First day was really good, everyone met and got along. Our flights all came on time and we stuck together like flies on rice. We got to the lodge which is pretty cool and full of bugs that we are all deathly afraid of…. We have 27 kids on our trip and the names were challenging to learn, unless you’re Dana who knew everyone’s name the first night and where they were from. From today you can tell it is going to be a fun and eye opening experience. Oh yeah, and it’s hot so I guess we have to get used to the humidity soon.
Today we woke up to the delightful sound of a rooster crowing at 6:30. Eager to start off our day, we got our bags ready and headed down to the sight of bacon, bread, eggs, and fruit. After eating, we got on the much appreciated air conditioned bus to go to Cana Dulce, the service site we were working at today. After taking a tour to look at the Cacao trees, bee farms, and the local way of life, we separated into groups to do our work. We both were in the cement group in the morning, so we carried heavy loads of cement, sand (arena), and water to one of the local houses that needed flooring to improve the hygiene. After much mixing and masonry work, we were rewarded with lunch and a bit of free time to play with the community kids and dogs. After intense games of basketball and soccer, the two groups switched jobs, as some went to work on building bee boxes while others sifted sand for the cement. We returned back to the lodge and spent the next two hours at the beach, pool, and drinking coconuts. After a lively dinner, we learned the seven elements of human security and more specifically, got to understand unconscious bias and how its formed. We took a look at how we apply it in our own lives and how we can prevent it in the future. Lastly, as a Fourth of July celebration, we had a bonfire. We’re really looking to visiting the first batey tomorrow.
Dana and Rebekah
Today was a really fun experience, we had the opportunity to experience true adventure in the Dominican Republic. We were able to hike thirty minutes into waterfalls and slide and dive into them. We also hiked back to where we started and it was really beautiful. Everyone truly had a fun time and we all supported each other to fully complete the whole adventure. After 27 Charcos everyone went into the town Cabarette and had free time to roam around the town or go to the beach. People had the chance to exchange american money into Dominican pesos, which will be helpful for everyone for the rest of the trip because many people plan to buy souvenirs and many were able to do that in Cabarette.
The morning routine was the usual, but the rest of the day was far from usual. We faced a challenge with fitting everyone into a smaller bus. Although the space was limited, we as a group found a way to accommodate in order to make it to our destination. We were received by a welcoming Dominican family who showed us around their community while also kindly offering some tasty home-made arroz con leche. Later, our group was split into two, and we took turns visiting a chocolate factory run by 22 women.
The women are very dedicated to their long-term goal despite contradicting cultural ideals. Later, we diligently worked on improving a community center as well as a building the foundation of a close-by latrine. We were able to learn more about Dominican culture by doing hands-on activities and understanding the lives of the residents we met. After becoming muddy and sweaty, the pool together with tacos for Taco Tuesday was a great refreshment for everyone and a good end to an accomplished day.
-Joselin and Adrianna
Today we returned to Veredita where we are helping to fix a community center. We started off by building a latrine that is going to be part of the new and improved community center. We also chipped off the brittle old paint so we can make it more structurally sound.
We also started a new room that we filled in with the paint chips – very innovative! The locals also jumped in and taught us faster and better ways to mix concrete, dig, and chip the walls. We learned that filling the room would be easier with and assembly line.
When we were done we had a human security meeting about the extinction of different foods and how GMOs are destroying local and family-owned farms. An example would be how there used to be around 3,000 different varieties of apples, but now 96% have gone extinct.
-Andrew Gonzalo & Eliason Talley
Today we spent the hot scorching day in La Union. We mixed cement to improve the floors of the struggling residents of the community, while experiencing groups of diverse kids coming from Haiti and the Dominican Republic. In addition to that, the local children were very interested in calling names to some kids based on their appearance. At first we were really shocked that they were so blunt about how we looked, but later that night in our Human security lecture we learned why culturally this happens. It is a way for them to identify people, instead of using names. The bus ride was more relaxing because we rode in the more roomy bus instead of riding in the smaller, scarce window space bus. However, today we went on a trip to the super market which had the best and only air conditioning, I felt, on the trip so far. Sadly, we could only stay for 20 minutes-then back into the heat. We are having a good time. Tomorrow is a relaxing day for us.
