I hope your return home was everything you expected and more. I’m sure you all missed your family and now you have a chance to spend time with them before going back to school. There’re of course other things you might have missed like food; “no more arroz con pollo guisado” you might be telling yourselves… but I promise you you’ll start missing it!
On the other hand, some of you may feel overwhelmed with your return to school and college applications. My advice is that you remain focused on getting to know yourselves on a deeper level: testing your limits, engaging with different people, getting involved with global issues and gaining new perspectives. Dominican Republic was a giant first step and it is amazing the growth that came out of only two weeks. You still have a long way to go. You’re all potential leaders and I’m sure whatever part of the world you decide to live in and the career you decide to pursue, you’ll make an impact.
During your time here we became really united as a group and today we share many beautiful memories. The day you arrived at El Quemaito you were all so nervous, even though at the same time excited. Those first few days you were all so silent that you could clearly hear even the buzzing of mosquitoes. I must admit I was a little bit scared that you wouldn’t be engaged with the program and wouldn’t participate. Very soon that all changed and your very different and vibrant personalities started to come out. From our self-proclaimed “Asian Power” group, to our Djs and extroverts, to all of you who showed kindness through your smiles even though you didn’t speak aloud all of the time, to the humorous and flirty, you all balanced each other out perfectly! More than the mere sum of individuals, we created a family that I hope will last in time.
I’ll take the opportunity to thank you for being so open to learn new things like Dominican capture the flag in Cachote (despite some bruises and scrapes), for always being positive to my craziest proposals and ideas (like rolling down a hill to get to worksite), for crazily dancing merengue and singing to the top of your lungs at the bus, and for being flexible with the obstacles that we encountered together along the way.
Some of you were sick during this trip but you took it like champions. No one, at any point, stayed behind during activities. Despite not speaking Spanish you made a great effort to communicate with others, especially during medical brigades. Despite the incredible heat (highest it had been all summer) you carried on with work and it honestly surprised me how you showed each other your sunburns laughing as a sign of accomplishment.
I’m happy to have been a part of this experience with all of you because you showed all that’s needed to succeed in a world that is not always what we expect (remember “life and opportunity” from the leadership activity with Erin?).
I love all of you. You have a friend in me and my offer of visiting Dominican Republic again after you’re over 18 still stands.
A big warm hug,
P.S. I still owe you a bachata class!