Thursday July 5, 2018
Hello friends and family!
This is Cate M., Gray S., and Emily G. and all of us have made it in one piece and are happy to say hello from the Dominican Republic!
To say the least we are all exhausted.
Some of us have been flying since the night before, but thankfully most of us flew in a little later the following morning. We had a relaxing day overall, just hanging out and getting to know each other. After dinner we all sat down for Charla (a group discussion), and all of us went over house and safety rules by acting out skits. We had so much fun laughing and bonding watching our fellow students embarrass themselves. Overall it was an awesome start.
We are so excited for the coming weeks!
-Cate M., Gray S., and Emily G.
Friday July 6, 2018
Today was jam packed with adventure and exhaustion. We hiked through the community of Brison and had a taste of the local culture. Although the hike up was difficult, both physically and mentally, we managed to make it to the top and take in the gorgeous view. After some rest time with the locals, we headed back down the mountain.
Today’s Charla discussed the 7 elements of human security: Personal, community, political, environmental, economic, health, and food. We talked about how the lack of any of these elements can affect a community.
The day wrapped up with a birthday celebration on the beach for Oscar and some cake by the ocean. Overall, it was a great day, and we will definitely feel the seven mile hike tomorrow!
-Emily G. and Abby R.
Saturday July 7, 2018
Life is a Disco. If you can’t go to the disco, bring the disco to you. -Mark
We had our first real community project, in which we spent several hours picking up trash in the river, and were surprised to find the locals leaving their houses to join us in cleaning the river. All together, we picked up thirty-five bags of trash! It was incredible to see the community come together and the wide range of ages and backgrounds coming to join us. After our hard work by the river, we headed back to the school with a majority of the children who were helping us earlier.
There, we spoke to Chloe, a peace corps volunteer who has lived in that community for the past year, asking her numerous questions about her role in the community and what more needs to be done. While waiting for the food to arrive, we spent time with the children playing games and learning more about their lives. It was interesting to see how, despite our language barrier, it did not stop us from having a good time. We then ate a delicious lunch before heading back to the home base. On the way back, we stopped at a supermarket where we picked up traditional snacks, specific to the Dominican Republic.
We wrapped up the day with swim tests, good food and thought provoking discussions based upon prevalent issues based upon the 7 Elements, in which we covered yesterday. Our first day of work left us excited for what’s to come.
-Meg and Tamara
Sunday July 8, 2018
Day 4 was a day of rest and learning. This morning we slept and ate breakfast later followed by a couple hours at the beach. After this, we had a delicious lunch of Yellow rice and chicken. Later, we explored Las Canas, the town we are currently located in. We talked to local community leaders about their everyday lives and the challenges that face the community. In addition to talking with local leaders, we visited the school and played with the children who attend. After some free time we had a fantastic dinner of chicken, french fries, and broccoli. To finish off a great day, we did an activity with another GLA group on leadership and looking past first impressions.
– Por Amelia y Frĺtz
Monday July 9, 2018
Today we visited an NGO in Puerto Plata called IDDI. It is run by volunteers from the Dominican Republic and focus on a variety of projects. They gave us a tour of a few projects they implement in a local community. They talked about youth empowerment, education and how it can be used to improve the community.
At a local site we met some of the children in the community who benefited from the organization. We then headed to a local restaurant for a taste of traditional cuisine, where we also learned an insightful lesson about how to make sure we are respectful of the cultural norms. We ended the day with a discussion about cultural ethics and NGOs. All in all it was a great day, despite the rain!
Tuesday July 10, 2018
Today we experienced the contrast between life in a Haitian Batey and a Dominican community just around the corner from one another. To begin the day, we met up with Melvin, the local Junto De Vecino, who taught us how to mix cement. We worked together as a team to provide the resources for local masons to cement the floors of a local family’s home. Once finished with our project, Melvin answered our many questions regarding life in La Grua. This discussion led to a shift in how we viewed the communities and the social differences between them. Then took us around the corner from the Dominican side of the community to the Haitian side.
There we saw a great difference in people’s socio economic status and living conditions. He discussed the impact that 7e has had on the community through providing a crucial resource to the people, easier access to water. To end the day, we had a discussion about racial differences between Haitian and Dominican people led by our local director, Junior. His insight into this very pervasive issue lead to a long thought provoking and intense discussion. Overall, we’re excited to see more of the local culture!
Wednesday July 11, 2018
Today we visited the 27 charcos ear Puerto Plata. We hiked 3 quarters of a mile or 5 dominican minutes to our first jump. The first one was 12 feet high and the water was ice cold. The second jump was the highest one we did today, which was an 8 meter drop. The waterfalls or charcos tody was an amazing adventure and I’m glad we did it. After we stopped at Playa Puerto Plata to stick our feet in the water and cool off before heading to the lodge. We all relaxed before dinner and after, our charla was about immigration issues around the world. We had a really thoughtful discussion about the issues and what we can do as young leaders to address them. We finished with some free time before bed.
