The alarm rings at 4am, but I’m already awake. I know I’m ready; I’ve had all of my donations collected for over a month. Still, it’s been a hectic junior year and I’d spent any free moment on www.orphanage-outreach.org/dominicanrepublic/ eagerly awaiting the week long experience ahead of me.
Anxiously waiting in the car, I go through my mental check list for the last time. One by one, I check my packing list off. One by one, my nerves are eased. Remember – keep it under 50 pounds. Oh yeah – a small carry on for me. Mom’s the next one to get to the car:
“Don’t forget to take today’s malaria pill.”
I finally hear Dad come up and start shuffling things around in the trunk.
“What do you have in here?! How much do you need for a week?” He asks as he loads my 49.9 pound donations suitcase. “Tell me again why you’re doing this?”
Working to keep my eyes open, I answer, “honestly, I don’t know right about now. I hate heat. I hate bugs. I don’t want to get malaria! I worked six months dealing with whiny little kids to pay for this trip and I could’ve had an iPhone 4 by now!” I laugh jokingly but deep down, I’m dead serious.
Finally, 10 hours and 1300 miles later, we arrive in the Dominican Republic where the entire group of 16 immediately assumes position and applies bug spray in the middle of the Santiago airport. From the moment we stepped out of the terminal, we were immersed in Dominican culture: the poorly air conditioned building, the “luxury” air conditioned bus, the men approaching car windows to sell seasonal fruit, the three times our bus needed to pull over to re-start the struggling engine, and the four military posts stopping eastward bound vehicles checking for Haitian immigrants.
When we finally got to the Orphanage Outreach camp in Jaibon, we were greeted and then introduced to the boys: the whole reason I had put this much effort into preparing for the trip hit its climax.
As I adjusted to the heat and daily routine, I slowly came to realize the point of my thousand mile journey for 21 boys. They didn’t need my help; they needed my service. They are not poor, helpless orphans. They are well provided for and what they wanted are our talents and blessings to be shared with them as they did with us.
Even though I did not know the slightest trace of Spanish, I could still communicate love. A simple smile or notion to start a game was enough to develop relationships with the kids. I never intended on learning to till but that’s what the camp needed so that’s what we did.
I could think of numerous ways to better the program’s efficiency but how I used those extra moments in the holes of the schedule were what really made the trip memorable. During free time, interacting with the kids one-on-one really honed in the purpose of the organization. It wasn’t about me or how I could affect Orphanage Outreach; it was about how I could touch the boys’ lives even in the slightest and little by little, poco a poco, encourage them to continue on the prosperous path the program has made available to them.
After having this experience, my main goal is to now begin shifting the focus off of myself and start learning a little more about the world. I would go back to Jaibon in a heartbeat.
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