A two week trip to the slums of the Dominican Republic might not sound like the ideal summer vacation for a fifteen year old girl, but for me, it was the opportunity of a lifetime. I was part of a team that consisted of fifteen teen girls, three teen guys, two female leaders, and my Youth Pastor. We prepared for months, but nothing could have prepared me for the lessons I would learn. This trip to the Dominican would be life-changing and I would never be the same. As I boarded the plane to depart from Chicago, I knew this in my heart, I just didn’t know how hard making that change would be.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
What many people may not know about the Dominican is that there is a strong hatred between Haitians and Dominicans. The Dominicans strongly feel that the lighter someone’s complexion is, the more beautiful and valuable that person is. Because of the Haitians’ darker skin tone, Dominicans passionately dislike them. This rivalry has caused a large number of deaths and many villages along the border to be destroyed. On our trip, we would come face to face with this harsh reality.
During our time in the Dominican Republic we worked at a school, Anija, where poor Dominicans and Haitian children could learn for free. In the afternoons, we held a Bible camp. During the first week, it was in the slums, and the second week it was in an orphanage.
While we were doing the Bible camp in the slums, we met two special, little boys. Unfortunately, we did not meet on good terms. My friend, Madeline, walked in on a woman (who attended the church we were at) as she was beating a young Haitian boy. Madeline quickly took the boy’s hand and brought him to me and another friend. The little boy had a small cut on his head and his eyes looked dead, but that did not detract from his beautiful face and gorgeous dark skin. Soon, we found that the boy, who looked to be four or five, had a little brother. His brother was equally beautiful, and we guessed that he was two or three.
The children who were attending the Bible camp looked angrily at us as we held the Haitian boys. One of the older boys at the camp spoke English and asked us, “Do you like Haitians?” I smiled and said, “We love everyone.” He translated what I had said to his friends and looked at me like I was crazy. It broke my heart. How could anyone look as these poor children and want to hurt them?
We kept them by our side and stuck crayons in their pockets, and we gave them extra candy when it was time for every one to go. Their father came and picked them up and my friend cried as we watched them walk away barefoot and bruised. On the way home we talked about our experience and worried about their family for days. Had they been hurt? Were they safe?
Those little boys taught us a lesson that some people never learn. It is so important to love people no matter what. Stigma, disease, or skin color, people deserve to be loved and treated with respect. I can only hope and pray that those two boys and their family, two years later, are safe and healthy. I may never see them again and they may never know this, but they impacted my life and my friends’ lives greatly. I hope that someday they will have the love and happiness they deserve.
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