The Power of One

If anyone is like me, you start your morning with a daily cup of coffee, topped with a dash of almond milk, and one to two packages of sugar. Did you also know that the average person consumes 150-170 lbs of sugar each year. With that in mind, have you ever considered what the labor behind that tiny sugar package that you throw in your coffee entails? For ten days I saw men breaking their backs, and trudging through fields of sugar cane in order to make approximately three dollars a day per ton of sugar cane cut, and within three seconds we pour that sugar in our coffee without the thought ever crossing our minds. Being a part of the Dominican Republic Mission Team has changed my perception on world, and makes me appreciate all that I have. In order to share my experience I am going to tell a story about a little girl, age 9, named Yumalia.

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On the first day of work in Batey 50, also named Batey Esperanza I met this beautiful little girl. Our first day at work all began with a tour of the village in the countryside. When the bus first pulled up to the village, kids were jumping up and down in the rain, clapping, with smiles ear to ear just to see us.  We began our tour by walking to the Garden powered by solar panels and the kids walked hand and hand with the mission team. Being that this was my first time in the countryside of the DR I didn’t expect the kids to jump in my arms the second I walked off the bus because no one knew me. However, within the first few minutes Yumalia grabbed my hand as we were crossing the stream. On the way back, I picked her up because she was walking on the hard, dirty ground without shoes on. Then, before we started working Yumalia introduced me to her abuela. As soon as her grandma saw me she hugged me, kissed me on the cheek, and said “gracias,” the Spanish term for thank you. I had no idea why but out of courtesy I respectively said “De Nada.” Day by Day Yumalia would wait for me the get off the bus and run to me the second I took my final step. She would watch me work, hug me even when I was covered in cement, and hold my hand every second she had a chance. Yumalia looked forward to seeing me everyday even though there was a language barrier denying us the ability to communicate. After 10days of hard labor, experiencing the heat the the sugar cane workers deal with everyday, finishing a house, and half of a playground I understand why Yumalia’s grandma thanked me the second she saw me.

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My Heart Has Never Been So Happy

I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting myself into when I signed up for the QU301 Dominican Republic mission trip, but one spontaneous decision led to another and here I am today completely overwhelmed with emotions of post Dominican Republic withdrawal only two weeks after the trip. Going into the class I heard nothing but amazing things about this class. There was so much talk about some “out of body experience” that “you could only experience while you are in the Dominican Republic” that intrigued me. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when entering these people’s country. I knew it would be poverty stricken, but just how bad did these people have it? What were their living arrangements? How did they get food and fresh water? Where do they go when they need medical attention? These were only some of the many  questions I had before going on the trip.

As July 1st quickly snuck up, I could not be more excited to be traveling with such an amazing group of people. I can not even explain in words the feelings I experienced the first day at a batey. Although some of the sights are tough on the heart, the happiness and expressions of gratitude that radiated off the people of the village could be felt as soon as I got off the bus. In the moment of simply bonding with the children and families of the bateyes, the pure feeling of graciousness and love for one another completely overrides the sadness and poverty of the village. The giant smiles on the faces of the families who greeted us the second we got off the bus was unreal. The genuine kindness and generosity of the families there made it seem as if I’ve known them my entire life. Being a nursing major, I was part of the medical team (the BEST team(: ) during my 10 day stay in the most beautiful country. Each day we set up clinics in different bateyes and gave medical attention to those in need. It was such a great feeling knowing that I was taking part in something so special, and at times even life changing for both the individuals that attended and myself. One of my favorite days at the medical clinic was definitely giving out “Bug Juice” which was an anti-parasitic drink and getting to play with the children of  Batey Agua Catico after the juice was administered. I don’t think I have ever smiled so long or hard in my life! I swear my cheeks hurt at the end of the day.     

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Something that really struck me was when we set up another clinic three days later and heard someone yelling my name. The children from Batey Agua Catico had walked over to the batey where we set up the new clinic to come see us again!! (their batey was only a kilometer away)  Some of them made us drawings that said “My heart is happy,” which made me never want to leave. Every picture they drew would go to one of us sitting there with them with “para ti!(for you!) ” written on the top of every page. My heart had never felt so warm in my entire life. 

