The day to my first GLA trip has started!! Arrived at the compound and it is absolutely beautiful. Beautiful ocean, fantastic food, all kinds of good stuff. “Rustic”, made of wood, idyllic, most definitely the lap of luxury. Can’t wait for tomorrow as this definitely going to be a great trip. We went straight to the ocean. The water was refreshing and we stayed there until it was time for dinner. Afterwards, we had chicken rice and beans oh my – and it was delicious. We also had fresh squeezed tamarind juice that was really good. Next we did a few icebreakers before it got dark. I feel like I know most of the people already. Then we had an orientation that told us the schedule and rules for while we are here by our Director and mentors. Looking forward to waking up early to start the next day. Go GLA Dominican Republic!
This morning we woke up at 7 o’clock and started to get ready for the day. Breakfast came quick, at 7:30, where we ate fresh fruit, eggs, hot chocolate, toast and ham. After packing our sunscreen, bug spray, snacks and towels we headed out on the GuaGua (the local busses) and rode for 40 minutes until we reached a small trail. Eager and excited we headed out on 40 minute hike through a small village. We reached a small house where we collected the necessary tools to build the greenhouses. Upon arrival to our work site, which was within the village, we were assigned tasks to clear out the area where we were going to build the two greenhouses. Some of us started filling 3,000 small black bags with soil that the locals dug us for us so that we could plant cacao seeds in, to put in the greenhouse, while others were starting on clearing out the area. Within the area that we were working there were a lot of local chickens, and there was a pig pen with piglets, which found to be a distraction for some of us.
While we were bagging the soil, a twelve year old local girl named Madeline came to join us, and she didn’t speak English so some of us who could speak Spanish communicated with her. While we were bagging the soil with Madeline, others were starting to work on the greenhouse structure by nailing holes through PVC pipelines. After hours of working, two greenhouses that store 15,000 seedlings, and bunches of bug bites later, we all went to a local’s house to sit in shade and eat our lunch. We had pasta, and of course, fruit! After cooling off and re-fueling, we headed down to the waterfall that we passed on the hike up.
When we were hiking back down we passed many villagers and homes that were the size of my bedroom, and made me extremely thankful for everything I’ve been blessed with, and even more eager to help. When we got to the waterfall there were already a lot of villagers there sitting in the large creek and they were really amused at our excitement to jump into the water. We all took turns jumping off of the 20 foot rock into the water, and were extremely refreshed and thankful that we could cool ourselves off. (It’s SO hot!) After many of pictures and laughs later, we dried off and headed back on the hike to the Gua Gua. On the way back, many of us took time to nap and replenish ourselves with snacks. We got back to the lodge and some of us decided to go to the beach, which was beautiful. After being tossed around in the waves and being covered in sand, we all decided to go swim in the pool to rinse off. We were all pretty exhausted and went our own separate ways by napping and showering.
Dinner was at 6, and we were all excited to eat the fish, french fries, and our favorite, FRUIT! After feeling full we started leadership, where we did a personality test and figured out what “color” we were. Most of us were orange, which means that you’re outgoing, adventurous, and spontaneous. We all got in our color groups, answered questions about ourselves and then Giorgio (the 21 day program director) talked to us about Human Security, which is a new approach in order to give everyone the same rights and safe environment that they deserve. I got a lot out of this talk and learned that there are different threats to everyone, in each country, and that there are ways to prevent these threats. After his talk Sophia and I sat down to write this blog, which I hope you all enjoy! Tomorrow we will be building a bottle school in a Haitian batey, and we can’t wait!
