At first I wasn’t sure I wanted to go. I agonized over it for weeks as our group met to discuss all the wonderful things we would be doing to help the poor people of the Dominican Republic. Truthfully, all I could think about at that time was all that I would be missing out on while I was gone.
After all, this was the start of my summer vacation, and I had already committed to spending the last six weeks of it in Boston, MA studying at the Berklee School of Music. This didn’t leave me much time to experience the ‘vacation’ part of summer vacation. Somehow though, I knew I was doing the right thing.
Looking back, I now realize that is was more than just the right thing to do, it was also one of the most rewarding memories I will ever have.The week I spent on a mission trip in the Dominican Republic was probably one of the hardest experiences I’ve had. The first day we arrived I was a little excited because it did seem like an adventure of sorts, but once we were shown our accommodations, which were a little lower than what I’d consider ‘roughing it’, I was again questioning my decision to come on the trip. That was only the beginning, however.
The weather was scorching and humid, and all of our plans included manual labor projects which would keep us outside every day all day. This was almost enough to make me wish my phone had service so I could call my parents to come rescue me.Well, I didn’t call home because I remembered why I had decided to come on this trip in the first place. I went because I wanted to help children less fortunate than myself.
With this goal in mind, I pushed myself to do things I never thought I could. We scrubbed walls with rocks to clear off old paint and graffiti so we could give the outside of a local school a fresh coat of paint, to give the children pride in attending their school. We cleared fields of rocks, trees and shrubs and built a soccer field for the children to play in.
We cleaned, and cleaned and did whatever we could to make the area a better place for the children to live in.In the evening we presented different forms of entertainment. Some nights we sang, other nights we put on puppet shows, took Polaroids, made animal balloons, and put on skits. Through all this, we got to know the people, and even though we had a language barrier, I realized that love really does reach beyond words.
I worked harder that week than I ever have in my entire life, and I went home a changed person. I have been involved in smaller projects throughout high school to help community groups reach their goals, but nothing I have ever done has given me the feeling of so directly helping people change their lives.The most vivid memory I now have of my trip to the Dominican Republic is not how little sleep I got because of the discomfort of the mattress, or the heat of the night. I do not so clearly remember the soreness of my muscles or the blisters on my hands.
What I truly remember most, and what I will never forget, are the smiling faces of the children. Their faces often float through my mind at random times and I smile at the memory of them smiling at me. I have to admit that I don’t remember all of their names anymore when I look at them in my photographs.
What I do remember, however, is the love that they had for me, and most of all the love that I still feel deep inside for them. I wish I could share that feeling with everyone, because I know that if they knew what it felt like, they too would be on the next trip out to help someone less fortunate than themselves. I can’t wait for the next opportunity to experience that feeling again for myself.
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