After more than 2,000 miles of flight, 16 students and two faculty members reached the Dominican Republic. From May 28 to June 8, these girls spent time learning about the culture and the people, while serving those around them.
Though their time in the D.R. was different than previous years, they made the most of not being able to stay with host families. The girls still immersed themselves in the culture, meeting many new faces.
Teresa, a cook at ILAC (Institution for Latin American Concern), explained to senior Ryan Sully how important it was to make time for others throughout the day. After seeing examples of this, Sully and senior Anne Masek, “were inspired and brought back their ideas of Dominican hospitality and time.”
“When we entered a house they dropped everything they were doing, welcomed us with open arms and showed us true hospitality. They were so genuinely happy that we could be with them and couldn’t wait to share their own stories and experiences. They always put others before themselves. This shows their true commitment and love they have towards every person,” Masek said.
During their time in the D.R, the girls helped to build a greenhouse for a female-run sustainable community in a mountain region in La Vega. Masek recalls the hard work they put in to help create this successful structure, while having some fun. “When we first arrived, there were poles all around, boulders peeking out from the soil, and weeds covering every square inch,” Masek said. “At the end, the poles were up creating a structure for the greenhouse, boulders and rocks were shoveled, and all the weeds were out. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip because even though it was hard manual labor, we made it fun. We would sing songs to pass time, talk for hours, and no matter what we were feeling inside, we always worked hard and tried our best.”
Both Sully and Masek fondly remember the moment when some children showed them an incredible place. “They were so excited to show us this cool spot they go to, especially on hot days. We followed their lead as they led us up to this magnificent waterfall. We had to hike through some trees, but when we got to the destination, it was amazing. The boys’ faces lit up when they saw how happy we were that we could see this spot they love. They happily jumped in and were splashing each other left and right. It made me overjoyed to see how pure their happiness and smiles were at that moment,” Masek said.
Along with an exciting trip full of memories to treasure, many stories were ready to be told. Masek said, “One night at ILAC, Ryan Sully cut 10 inches of my hair off. A group of us gathered our headlamps, three hair ties, found scissors and brought a bag for the clippings. We all met on the top of a roof we had access to. I sat down and she proceeded to cut my hair in three slices, then cleaned up the ends. I couldn’t believe how much she had actually chopped off.”
Masek, Sully, and senior Meghan Inda reflected on their time in the D.R. and the impact it had on them. “I would definitely recommend this trip for anyone who wants to experience a different culture,” Inda said. “It was the best experience of my life and I loved being outside of my comfort zone. The people were all amazing and so open to teach you, and the kids were so kind and fun. It also pushes you to work relationships like never before, and the outcome is amazing.”
“Our group of 16 girls grew so close by the end of this trip,” Masek said. “We had deep talks almost every night, and we shared our emotions openly as the trip went on. We also got incredibly close to the people who lived in and around the campo. There was one man who guided us with the work of the greenhouse. His name was Carmelo. His saying, “Si se puede,” meaning “You can do it,” will always stay with me. We would chant this when the heat was getting to us or when we felt like giving up. He always reminded us that we can do it.”
“There was a group of people who stayed at the EcoLodge (where they stayed when they worked on the greenhouse) who helped make our stay enjoyable,” Masek said. “They prepared our food, killed our tarantulas, and captured the bats that would sneak into our cabins. These people will forever hold a special place in my heart, as they were with us through it all. It was one of the hardest goodbyes I’ve ever had to say. Many of us were emotional when we had to give them one last hug and wave goodbye,” Masek said.
After their time in the Dominican Republic, goodbyes were hard to say, but these girls now have friendships they hope to reunite with someday in the future.