Today, we had breakfast at 7:30 a.m., which consisted of mash potatoes, friend eggs, and toast. Our group then departed at 8 a.m for Caraballo, which is a Haitian-Dominican community, where we had the job of contributing to the biggest bottle school in the world. We started by carrying the bags of cement, then mixed it with sand, and added water at the end. The cement we created was put in buckets to then be put in the walls inside or outside the school. For those who do not know what a bottle school is, it is a school that is created with chicken wire, water bottles, and cement. The chicken wire and water bottles are the base of the walls in the school. After all the bottles are put inside the chicken wire, cement is placed on top to create a strong foundation. This bottle school was on the 8th stage of its creation, so we only worked on creating the cement walls and digging to create a huge hole for the septic tank.
We had lunch around 12 which was egg salad, lentils, and fruit. We finished up our work around 2 p.m. and said goodbye to our new Haitian and Dominican friends. On the bus, we reflected about the tour we were given. Throughout our work, our mentor James took groups on tours around the community. We saw how happy everyone was with how little they had. The highlight of the tours was the children coming up to us and jumping on our backs. Once we returned back to home base, we went to the beach and the pool. Dinner was a pasta feast and after we had leadership. Tonight, Sarah helped us figure out our four core beliefs. It was interesting because everyone had a different four beliefs, and we got to see other people’s perspectives on what beliefs are most important. After, we had Giorgio come in a talk about environmental human safety. We learned how much water is used to wash our close, a trash island in the Pacific Ocean, and the impact of Oil in Alaska. Another great day in the Dominican!
Today we woke up at 7:00 AM and had a nice restful sleep because the air has been a bit cooler lately. For breakfast we had delicious french toast that we had not had before as well as the usual fruit, eggs, and homemade hot chocolate. When breakfast was done, we packed up, and headed onto the bus for a long car ride inland to a village called La Grua. La Grua is occupied by both Dominicans and Haitians, but is ruled by Dominican leaders. There homes are endangered due to soil erosion and their town is affected severely by poverty. We were astonished by the sense of respect and hesitance towards us because we are the first non-profit organization to help their community. Although the bus ride was long, it fascinated all of us to catch more of a glimpse into a lot of the Dominican life. Different shops, homes, and people showed all of us just how different life is here than back where we live. But, we did realize that they have such a sense of community and bonding between them, which is one of the coolest things to see and experience.
Our job in La Grua was to start beginning the process of putting bottles in the wall frames of their new community center/school. Bottle schools are innovative and smart service projects that are popping up all over the world. Bottles are made of plastic and incredibly wasteful in our world today. The idea is, by using bottles in between cement walls, light and airy but still strong buildings can be built, but using recyclable materials. First, we hammered the chicken wire to both side of the frames, so the bottles had a set area in between the cement that would be put on later. Once the chicken wire was in place, the bottle process began. We took hundreds of bottles that the community had collected for us and placed them in two rows in each frame of the wall. It was a slow process, but in the end we knew this building would benefit the locals in a way nothing else has before. This community center will host classes for adult literacy, technology usage, and water safety.
During the work process, in small groups we took tours around the town and conversed with the locals. We learned that flooding their river is causing danger to their homes and churches and of their small town is polluted with trash. Never the less, the kids were nothing but cheerful. After plenty of pictures and selfies, we said our good byes and headed out of La Grua. When we arrived home, we made our daily trip to the salty ocean waters of the Dominican to cool off.
Dinner was served at 6:00. The main dish was pork with their specialty sauce and rice on the side with the usual fruit and salad. At our nightly leadership discussion, we had a fascinating talk about food security, both on the hunger and obese side. We learned some crazy facts about how many children are affected by malnutrition, and how many people in general are considered obese. For leadership, we did some partner activities and discovered that if you give anyone a chance, you will always find things in common. Overall, today we had amazing experiences of a lifetime building relationships with locals and helping them to have a better community and life in their impoverished city. We can’t wait for the next day where we’ll travel to Dudu, a lagoon that is going to be a ton of fun!