Thursday July 12, 2018
Today we went to Cano Dulce and worked with local masons to build septic tanks for two houses. The day was filled with mixing rough and smooth cement. The smooth cement was different because the sand had to be sifted so that it was especially fine and smooth when used.
To get the water for the cementing, we had to crawl under a fence to get to a nearby river, collect the water in large paint buckets and bring them back. When walking to the river we had to walk across a field that was clearly being used as a bathroom when the latrines were full. While we were working, the families were sitting outside their houses and we could see who we were directly affecting.
We came back to the lodge and swam in the pool. After our traditional dinner of sancoch we had our nightly charla and free time after.
Friday July 13, 2018
Hello to everyone back home!
Waking up to day 9 was a bright and sunny day. Breakfast was at 8:00am. Everyday mornings are a bit different, but we all agree that the later the breakfast the better it is. Around 8:30 it was time to gather the buckets and shovels and head out on the gua gua. After a 40 minute drive we arived in Nuevo York Chiquito. From 9:00 untill 11:30 we hand mixed cement and plastered it on the wall on the community center bottle house.
By coincidence lunch was not the usual rice, chicken and beans, but was rather nachos and salad. As a reward all of us went to a beach called Playa Calleton. The water was so clear that you could see the bottom. Most of us ordered drinks in Pinapples and Coconuts, which was refreshing. Soon after laying in the sun and drinking virgin Pina Collatas we got back on the gua gua and headed home.
Most of us took showers to get off the cement, but it’s always nice to take a dip in the pool. As of dinner we shared our space with a group from West Chicago. For charla the founder of 7 elements, Dave, came and talked to us about his perspective on the Dominican Republic.
Saturday July 15, 2018
My name is Alex and I am the Program Director for the International Development Program. We had a pretty packed day today with our activities and preparing to leave for Santo Domingo tomorrow morning, so I decided to give the kiddos a break and write today’s blog.
We started today off with a hearty breakfast of pancakes, eggs and an assortment of fruits. We then headed to Cano Dulce, a longstanding partner of 7 Elements/GLA. We did community interviews with some of the beneficiaries of our past projects and took a look at what they are currently working on with our local partner and GLA. We ended our community visit a nice pick up game of basketball with the locals.
We returned to the lodge for lunch and had some free time. Later we broke into our mentor groups and did some research about Santo Domingo and the organizations we will be visiting. After dinner, our mentor groups gave a small presentation of their findings and we then watched a a very interesting documentary called Poverty Inc. We had a brief discussion about the NGO space and headed to bed.
We are excited to see what Santo Domingo has in store for us!
Sunday July 15, 2018
Hi again from Alex!
The day flew by today and was very busy. We left the lodge this morning and headed for Santo Domingo. We stopped a couple times along the way for snacks and money exchange and ate lunch in a little restaurant about an hour or so outside of the city.
Upon arrival, we went to Tres Ojos, a beautiful national park. We saw some beautiful, naturally formed caves and walked around the park a bit. We then made our way to the hotel to get settled in for the next few days. We had a later dinner and finished the evening with a discussion about the program so far and what we hope to learn from our trip in Santo Domingo.
We are excited to visit some organizations tomorrow and explore the Colonial Zone! I will resume with the students writing blog entries tomorrow 🙂 Thanks for being a part of our adventure!
Monday July 16, 2018
Hello readers, today was full of learning. We started with breakfast at our hotel and made our way to UNA-DR where we spoke with youth volunteers about programs they are doing in line with the United Nations. Following that we spoke with a special guest, Clement, who currently works for the United Nations in the DR. We talked about current DR initiatives and the UN’s 2030 agenda.
For lunch we mixed it up and had la bandera with an Asian zing. Afterwards we sat down with members of OXFAM DR who told us about their branch in the DR and organization as a whole. They even gave us complimentary coffee from a local farmer and some to take home with us!
We finished the night with hamburgers and fries and a walk to the local store with our mentors. Stay tuned foe tomorrow!
Tuesday July 17, 2018
Hola from Alex again!
Today started off early with a fresh breakfast. We had a nice drive out of the city and through the country side to a place called Monte Plata. Here we visited an organization called Batey Releif Alliance. We learned about their medical initiatives in the DR and the students asked a lot of great questions. After, we visited a community that BRA works in. It was a learning experience for the students who did not like the way this community visit was done by BRA. You should all ask them about this when they come home because it’s an experience they won’t forget. We have challenged them to think critically throughout this trip and to always consider ethics when talking about international development. I was very proud of the way the students used what they have learned to be critical as well as see everything as an opportunity to learn. I’m rambling about how cool they are because they are a very special and brilliant bunch of young adults.
We returned to the hotel, had some chill time and then made our way to the Colonial Zone where we saw down awesome historical monuments, did some shopping and munched on some pizza. It was great to give them time to relax and explore a new place.
