During a school break in November 2011, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Sosua in the Dominican Republic on a trip sponsored by my school’s Spanish Cultural Club. The weeklong trip marked the first time I left the country, and an amazing first time it was.
The twenty-five participants on the trip ranged from high school students to retired teachers to adults from different walks of life. Volunteer work was the main objective of the trip. Almost every morning, the group arose early and we ventured to nearby communities delivering supplies and playing with the children of the villages.
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Witnessing the quality of life these people experienced was truly eye opening. Never in my life have I witnessed poverty of that level in person. The children were more excited about us being there to play with than with the supplies we brought, because their parents don’t have nearly enough time to spend with them as they are off working.
I remember one village in particular, Auguas Negras, which really changed my perspective on the idea of the human spirit. Even though it was one of the most deprived villages we visited, its inhabitants were overjoyed by our presence and the kids seemed to be happier than any children I’ve come across in the U.S.
There was one day of our trip during which we visited the Mustard Seed orphanage. This small building houses about a dozen infants, toddlers, and children with disabilities. That particular day left me close to tears. It was both heartbreaking yet amazing to see the efforts put forth by Mustard Seed’s permanent and temporary staff to keep these kids comfortable and happy. I remember, the woman who works there permanently has to do three loads of all the kids’ laundry each and every day. We helped her that day, but I could only imagine having to complete that task every day by myself. I don’t think I would last long.
A highlight of the trip was the safari excursion. We took this really huge jeep-like vehicle through some of the back villages that are rarely visited because it is so difficult to get to them. Along the way, we delivered supplies, rode through some rivers, and threw candy to waving children on the side of the roads. It was a long, hot day, but it was completely worth it.
The trip, however, wasn’t all work and no play. The group stayed at The Casa Marina Beach Resort, an all-inclusive hotel where we could relax after working every day. There was a beach, pool, and some quirky live entertainment at night so people were never bored. The hotel staff included some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met; they always gave you a lovely “hola!” every time you passed.
Overall, the trip was one the most amazing experiences I’ve had in my life. While both truly eye opening and heartbreaking, it also left me with a sense of accomplishment and love for the way people make the most of what they have. Now, I really want to learn more of the Spanish language and am even planning on taking a college Spanish class my upcoming senior year. Actually knowing what the kids are saying will, I believe, make the trip even better. Keeping that in mind, I’m sure next year’s annual trip will be even more amazing – since I am most certainly going back!
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