While the usual teenager was wishing for a car, I spend the weeks prior to my sixteenth birthday wishing for an adventure. Not simply a road trip away from my small hometown, but something more than that. I wished to go on an adventure out of the United States to a third world country on the right half of Hispaniola. For my sixteenth birthday, I received this adventure as a present from my parents in hopes that I would come home awakened of the wonders of the blue planet and of the diversity of inhabitants.
In the middle of July, I left the mitten state and was headed off to the Dominican Republic for my ten day service trip through Global Leadership Adventures. The name of the program was Dominican Republic: Sustainability and Service, but little did I know that the program was all about transforming us naive teenagers into sustainability activists. I not only learned what sustainability was from Dave Addison, our director who obtained a PhD in global business sustainability, but I came to live it as well. We lived virtually a “no impact” lifestyle, consisting of thatched huts for lodging and daily meals of beans and rice. These accommodations forced me to break free of my American comforts and discover what it truly means to live simply and sustainably.
The program allowed me to help change the lives of the Dominican people through our service, but I was also changed as well. The nightly videos, such as “Food Inc.” and “Blue Gold”, and the in depth conversations with Mr. Addison transformed my global perspective and gave me a incredible new insight into the world’s problems. We discussed topics such as climate change, conservation biology, water scarcity, desertification, poverty, urbanization, and oil scarcity. For these were the challenges that us up-and-coming world leaders would tackle in our lifetime.
I left the Dominican Republic and came back to the United States more aware of the world outside my hometown. Before a meat eater, I came home a changed lacto-ovo vegetarian. After preaching my newly adopted philosophies to my parents and sister, I was able to transform them to vegetarians as well. I also inspired my family and others to begin eating an organic diet too. Not only has my family become healthier, but more environmentally friendly. My family was able to significantly reduce our environmental impact due our dietary changes and new habits.
My mission after coming back to the United States has been to change my ways, and also teach my peers and fellow community members the practices I learned in the Dominican Republic. I now work closely with the my local community garden and community kitchen in providing low-income families with fresh, locally-grown, organic food. My life was permanently changed from those ten days, and I want to have the same impact on others. I came back and was able to change the lives of others as well, which is more satisfying than any self transformation I underwent.