-Hakeem Elijah Mckoy
-Proof Reader: Marcus Soo
Today was day 8 and also our day off of volunteer work. We traveled an hour southwest to Dudu Lagoon; which is a secret paradise. The adrenaline filled day ranged from cliff jumping to zip lining into the clear water of Dudu 😉 We also explored secret caves which reached depths of 190 ft. for many underwater activities.
After lunch, we played an intense game of volleyball and lounged under the sun. It was an overall great bonding experience between all GLA mentors and students. We cannot wait for another adventurous day in the Dominican Republic.
Writers: Jessica Mittelbusher and Jessica Connelly
7/11/2015 – Cano Dulce
Today the squad hit Cano again. The group continued to work alongside the residents to put cement floors in homes. We worked all day mixing cement for La Dona, tirelessly carrying heavy buckets of cement up a hill to fill up one of the largest houses in the village. On the other side of town, other GLA volunteers returned to their work for Johnny, the resident beekeeper, who tragically lost half of his bees to the deadly pesticide, Roundup. In order to streamline his process of collecting honey, we put the finishing touches on the “bee boxes” that they had worked on during the previous week by painting each frame bright yellow.
7/12/2015 – Santo Domingo
This morning, we had a very early start. We took an arduous four-hour bus ride to Santo Domingo, the national capital. After a quick lunch, we explored the botanical gardens, and partook in exciting activities such as amateur bird chasing and scavenger hunting. After the botanical garden, we had a short fifteen minute bus ride to our motel. We relaxed and logged into the Wifi before heading out on the town. For dinner, we devoured many pieces of pizza. We then took a tour and learned the history of the capital.
-Starfish Holk and Waylon Wellborn
7/13/2015 – Peace Corps and Sustainability School
Today was a very cloudy day. We had breakfast at 8 and coffee at the hostel. Right after breakfast, we went to the Peace Corps office where a volunteer spoke to us about the service and how it stays sustainable with help from the government. The talk was very informational and inspirational. In addition to that, we took a long car ride that lasted longer than expected because of traffic. However, we spent the time either jamming out to songs or sleeping. We stopped to have lunch (chicken and beans again) then drove through the beautiful mountains where we stopped at an environmental school to learn about plants and their role in the community. We were also each able to plant a tree. We finally arrived to our lodge for the night, which has a nice view of the mountains. While we’re writing this, the mentors are preparing a healthy dinner for us to make the day complete.
– The Dream Team of 2015 (Rebekah and Hakeem)
7/14/2015 – Jarabaccoa
Today, the GLA team awoke to a beautiful sunrise in the lovely town of Jarabaccoa. As the beams of light slowly began to emerge from behind the balcony of trees, the students made their way out of the Eco lodge and into the dining pavilion. They were treated to a cereal breakfast with Wi-Fi and cold milk. The students then gathered on the bus before leaving for the waterfall. Many of the excited students hurried off the bus onto the path –filled with anticipation.
After the students finally made it to the waterfall, they split up into a series of groups; one group jumped into the icy cold water, one group went for a short hike, and the last group went sun bathing. Long, after spending 3-4 very short hours at the waterfall, the team got back on the bus to return home.
-Henry and Connor
Returning to Caraballo brought back warm memories of piggyback rides and meaningful service with the local people we worked with. It was wonderful to see how far the bottle school has come, even in the two times we went to Caraballo. For a couple of hours, we worked in the heat, tirelessly mixing cement, and gathering materials such as buckets of water, we got from the river. Carrying the water was a difficult job and took lots of skill to avoid stepping in cow poop. In the back of the school, many students helped in building the foundations for the school, by sawing, hammering, and nailing wooden planks. Energized by a nutritious lunch of chicken, pasta salad, salad and fruit, we were able to accelerate our work and even completed cementing an additional room. While the day was filled with hard work, we got to take a break to have fun with the Haitian children, making friends and improving our Spanish. They are very up front, and liked to tell many of the girls (and some boys) phrases such as “I love you”. It was a day full of fun and excitement, but also meaningful service!
