While my family loves to travel, we haven’t often gone out of the country. The last time I used my passport was when I went to the Dominican Republic. Now, the DR is known for its beaches and resorts, but I didn’t get to see much of either. You see, I traveled to the Dominican with an organization called Kids Alive, a non profit that helps children in need. A group from my grandparent’s church, along with me and my cousin, took the long flight from the Mid West to the Dominican with the sole goal of helping some of those children.
Something that you don’t see much from the fancy resorts is the poverty of the Dominican Republic. Air Conditioning is nonexistent; many houses are smaller than your kitchen; people use wires to steal electricity from overhead electrical lines at the risk of life and limb. And yet, in the middle of this, in the middle of dirt roads and not enough food and crying babies and people who could barely read, was a fenced in yellow building. Each day, children in baby blue button downs and khaki pants or skirts would walk through the gate. Each day, these children would learn, gaining a far better education than they would in the public school, not only learning their own language but English as well. Each day, the children would eat a bigger meal than anyone else in their family. Each day, these children had the opportunity to act like the children they were and not have to grow up so fast. As we painted the additions to the building and played with the children, my team was reminded that people who are hurting and in need of help are neither myth, nor something to ignore.
Our final day was supposed to be spent on the beach. But we visited the DR during hurricane season, and a bad rain storm had flooded much of the area the night before our last day, including a school founded by a different organization a few towns away. Instead of tanning on the beach, we went to this school, helping to mop up the water and salvage what we could from the classrooms. And the thing is, that was probably the best day of the trip. We went somewhere that needed our help, somewhere that hadn’t even asked for us, and did whatever they needed us too. Because of our help, more kids in both locations were able to gain a better education, which would hopefully allow them to help those in their communities. With each child who learns more, there is more hope in a country where hope is hard to find.
While at home, you can often forget the needs of others. But taking time to help those in need, whether they be in your home town or a thousand miles away, serves to remind us that there is a lot more need in the world than we see. And if we get to see the beauty of the world and more importantly the beauty of human hearts while we help others, then that work is all the more satisfying.
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