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I can go on forever about how this experience has changed me in a way that no one will ever understand unless you were there to experience La Romana and it’s people. If you or anyone you know ever has the opportunity to go on a mission trip…DO IT!! I promise you you will not regret it. This was the most incredible trip by far.

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~Daniela Castelli(:

 

 

You can’t say I didn’t warn you

In spite hours of contemplation, research, and packing, I found myself nervous for this trip. I feel that the best way to reflect upon the lessons I learned throughout my time in the Dominican Republic would be to create a list that, retrospectively, I would have liked to refer to. So here it is.

If you are considering taking a service trip of any nature, no matter the organization it’s through or the location to which you intend to travel, I can guarantee you will not regret it. That being said, you may find yourself entirely unprepared for this experience.

So in an attempt to ease your mind, here are a few things you should know:

  1. Please be sure to review travel regulations. I had some items removed from my carryon at the airport which caused me an emotional breakdown over sunscreen- case in point, don’t be me.
  2. If you by chance, happen to be a sort of obsessive germaphobe, this might be relevant; get used to physical contact by strangers. Within the first day of my trip, I had one child climb up on my left arm while three more clung to my right hand. I also managed to slip and fall into the mud within 15 minutes of entering my first Bateye. You may run out of hand sanitizer, this is far from the end of the world- you will survive and probably become better off for it (excessively dumping alcohol on your skin isn’t healthy, no matter how germ free you may feel).
  3. You may question the safety of everything from water drinkability to bunk bed stability. There is no need to do this, you’ll find that you are not alone and everyone is watching out for you- honestly, looking back, half the concerns that crossed my mind were extreme over reactions.
  4. If your typical activity level is in a range barely above zero, you will certainly sweat more than you may have ever in your life. This is unavoidable, skipping an application of sunscreen will not help the situation, it will only burn you.
  5. Do not think you can survive on a box of granola bars, you are going to have to eat the food provided eventually, and it’s really not bad at all so begin with it.
  6. Be prepared to fall in love with the people. Remember point number two, how I mentioned falling in the mud? Well it was within my first half hour of entering that Bateye that I discovered just how considerate and kind the people were. A young boy took me by the hand and brought me over to his sister, a girl about 16, to allow her to help me in cleaning the dirt off my leg and arm- I tried to express my gratitude to his sister but I’m fairly certain my attempted Spanish only served to entertain her; regardless, their actions were unexpected and appreciated. Aside from that, there were a number of children at the Joe Hartman School who seemed to find me each time I was there, they taught me a few games and even helped me communicate with them through correcting my Spanish- it wasn’t long before I looked forward to seeing them there.                                                                    2016-07-03 17.50.08
  7. On the subject of children correcting your Spanish: you will discover that taking a language all throughout high school has made you nowhere near proficient in it, you’ll likely struggle to hold a conversation with an 8 year old. Fortunately, google translate works without wifi- use it, the kids will probably adore you for actually talking with them.
  8. You will want to come back (whether or not you realistically can). After a trip, you will know exactly what to bring, you’ve already connected with the people, and you should be fairly confident in your ability to survive 10 days without constant wifi or air-conditioning. There’s virtually no reason not to come back, or at least engage in something similar.
  9. Whether or not you outwardly acknowledge it, your perspective will change once you’ve arrived home. Things that once seemed extremely frustrating become minuscule pains. Many of your friends probably won’t be able to understand why you can no longer deal with their trivial complaints, and your family may express concern over the sudden lack of yours.
  10. No matter how cliché you thought it was, you’ll understand that someone is always happier with less- you’ll never appreciate all you have more.

-Jacquelyn Moller

 

Forever in my heart

Going on a ten day mission trip in the Dominican Republic was something I never thought I would do. I’ve always done small volunteer jobs and donated to causes. But, I wanted something different, so, when the opportunity presented itself, I took it.