La Veredita and Joba Arriba
Today was our third day visiting the community of La Veridita. Although, it was our first time working at Joba Arriba. Here, we worked on rehabilitating an old, broken water tank. We cleared debris, scrubbed the walls, and cemented as well. This community struggles with consistent access to clean water, if water at all. For that reason it was very important that we helped as much as possible. We also continued our job of working on the community center of La Verdita. It has been really exciting to see the process and growth that we have created since our first day at this job site. The difference in the condition of the community center was huge. We are looking forward to our trip to Dajabon tomorrow and the rest of our trip!
-Paige Carlborg and Maddie Molloy
We woke up at 5:30 in the morning to get on a 4 hour bus ride for an eye opening, educational opportunity. Once off the bus, the group of GLA students assembled near the chaotic Haitian border to witness a true cultural shock. One of which was experiencing the movement of a large mass of Haitians carrying their goods across the river (where at one time 18,000 Haitians were killed) and through the bridge guarded by the military, to sell their products. Walking in separate groups into the packed Dajabon market place, we witnessed Haitians re-selling the relief materials that have been given to them. As some of us bought items (Connor a Godly necklace, Dana colorful bomb pants, and Alex an ostentatious hat) we discussed how these items were donated to the Haitians, and then sold to the Dominicans which is lead back to the American tourists. The long drive was well worth it today as we got to see, firsthand, the Haitians immigrating into the DR. Their land is so barren and desolate that they need to come to the DR for more opportunities, however they are not received well. This experience today provided a fast forward glimpse into what the future does hold; the environment is deteriorating, causing forced migration from the coast inland due to rising sea levels. As this is happening in Dajabon, it will also happen elsewhere due to our treatment of the world leading to major conflicts. Once we returned from the 5 hour ride back to the lodge, Liv gave us a motivating presentation about current voluntourism issues and how to impact the lives of others by showing them a way to be self-sufficient. “Give a man a fish he eats for a day; teach a man to fish he eats for a lifetime.”
-Connor and Dana
Today the team traveled about an hour to the beautiful city of Puerto Plata. In the morning, we rode a cable car up the mountain Isabel De Torres. Once we reached the summit, we could overlook the pristine coast, bustling city, and rural mountain range. After spending the morning exploring the top of the mountain, we returned to Puerto Plata for a classic Dominican style lunch. Following that, we adventured to the coastline and explored a Spanish fortress. We learned about the history of Puerto Plata then spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the sun and coast. To wrap up our astounding day, we got ice cream and shared many laughs reflecting on our experiences.
Today the group went to La Union and did cement work and collected plastic bottles to help build a plastic bottle school. At the work site, anyone could’ve seen how happy the local people were with us going into their community and helping cement their floors. We constructed these floors to prevent floods because the original floor was just dirt. This community is special since it’s a community with mostly Haitians (a batey.) In this community it was cool to see the people speak half Spanish and half Creole in one sentence. Also, a local person tried marrying a girl and called other people funny names.
Written by Ralph (ralphchoidagawd)
Edited by Rebekah
The trip awoken to the sounds of roosters and dogs for another fabulous day of service and fun in the Dominican Republic. After breakfast, the crew went on the bus and headed to La Grua, a batey two hours away from the home base consisting of Haitians and Dominicans. At La Grua, we quickly began work on the bottle school. In three groups, we cemented, collected bottles and built up the foundations for the school. We were joined by locals who helped us work and made us smile as we assembled the walls of the school. After lunch of eggplant, bean salad, veggies and fruit, we got back to work and made great progress. The school looked to be coming along well, and the people seemed to be very gracious. In addition to working, we toured La Grua. It was surprising and disheartening to see that the river where most people got their water for bathing, cleaning clothes and even for drinking was contaminated and almost dried up. Water security is a major issue in the Dominican Republic, but with the help of many of the returnees and projects that are going on, people have been supplied with water filters. Leaving La Grua was bittersweet. Our last work day was sad, but the work we were doing was extremely memorable and fulfilling.
All students have departed and are on their way home!