“My GLA trip completely changed the course of my life.”
Name: Sarah Stubbs
Hometown: Decatur, GA
Education: University of Georgia, Class of 2018
Passions and Interests: Majoring in Public Health, with a concentration in Global Health
Transformational Experience: Dominican Republic: Building a Sustainable World™
Making an Impact: Designing a study with Filters for Families, working for 7 Elements and GLA as a junior mentor
Sarah, like most high school students, didn’t start out with a master plan to become involved in public health initiatives. Instead, she started with something much more common: a Google search. She typed in ‘international volunteer trips for teens’ and came across the page for Global Leadership Adventures’ Building a Sustainable World™ program in the Dominican Republic.
After reading a few paragraphs about the program I was completely hooked. It had pictures of adorable Haitian children holding hands with American teens, and all of a sudden I wanted to be that teen. I wanted to help that Haitian child.”
Once Sarah was hooked on the idea of enrolling in the program, there was nothing that could stop her from going. She had that image of being the American high school student making an impact on the life of that Haitian child, and felt compelled to go. Then she actually went. And everything about her perspective changed.
What I later learned, is that those kids and families would end up having a far greater impact on my life than I would on theirs. I was about to embark on the most educational and amazing three weeks of my life, and I had no idea what I was getting myself into.”
As Sarah later recalled upon returning from the program, her experience, “not only opened my eyes to the severity of issues around the world, but it also made me believe that I could make a difference in those issues.” With more than 700 million people in the world lacking acceptable access to clean drinking water, the size of the problem was enormous, and could be “overwhelming” for Sarah to think about. But whenever she was in the Dominican, she remembered it wasn’t about numbers. She saw the parents and their children who drank water riddled with disease every day, failing any better alternative.
The Dominican Republic shares an island with Haiti, and though it is financially much better off than its sister nation, it has its own series of issues – like the lack of clean drinking water – in certain areas. This pervasive problem is only underscored in refugee settlements, where many Haitians who left their home country experience living conditions much worse than in Dominican communities.
Sarah couldn’t even believe the true number of Haitian families in need when faced with it. She had been walking around Caraballo with Dr. Dave Addison, the founder of the 7 Elements organization in the Dominican Republic, and country director for GLA’s programs in the DR. Caraballo is a large Haitian settlement community within the borders of the Dominican. Sarah and Dave ended up chatting with the mother of a family whose fifty-dollar water filter had “completely turned their health and lives around.” When Sarah turned to Dave to ask him how many people in the community had a water filter, his answer stunned her.
Out of over a thousand people, only one family owned a water filter. The rest drank tainted water.
Once she returned home, Sarah couldn’t get that number out of her head. It continued to bother her. She said she “cringed every time I reached for my Brita pitcher.” Unable to shake this unwanted feeling, she had another realization. That she could do something. Sarah said, “These were human beings we were talking about – human beings, just like us, who didn’t have access to clean drinking water.” She continued, “This is why I returned and will continue to return to the DR.”
Sarah has kept her word. During repeated visits to the DR and Haiti, she has worked with GLA groups and Dr. Addison to build a lasting water filtration initiative in the region. By not only providing life-changing water filters to families, but also collecting data on the impact of clean water on community health, Sarah has figured out a way to both lend a hand and provide actionable data to others looking to replicate her clean water work elsewhere.
I have now been to the Dominican six times and my experiences have solidified my desire to work in the field of international development. The things I have seen and the people I have met cannot be forgotten, and there are still many more things to see and people to meet.”
Last semester I took a health policy course offered at my university. I fell in love with the topic to say the least. Working in the DR has shown me the inevitable role that politics plays in health, social issues, the economy, education and more. By furthering my education in public health and law/politics, I could play a role in creating more effective health interventions and policies.”
In the summer of 2016, Sarah also took a more active role working with GLA’s Dominican Republic: Global Health Initiative™ program. Her focus was to show GLA students why water filters are so important and how to best distribute them. Collaborating with a local leader each time, she would lead students through local Dominican communities that participated in water filtration distribution. They’d address what was affecting the public health, and how the filters can contribute in a meaningful way to community wellness.
In the end, it’s all about bringing about positive, lasting change. Sarah has distributed 524 filters since beginning her initiative, and coordinated with students to raise over $8,000 for new clean water filters. She continues to inspire GLA students with her relentless passion and commitment to her cause, the same way she was inspired back in high school.
My GLA trip completely changed the course of my life. I have not only found a major and career path thanks to my experiences in the DR, but I have found a passion.”
Sarah is currently attending the University of Georgia, where she is studying Public Health with a concentration in Global Health. She continues to contribute to Filters for Families, GLA and 7 Elements.
If you’re interested in donating to Filters for Families, you can do so here.
Program Sarah attended:
GLA Dominican Republic: Building a Sustainable World™
Curious about exploring your own GLA adventure? Check these out:
- GLA Dominican Republic: Building a Sustainable World™
- GLA Dominican Republic: Global Health Initiative™
- GLA Dominican Republic: Beachside Service Adventure
- GLA Dominican Republic: Spring Break Service Adventure