Despite all the preparations in class and testimonials from previous students, I still did not know what to expect. The trip didn’t start off as smooth as everyone would have wanted, between the Zika virus to airport and airplane problems, my nerves were restless. But, as soon as we arrived in La Romana, I felt nothing but excitement. I was excited to see the Dominican Republic, get to Casa Pastoral, meet people, eat Dominican food, and start working.

When I found out I was put on the construction team, I laughed. For those that know me, seeing me hold a tool is either scary or comical. But, I was ready to handle the challenges thrown my way. My first day on the job consisted of lifting and transporting about 800, 25-30 lbs. food boxes from a freight to a pavilion…not an easy job. First day was done and my arms already felt like jello.

The next day was Sunday and we went to church in the morning and at night. As a catholic, I didn’t know what to expect going to a Baptist church. Even though I couldn’t understand what was going on, the faith these people have in both churches were so powerful. Their belief was inspiring. After morning mass we spent the day at the Joe Hartmann School and played with children. Tori and I met the cutest little girl, Kiara. She was so full of life and so happy with all the activities happening that day. Both Kiara and her mom were so thankful with the time and attention given to her that day.

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The next five days were challenging, enjoyable, and filled with memories that will forever be in my heart. My first official day in Joe Hartmann was difficult, it was a lot of physical, manual labor and on top of that the sun was beaming down on us. Luckily we could take breaks and play with the children, but that in it self was another job. All the kids were so energetic and wanted to play. Despite the language barrier, we all somehow understood each other and were able to enjoy the week together.

After spending two days at Joe Hartmann I felt an attachment with the people and the place, I didn’t want to leave. We had the option of switching to different teams, but I felt that I would be betraying Joe Hartmann and Team B Construction. The week consisted of lifting, digging, transporting, and assembly lines moving concrete and cinder blocks. I challenged myself and pushed my limits. I would go home every night and be so weak, but I knew that all the work that I helped put in was going to make a difference in so many people’s lives. When I wanted to give up, all I had to think of was the children I met throughout the week. They were the ones who would benefit from this cafeteria. When the week was over, the amount of work we did was amazing. The place looked completely different. All I did was step aside and reflect on the week and looked around the place. Everything that exists in that construction site was done with our hands…truly astonishing.

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During my time at Joe Hartmann, I met this little girl Nicole. She and I connected right away. I spent my break times with her and we would just play and laugh. The whole week, she was attached to me and whenever she saw me, she would hold my hand and we would go on an adventure. Nicole is a quiet, four year old, much like how I was when I was her age. When it was time to say our goodbyes, I was carrying her and I told her I wouldn’t be back until next year and she wouldn’t let go. This made me want to come back sooner.

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I learned10 things during this trip:

  1. I had strength I never knew I had.
  2. I could branch out of my comfort zone and still be okay
  3. Not being able to do it all is okay
  4. Meeting new people will enhance your experience
  5. Conversations with people without the distraction of electronic devices are better
  6. Losing power isn’t the end of the world
  7. But, not having air conditioning in a humid and hot place like the DR is the end of the world
  8. Giving up is not an option
  9. Be thankful for all that we have and blessed with because not everyone is as fortunate
  10. Mission trips are something I want to keep doing

Yes, it’s cliché, but this trip has changed my life. This trip has inspired me to want to start my own mission trip in the Philippines. I was born in the Philippines and like the DR, its a third world country. I know it wont be easy, but it is something  I want to do in the future.

Halfway through the week, I kept telling my friends that I wanted to go back next year. I just couldn’t wait to be back. Yes, the week was very challenging but the experience and people I met trumped the hardships that I went through. I have met amazing people in both KM6 and people from DRMT. These bonds that I formed will always be treasured. All the people I have met and all the memories formed will always be remembered as my first mission trip. Truly unforgettable.