Today, we got to wake up an hour later than usual. We went to Dudu. At Dudu, there are two lagoons that you can swim in and one has a zip line above it. It was one of our fun days, and we all had a blast. We got to challenge ourselves with heights and conquering fears. Also, it was a great time to bond with our peers. The heights of the cliffs were as high as 35 feet. Some people preferred to jump off the cliff while others preferred the zip line. We also got to interact with ostriches and chickens. We got many cool photos jumping into the clear waters of the lagoon. After an exhausting morning, we settled down to have lunch. For lunch, we had rice with corn and peppers and chicken wings. Many of the students loved the ice cream sold at the restaurant we were at. Then, after eating, we continued to lay out in the sun and go into lagoons. We left Dudu 3 hours later and headed back to base. When we got back, we had a Mexican fiesta and watched a funny movie. It was a great day!
Today we took the bus ride back to La Grua to work on the bottle school project that we had started on day 4, and even though the ride was long, it was definitely worth it because we accomplished so much in just a short period of time! We already knew the drill so we quickly jumped into the construction by cutting chicken wire and vigorously hammering it up to keep it in place. When we first got there the other half of the group that did not go on the day 4 tour went on the tour of the surrounding villages of both the Dominican people and the Haitian people. Back at the school bottles were quickly filling up the walls, and, thanks to Caroline’s great idea, the letters GLA were even creatively embedded into the wall using different colored water bottles. We have all become so close and this shines through when we work because we are all able to work together efficiently and cooperatively. Between the two days we spent in La Grua we were able to finish the first layer of bottle on 2 walls of the school which is incredible! It is so cool to be able to see the immediate reaction of the children from these villages on the worksite, and they are constantly eager to help us. The kids remembered us from Day 4 and welcomed us back with hugs and photos as we started the day. After lunch before we started working again, one of the Dominican boys played some Dominican music and taught us some traditional dancing which was really fun! It is sad to think that we are more than halfway through our trip but knowing that we left our mark and are able to see all the progress we have made is such a rewarding experience. Even though we will not be returning to La Grua, the other GLA groups later in the summer will work on the bottle school until the project is finished, and I cannot wait to see how it turns out!
Today we woke up at 7:30 and had our usual breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, ham cheese and an array of fruit. The weather in the morning was slightly overcast which we were all excited about so we could get some time out of the sun. At 8:00 sharp we headed out on an hour drive to our worksite with our Dominican masons along to help. Catching up on some sleep the bus ride was mostly filled of sleeping teenagers. When we arrived at our worksite, La Union, we were happily greeted by the community leader, who allowed us to use her house as a resting ground. The community leader was so excited to have us there working, she was overwhelmed with joy and sent us out with a prayer. We split into two groups at the beginning as we were under pressure to get the job done. One group cleared out a house in order to pour concrete on the floor, while the other group began mixing the cement for the kitchen of the community leader’s home. Once the house was cleared the group leveled the floor out to prepare for the cement. After everything was finished in the house both groups worked together to mix the cement for the floors. The Dominican Masons that came with us were in charge of pouring the cement onto the floors of both houses so we could ensure that they turned out well. Mixing bags and bags of cement was hard work for us, as we did it all day long but we knew it was well needed. Most of the houses in La Union have dirt floors. Imagine that! You could never take off your shoes in our own house because the floor was dirty. The dirt floors cause lots of heath problems for the residents because when the rain comes it floods the houses with dirty black water that carry many diseases. Playing with the kids for most of the day we established good relationships with the community that had not yet been established because our group was the first ever group to go into this community and help. Similarly to the other communities we worked in, the kids were not the least bit shy, they climbed all over us and helped us to improve our Spanish. We finished a long but successful day of work around 3:15 and headed home. Our drive home today was slightly more eventful, as we had to make our way through a Dominican Political rally, which was pretty much just a bunch of Dominicans partying in the streets. We made our way back to the Lodge where half of us went down to the beach, and the other half got ready for Leadership, which entailed some team building exercises . We are so excited for tomorrow’s big hike up Brison!
All students have cleared customs and are on their way home after an awesome program!