Wednesday July 18, 2018
Today marked 2 full weeks of this 21 day trip and our last day in Santo Domingo. We spent the day in a community called Haina working on a joint project between USAID and local NGOs in the area. With the help of volunteers in the community and partnering NGOs, our group helped paint a mural in the center of of the community to celebrate the 6 year partnership of Haina and international organizations as well as grassroot NGOs.
We painted, ate tacos, learned traditonal dances and had the pleasure of speaking with the mayor of Haina and Director of the local school. They were very proud to host us and this event and invited us all back next year!
We returned to the city, ate some sandwiches and headed to the malecón to see the ocean and another part of the city. It was a fulfilling and jam packed day!
Thursday July 19, 2018
Today we headed back to the lodge from Santo Domingo. The drive was long but we broke it up with a tour for Wine To Water, a local NGO fighting the water crisis in different parts of the world. In the DR they do this by distributing ceramic water filters made in their local factory. These are made to purify the water and are sent to different parts of the world.
We learned the process start to finish and were able to all make a filter. We learned the story behind the org and had lunch with them. We then finished our drive to Las canas where we were welcomed back to the lodge. We had dinner and finished with our nightly discussion on the beach.
Friday July 20, 2018
It was 6:05 on a cool, brisk morning. Frederick Holzgrefe awoke with a jolt to the sounds of nature greeting the Dominican Republic. Although the conscious mind of Mr. Holzgrefe had the intention to wake up mere moments before the 9 am breakfast, his body seeked revenge for his recent poor diet of icecream, popsicles, and toast, and lack of sufficient exercise. Fritz, an avid sportsman and intellectual, decided to use this extra time to read and workout. After his physical and mental exertion, he went to a delicious breakfast that consisted of toast, ham, eggs, fruit, and fried cheese. Due to recent long hours of work in Santo Domingo, the counselors decided it was best for Fritz and the group as a whole to have an easy day. Fritz, unlike his fellow companions, felt the desire to further his studies in the areas of english and sociology with this well-earned extra time.
After a productive two hours of intellectual advancement, Fritz had a satisfying lunch at noon consisting of chicken and rice. Following this congregation, Fritz and his companions went to a beach ten minutes thrice over away. Accompanying the beach was a stunning scenic view, cool water, and stronger bonds of friendship between Mr. Holzgrefe and his companions. After an empowering 2-3 hour excursion to the beach, Fritz and the group went back the lodge and had a fulfilling supper as the sun was setting upon our western shoulder. Today, Fritz will tell you that he stands a better and stronger man than he was yesterday due to GLA and 7Elements’ fine judgement in rewarding Fritz with an easy, relaxing day.
Tonight, Frederick John August Holzgrefe IV goes to bed a man of hopes, dreams, and anticipation for tomorrow’s work.
Saturday July 21, 2018
Hello again from the DR!
Today began with a bright and early breakfast at 7 A.M. After snacking on some delicious toast and eggs we drove to Chocolala, a chocolate factory owned by a group of women in Puerto Plata. They built their business from the ground up 40 years ago and have maintained it ever since. We got the chance to go on a tour of the factory and even got to purchase some sweet snacks for friends and family back home!
After lunch we stopped by a supermarket to stock up on food for the last few days of our stay. Once we got back to the lodge we had some free time to work on our capstone project in our groups.
Charla tonight consisted of breaking up into teams of seven and creating a worldwide campaign about different human and environmental issues. We’ll be presenting these tomorrow so stay tuned for the results.
Sunday July 22, 2018
Today we had our second to last organization visit with Live Different, an organization started in Canada. They focus on sustainable housing in the DR. Our host Jamie talked about the organization and current efforts in La Union, the Dominican-Haitian community that we visited. He then introduced their partner from Cups of Cold water that focuses on medical issues in the community. After we toured the project sites and met some of the community partners and current students that they are hosting.
We then ate a packed lunch at a cute little restaurant and debriefed our experiences at all the organizations we have visited. We went back to the lodge, did group presentations on our assigned human rights campaigns and made a jaunt to the beach to collect fire wood for our beach bonfire later that night. We finished the evening with a celebration of the current 7e/GLA staff that are returning to Haiti to finish their global health programs. It was a good day!
Today was a busy but fun day. We visited a small community in Sosua that relies on the river and ocean for their livlihood. The people that live here fish every day to make money and provide food. We worked with a local fisherman coalition in replanting mangrove trees along the river. This helps clean and nurture the river and ocean and keeps fish healthy and thriving. They hope in coming years to bring visitors to see the mangroves. On the way home we stopped and met a local beekeeper Jonny who showed us his bees and talked about the importance of this species. He even let us try the honey!
We returned to the lodge, ate dinner and presented our Capstone projects. The assignment was to split into groups and over the last week, come up with an NGO or social Enterprise to address a current world issue. Our director, Alex, teared up at the end because she was so proud of all the hard work we put into the projects. We finished the night with free time.