IMG_8202– Gabby Dizon

 

10 Life Lessons Learned in 10 Days

I was nowhere prepared for everything my trip the Dominican Republic was going to change me to be. I’ve traveled to foreign counties alone in the past; in fact I spent five months away from home studying abroad. Parts of the Dominican Republic are indeed like parts of the places I traveled to while I was abroad. However, working and living in areas with extreme poverty taught me significantly different life lessons than the ones I learned abroad. Every single day I was there taught me something a little bit different, so here are the 10 life lessons my 10 days in the Dominican Republic taught me…

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Day1: Today was full of lots of traveling, and a long day at that. 6 hours later than we were supposed to, we were finally on our way to the Dominican Republic. Although frustrated on a number of levels that day, the long wait was well worth it in the end…

Life lesson #1: Patience is key – life is better, and easier, when you just go with the flow.

 

Updated Group PicDay 2: Today we got the opportunity to visit the Joe Hartman School for the first time, which is the school I will be doing construction on a majority of the week. We didn’t do any physical construction, but we got the chance to meet and play with some of the kids who lived in that area. We also got to see some families who lived close to the school. I watched the way that siblings took care of each other and how close some of the families were…


Life lesson #2: Spend time with your family, for they’re the ones that are there for you in even the toughest times.

 

Day 3: Today we returned back to the Joe Hartman School and got the chance to meet the children who attend the school. In order to afford going to this school, a majority of the kids are sponsored, meaning they have someone who pays a set price a year that covers everything they may need for school, such as textbooks and uniforms. Today I made the decision to sponsor a child, a little girl named Wilna who is twelve years old and in the third grade, and it may be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made…

 Life lesson #3: You may not be able to change the entire world, but every little bit counts (even if it just means changing one person’s world).

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Day 4: Today was the start of actual construction at the Joe Hartman School. We are building a cafeteria to allow these kids to go to school for more than just a half a day. A handful of these kids live over 40 minutes away, walking distance from school so they can’t really go home for lunch and come back. Meanwhile, in America we get to choose which school we go to, such as choosing which university we go to. These kids are lucky if they can afford going to school up until the 5th grade…

 Life lesson #4: Don’t take what you have for granted, like education, clean running water, food on the table, shoes on your feet, a meal 3+ times a day, etc. It seems cliché and pretty obvious, but trust me when I say you really don’t know the value of it all until you see what it’s like living without it.

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Day 5: Today I decided to try doing construction in Batey 50, which years ago was one of the poorest areas in the Dominican Republic. Thanks to mission teams that have been coming the past 5 years or so, these people went from having nothing to having a school, garden, and 50 houses with a place to cook and an actual roof over their heads. The people of Batey 50 were all so cheerful and incredibly appreciative for the work we were doing there. Even with the work we’ve done, they still don’t have a lot. They still live in poverty and struggle every day. However, I promise they were all still smiling, happy as can be…

Life lesson #5: You can find happiness anywhere, with anyone, or with anything – there is always a reason to smile. Some of the happiest people are the ones who have the least in life.

 

Med TeamDay 6: Today I decided to try being a part of the medical team. I was in charge of giving out an anti-parasite juice that would hopefully prevent a lot of the people from getting a parasite in the future. This lasted about an hour, so the rest of the time I shadowed a few of the medical professionals and played with the children. At first I was unsure of how I was going to like all of this. A reason I liked doing construction so much was because I felt as if I was making a physical difference in the world. Later on, though, I realized that being a part of med team, even if my role was so small, was also making such an amazing difference in the lives of so many people…

Life lesson #6: Everyone has a purpose – whether it’s to build houses, provide medical care, hand out food, or even just play with children, everyone in the world has an ability that makes them so special and gives them that purpose in life.

 

Day 7: One random thing that stood out to me today was the lack of technology I had been using the past 6 days. The Wi-Fi was very limited, and I never had it when I was out working. Even when we would get back at night it was difficult to use, especially because everyone would try to use it at the same time. I eventually decided to ignore the Wi-Fi and play cards with some of the other people on the trip instead of staying up in the room to check social media and all of that. It was definitely a change, but a very nice break from the world…

Life lesson #7: It’s important to spend time disconnected from the rest of the world (yes, that means away from technology and social media…I promise it’s doable).

