For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to experience a mission trip. I always thought that it would be a fun experience to have and that it would be awesome to say I had gone somewhere to help people who were less fortunate. What I experienced in the Dominican Republic, however, was something I could have never even imagined. The 10 days that I spent in the middle of the Bateyes were the most amazing and eye-opening days I have ever had. Each day when I woke up, I was excited to get to work. The people that I met everyday were incredible. They were happy that we were there, happy that we had brought help, and most of all, just happy to be alive.
It would be impossible for me to tell you every single amazing thing that I experienced that week in this blog post; you would be reading for days. But I can share a few of my favorite moments. The first time that I felt the true joy that these people have was when we went to the Joe Hartman School for the first time. This day had been about getting to meet and play with the kids in hopes to get the remaining 20 children a sponsor. What I had not known three hours before meeting these kids, was that an organization I am involved with at Quinnipiac sponsors four of the little girls who attend this school. I was so excited to meet them. When I walked up to one of these girls, and in my broken Spanish, told her that my friends and I were her madrinas, the smile that broke onto her face put tears in my eyes. She gave me the biggest hug I have ever received from someone. The little girl, Honeida, was in line to get food, something that these people already get so little off, and she was going to get out of line to spend time with me because it meant so much to her that I helped to pay for her to attend school. This little girl was so full of joy and truly loved the opportunity she was getting to go to school. Even though these kids had so little, they were so full of happiness. It was so heart-warming to see how these kids were so grateful for something that is so taken for granted in the United States.
Another incredible experience I had was on Med Team that week. On Tuesday, I was able to hand out deworming medicine, which they affectionately call bug juice, to the children and adults in the Batey. After we had handed out the medicine to everyone, we were able to play with the children. In the morning, we took out crayons and paper and sat with all the children drawing pictures. We had a translator on this day and it was awesome to be able to understand some of what the kids were saying to us. But honestly, they didn’t care if we couldn’t talk to them, they were happy to just sit there and hold our hands or color in a picture we had drawn. The best part of this day was a little girl, Estefani, who was drawing pictures for me and writing my name on the paper. She handed me each and every picture with a huge smile on her face and left at the end of the day after giving me a big hug.
My experience in the Bateyes was the most incredible thing I have ever experienced in my life. It opened my eyes to the hardships and poverty that is truly real throughout the world. But it also taught me about hope, faith, love, and joy. These people were happier with way less than I have. In the days since coming back, anytime I go to complain, I remember what I have seen and heard from these people. They are the true definition of amazing. And until I walk the Bateyes again, I will do everything I can to make sure I live my life spreading the word about these amazing people and what we can do to help.