The World is not America

I chose to take QU301 in the Dominican Republic as a way to give back to my international community. I thought I was getting on a plane to go change lives but what I left behind in the Dominican was a few T-shirts and pair of sneakers. What I took home was a new perspective on the world, on materialism, and on faith. The world is not America. Not everyone has access to public transportation, education, food, and medicine. During my trip I spent most of my time at the Joe Hartman School in Kilometer 6. Teenage boys would travel hours to the school to help us build, expecting nothing in return. The day started out with a lot of shoveling, prepping the ground for cement to be mixed and poured. Even the youngest of boys knew this building was going to be constructed with our hands, not machines or trucks. I realized quickly how a cement mixer may have helped and how proper scaffolding would make the venture safer. It wasn’t until later in the day, when my own feet were aching, that I noticed half of the men did not have a proper fitting pair of shoes and the boys all wore sandals or flip flops.

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Our team would pack enough food to feed the people who came along to help us. Workers were grateful for their small sandwich, which often had to be cut in half to make enough for everyone. The young men talked to us about how much they would like to learn English and how amazing it would be to one day see the United States. Not one of them complained about their evident poverty or dreadful living conditions. They did not simply wish for a better life but rather worked towards one. They traveled quite a distance to assist in building a school to improve the future of their community. They traveled even farther to an institute where they were able to take English classes when school was no longer available to them. Our team left each day exhausted and craving a shower while our counterparts continued to work, asking what time to return the next morning. So I left the Dominican Republic on our last day knowing well that the world is not America, material objects are not the key to happiness, and having faith in yourself and your community can change your life.

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Gabrielle Syrop

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