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Day 8: Today was the last official workday. This meant it was also unfortunately the last time I was going to see a lot of my Dominican friends meaning I had to say goodbye to everyone, and I hate goodbyes. When we had a class meeting earlier in the week, our professor mentioned that it would eventually be Friday and we would all be sitting here wondering where the hell the time went. Well, he wasn’t wrong. They’re not kidding when they say time flies when you’re having fun…

Life lesson #8: Don’t take time for granted, because it does go by too quickly, always.

 

Day 9: Today was Batey 50 Day, a day to celebrate the fact that all 50 houses were officially complete in Batey 50. It was a day full of games music, dancing, and definitely a lot of smiles. At the end of the night people were asked to share an experience from the trip that made the most impact on them. There were some pretty astonishing stories, such as this 8-year-old boy who shared about how he had used his birthday money this past year to sponsor a child. After hearing everyone’s stories, I came to the conclusion that…

Life lesson #9: This world is full of some pretty incredible, and big-hearted people. Even though they may be becoming scarcer, I promise they’re out there and they’re out there to make a difference in this world.

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Day 10: I’m sitting here on the plane ride home thinking about all of the emotions that are running through my head. I’m sad to be leaving the beautiful country and the beautiful people I met there. I’m happy to be going home to my family and a few of the luxuries I will admit I missed a little. I’m excited to share my story with the rest of the world. I’m nervous no one is truly going to understand everything I have gone through the past 10 days. And I’m confused as to why more people don’t go out and do these types of things. Imagine if every single person in this world gave a little something to someone who has far less than him or her; imagine the impact that would make. I may not have changed the world while I was there, and I’ve come to accept that. However, I am also determined to continue trips like these, eventually making a difference in the world…

Life lesson #10: It’s important to go out there and do something. Take advantage of the fact that you might have the opportunity to make a difference in the world even if you’re just changing the world for a small group of people. Big or small, I promise it matters and is important in a crazy world like ours.

 

QUAlthough a lot of these may seem cliché to some, I realized while I was in the Dominican Republic that all of these lessons became more valued in life after physically experiencing everything for my own. I can read about the hardships of other countries in the world, but it’s hard to actually know what these people go through without seeing it with your own eyes. In these short 10 days I helped build a cafeteria so children can go to school for more than half a day, provided medical assistance to those who don’t even have access to something as simple as Tylenol, helped build a playground for children to play on, distributed food to families who had none, decided to sponsor a child to go to school every year, and experienced so many other incredible things and met so many amazing people along the way. Just think about the world, and the people in it, and what little difference a positive attitude and a big heart can make. I’m grateful for the things I have, for the people who constantly support me, and for everything this trip made me to be.

-Brianna Nork

“Easy Come, Easy Go”

Like many others who have been on the QU301 Dominican Republic Mission trip would say there are absolutely no words to define our experiences, but I will try my best.

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On my first day, Saturday, we walked into the Joe Hartman School gates, and a young boy with a small baby in his arms ran to our team leader Cindy Resate. I have never seen someone so excited to see another person in my entire life. It was very close to moving me to tears. But this was not the last magical moment I would encounter. These moments are named Rebecca, and Nelson.

Nelson is a 14 year old boy who lives 1 hour and 45 minutes walking distance from the Joe Hartman school. He is the oldest of 5 boys, with a father working in America and their mom a small business owner in the Dominican Republic. One day stuck out to me the most. On Thursday I learned that Nelson would not be able to make our last day of work because he has to help his mother at her cosmetic store. We were sitting under a small snack pavilion at the school with my sponsor child Rebecca, a 6 month old who lives within the compounds of Joe Hartman with her parents and 2 older siblings. As Nelson was translating Rebecca’s mom’s sentences for me he looked at me and said, “Tori do you know what happiness is?” I quickly replied, “No please tell me” thinking to myself how does this kid possibly have an answer to this question?

He said to me, “Easy come, easy go.” And while this was poetic, and beautiful to come out of a 14 year olds mouth, I quickly had to disagree.

