountain every single day, and that was incredible for us to hear. Along the hike, we learned a lot about the ways of life of the people on the mountain when it comes to farming, school, and their future with the impacts of climate change on the country.
When we returned to the Home Base, we were all very tired and much more appreciative of how easy we have it at home getting bus rides to school. We went to the beach for a while during our free time to hang out with our local friends and swim in the ocean. After dinner, we watched a documentary on the the Hatian and Dominican people. The video explained their history, differences, and how that is impacting their lives today. We were able to understand more about the situation in La Grua that we saw yesterday. After that, we discussed leadership and how to develop a vision, whether that be for your sports team, volunteer group, etc. We discussed how to get your point across well, you must know why you are doing what you are doing, what success looks like, and how you must act to ensure success.
June 13, 2016
Today we went to Cabarete for a reforestation project. Instead of our usual driver, Freddie, we had to use another driver today. In Cabarete, we planted mangrove trees because it is good for the environment. We were all extremely tired today even though the work we were doing was much easier than the projects we had to complete the other days. This was probably from the long hike to Brison from yesterday. After planting the mangrove trees, we were shown a cave where we could swim in. The water in the cave was really cold and it woke us up right away after we dove into it.
After lunch, we left and went to another community to visit projects that had already been completed. We visited some beehives that had been created previously. They were extremely interesting because when they were open, we could see all the honeycombs, and someone from the community was able to grab us a piece of honeycomb so we were able to eat the honey straight from it. The honey was delicious. Later, we had another cultural activity where we learned how to make bracelets from recycled plastics. The plastic was twisted and stretched into something like a string and we were able to tie and make it into bracelets. Even though we were all extremely tired, it was an interesting day.
Planting mangrove trees
Honey harvested locally in Cano Dulce, DR, by a beekeeper supported by GLA’s local partner projects.
June 14, 2016
Today was the last “full day” for us. We started the day off with a yummy breakfast and then got in the van and headed out to Playa Alicia, a beautiful beach with crystal clear waters and a mellow current. We stayed here, relaxing in the water and laying in the sun till lunch time when Cameron treated us to delicious burritos. Soon after we hopped on a boat and were surrounded by crystal clear water. We jumped into the water and began the best part of the day, snorkeling! We swam through fishes and experienced the ocean from a brand new perspective! It was awesome.
After snorkeling we came back to Home Base and immediately hopped over to the beach to say goodbye to our local friends. We returned to Home Base and enjoyed our last dinner together full of giggles and food. After dinner we got a presentation about how we can take our experiences with GLA back home. We also did an exercise called “appreciation circle”. It was a beautiful exercise where we anonymously showed appreciation to each other. It even brought some tears to our eyes. Finally we ended our last day together celebrating our experience with a bonfire where we roasted marshmallows and enjoyed each other’s company for one of the last times. As sad as we are to say goodbye to our new friends we are almost equally as excited to go home and enjoy our family.