The Unexpected Trip

Let’s just say I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I signed up for this class and trip back in the fall semester of 2015. Something I knew I was sure of was how excited I was to travel outside of the country and to be a part of something bigger.

For starters, I applied to Quinnipiac 4 years ago knowing I was doing something completely out of my comfort zone: moving away from home. So to sign up for this class my last semester at Quinnipiac was only fitting. I was excited to end my career as an undergraduate going on a service trip to the Dominican Republic. Unfortunately, I became very sick the night before we were supposed to leave. All that excitement, anxiety and the unknown I had worked on being ready for was thrown out the window when I was told I couldn’t go. But I didn’t let anything stop me. I was fortunate enough to travel down a few days later to uncover a totally different experience than I had expected.

Everyone always has expectations. We are human, it’s what we do. I didn’t know I had expectations for this trip until I wasn’t allowed to go. Traveling down later than my class surprisingly really altered my feelings and perspective on what I was about to experience.

My first day there was Batey 50 Day. It was the perfect day to start with. I observed every single person in that village smile, play and laugh with one another. It was amazing to see how this batey has transformed into what it has become and how a group of people can come together to celebrate life. At the end of that day, I thought, “Wow, this is truly a gift to be here.”

The next few days I would have in the DR seemed to fly by except in the moment they didn’t. Although we go down to the DR when it’s very hot and we work in conditions in which we are sweaty and in the moment all you want is air conditioning, you learn to take a step back and realize that the people living in all the bateyes across the country live every second of their life living that way – hot and sweaty. The way that these people live so happy where nothing in the world can bring them down is truly inspiring. We Americans definitely take for granted every day of all the things that we have, including air conditioning, but more importantly, health.

I spent my work days at the Med Clinics where I took heights, weights and blood pressures of all the patients we saw. Each patient came in with a health issue of some kind and were probably so blessed to be given the opportunity to finally get the medical attention they needed. It’s crazy to think about a group of people not having access to health care and emergent medical attention but it’s even more mind-blowing to see it with your own eyes. I was fortunate enough the day I was sick to be able to call my doctor, get an appointment and receive an antibiotic – all within 24 hours. There are people living in the bateyes who are sick for months, maybe even years, and suffer because of the lack of access to health care.

There are children who suffer from malnutrition walking aroundProcessed with VSCO with hb2 presetwith parasite infections. There are pregnant women not receiving the proper prenatal care and there are women who don’t know how to take care of their own bodies post pregnancy. But each and every person we saw would give me a smile back when I’d smile, greet them and show them where to go. Even simply handing out stickers to the children who were only there because of their parents brought such joy to me. Every day that went by, and the more smiling people I saw, my heart filled with more love and joy. And in those moments, I felt so fortunate that God gave me the chance to take part in this service trip.

Within the short amount of time I was in the DR, I rode a huge roller coaster of emotions. At first I had found myself lost and unsure but I left feeling found, safe and filled with joy. I may have not received the experience I thought or that I wanted but I was given the opportunity to meet the people of the bateyes, lend a hand, give a smile (and a sticker) and make someone’s day. received_10201786378138952 [37161]It’s been said that you can’t change the world, but you can change one person’s life – I will forever thank the people of the bateyes for changing mine by opening my eyes up to see the good in coming out of comfort zones, finding joy in the little things and not taking anything for granted.

~Kristina Hankee

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