With a sad feeling between the two of us I told Nelson that happiness is not “easy come, easy go” because while it was an easy decision to come on this trip, it was not easy to leave. I was paranoid with the Zika virus, the hours of delayed flights we waited for getting there, and just an overwhelmed feeling of travelling out of the country without my parents. But how I explained this further to him was by explaining the guilt, hurt, and overwhelming desire to help each and every single person that we encounter. We go into these bateyes, barrios, and cities that don’t have substantial running water, numerous power outages, no money, and little medical help. We want to stay. I wanted to stay.

I told him that this decision to come was not easy, and the decision to leave was even harder. We love to visit the kids, and play, do our hard work and leave, but for me its more than the work I can put into these projects for a week. Nelson and I exchanged Facebook information, and I gave him a few American dollars to use at the internet café. I want to continue the legacy of happiness, hope, and love that was shown to me during this amazing trip.

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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

Abi

I am going to be as honest as I can possibly be.  Coming on this trip I knew it wasn’t going to be another touristy Quinnipiac trip where we would ride bikes and visit museums.  I knew I was going to place that needed our help but what I didn’t count on was the fact that I needed their help.  My family was never extremely wealthy but I never had a night where I went without food or water.  Going on this trip was truly enlightening and humbling.

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When I stepped off that yellow school bus the first day I had never felt so loved and adored by so many people I didn’t know.  We all have been programmed to not speak to strangers or to ignore people in passing because it is a social convention but not here.  Everyone wants to say “hello” and get to know you.  When I first got to Batey 50 I didn’t know where to go or what to do but as I followed the group I saw everyone saying hello to friendly faces and I knew I should branch out as well. I looked to my right and there was a little girl who looked both interested in what was going on but scared as well.  I took her hand, said hello, and asked her name. Her name was Abi.

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Abi, at first shy, was one of the best parts of this trip. That first day with her didn’t include much talking but one thing I noticed was that she never left my side.  She wanted a friend and I was happy to be that for her.  At one point we lost the group and I tried to find her house which wasn’t easy since I don’t speak much Spanish.  When I finally got her home I found out that her mom was not in fact her mom but her aunt.  Her mom lives in the city with her sister and left her 3 year old behind. Learning that fact hit me hard.  This precious girl was left behind with no one really looking after her.  She had her aunt but her aunt had 2 small kids of her own.  As the week progressed I could see how happy Abi was.  I had learned that the previous year she was sick and barely cracked a smile. This year Abi couldn’t stop smiling and let her personality shine through.

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When I think back on Abi and her smile I know that she is okay because behind that smile is a strong little girl. She is a fighter and no matter what might happen she will keep on fighting.  The strength and love I see in her will always give me strength to push through my struggles no matter how big or small because anything I go through will never be as serious as what she is going through.  Abi is an intelligent, beautiful, strong, lovable, and kind little girl.  Knowing her has made me a different person.  This trip has made me a different person.

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Thank you QU301 DR Spring 2016,

-Melissa

 

Priceless

Traveling to the Dominican Republic for a 10-day mission trip was never something I thought I would have the opportunity of doing in college. I always knew I wanted to do a mission trip at some point in my life to help, but I never imagined that I would come back feeling the way I do. My entire life I dreamt of the feeling that I would get from helping people, but that’s not what I feel now. Instead of feeling like I changed other’s lives, I feel like my life is the one that was changed. What I feel now is a sense of warmth and inspiration. Who knew that all along the people that I would come to meet and interact with would be the ones helping me. I thought going down there I was going to help change lives, and while I might’ve made a small impact, the one who’s life has changed most is mine.

This trip isn’t something you can easily put into words for anyone to understand. I remember the first day for me, I stepped off the bus in Batey 80 with the food, teaching and evangelism team and we were immediately swarmed by little kids clapping and so full of happiness that the big yellow school bus was there because that meant it was full of people who were coming to help them. A young woman handed me her little girl, Meme, and walked away. The trust that these people have to just hand over their kids is something I’m not used to, but I appreciated it so much. Meme fell asleep on me while I was walking around, so not only did the mother trust me, but 2 month old Meme did, too.

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At Joe Hartman school, my mom and I decided to sponsor two kids, and I immediately fell in love with both of them. Junior and Yasmin. When I first met Junior he was hiding behind his desk in his third grade classroom, quiet and timid. I walked up to him and started asking him questions and tried getting him to laugh but he’d only crack a smile. Then I brought a tennis ball out and his face lit up, so we played just outside the classroom and he wouldn’t stop smiling and giggling. When it was time to go that day, he got quiet again so I gave him a hug and said “Good luck in school and don’t ever forget, you’re loved.” I hope he remembers those words.

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Yasmin was this little girl that when I first told her I was her “Madrina,” she smiled from ear to ear and jumped on me and hugged me. The first thing she did was bring me to meet her mom. Yanet was the sweetest woman, so grateful and beautiful. Yasmin loved back rides and painting nails and eating snacks, so we did all those things. On graduation day, I was watching her from the fence sit in her little chair listening to her teacher call out names. Suddenly she starts looking up and around as if she’s looking for someone and when her and I made eye contact, she ran out of her seat and jumped up to hug me. My heart felt so full in that moment, that by simply being her “Madrina” (sponser), she had this undeniable appreciation and care for me.

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I interviewed several home owners in Batey 50 about their relationship with food in their home. I’ll never forget this day, because I had one woman who had 8 kids tell me that they often go an entire week without eating a thing. I could feel my heart breaking for this woman as well as the other people that suffer in the Bateyes, because all I could picture is how life is in America and how sometimes I’m so full after dinners like Thanksgiving that I can barely move. Like I said, it’s hard to explain what this trip did for me, and what I saw and who I met. All I can really say is that from the bottom of my heart, I’m so grateful for the opportunity to have been able to experience it, and that everyone and anyone that wants to open their perspective of life should absolutely do it. It was a once in a lifetime experience, my first mission trip, my first priceless journey.

– Leah

 

Yordany

Packing for my ten day long trip to the Dominican Republic the night before our flight(I know), I was trying to mentally prepare for everything I was about to experience. How places will look, what the kids are like, how the med clinics will be set up. As I struggled to compartmentalize all my thoughts about my excursion the next day, I began to get more excited for the adventure. As I reflect back on my time in the Dominican Republic, one thing is certain, nothing could’ve prepared me for what I was going to experience over those 10 days, until I was plopped in La Romana.

As a nursing student, I was thrilled to be a part of the Med Team(Best Team) and help out with the med clinics. Everyday we would pack up all of our supplies and travel to a Bateye or a Barrio and spend the day administering care the people who lived there. The people at the clinics were so thankful that we were there to help them and I loved every minute of the med-clinics, even when I was profusely sweating through my scrubs. However, one little boy who I didn’t happen to meet at the Med-Clinic changed me forever.

Yordany Sambil Yan sat in the middle of a classroom with a bunch of second graders with a grim face and soft eyes. As soon as I saw him I went to sit down next to him and start a conversation. He was so shy and very occupied with his classmates playfulness and all the loud noises that it was hard to have a conversation with him, let alone the language barrier. I noticed the red tag around his neck; Yordany was not sponsored at the school for next year. We left the classroom and began to play catch with a tennis ball and we began to talk. I learned that he has two brothers who go to school as well and that he will be graduating second grade in a few days. I also found out that Yordany doesn’t like to smile with his mouth open because he lost his two front teeth! All day we played together and my mother and I decided we wanted to sponsor him to continue attending school. At the Joe Hartman graduation, we watched Yordany graduate with his gentle demeanor and timidness. He was the sweetest little boy. We were able to meet his mother and let her know that we will be his Madrina’s next year, and she was so thankful. I spent two awesome days with him and the other kids from the school and I knew I was going to miss our time together so much. Towards the end of the day, we sat on the curb with Yordany as he ate his cupcake, and then said our goodbyes and took some pictures to remember him by. As I was walking up to the bus, I started to wonder if Yordany will even miss me or if he even understood that I was his Madrina. With that thought, I heard a little knock on my bus window: There was Yordany looking up at me with his arms stretched out and a small smile. My heart is so full.

 

-Christina Barbaro