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10 days in the real Dominicano

Written on: Sunday June 3rd, 2007

Im a student at Wilfrid Laurier University, and I recently took on a volunteer position offered by one of my campus clubs, to go Dominican Republic for ten days. The club is called D.R.E.A.M.S (Dominican Republic Education and Medical support) it?s a small club and we aren?t that well known yet because we were only established four years ago. The main purpose of the trip is to go to the Dominican for ten days to stay in a village and build a house for a family in need. There was fourteen of us who went. Some friends, and some strangers. A lot of us went not knowing what to expect because we had never experienced a situation like this before. What I have learnt from this experience is to much to write out but will try to cover the major ones.

The village we stayed at was in the mountains and we had to ride in the back of a pick up truck for two hours to get to it. Along the way we saw many family living in shacks they had built themselves. They had next to nothing.

What I noticed the most was how my group acted without the luxuries of the western world. Without our usual sources of entertainment we had to entertain each other. We stayed up late passing a ball around and making up games as we went along. We made bonfires and talked late into the night about issues that were on our minds. From personal, to political. From global warming, to religion. We learned about everyones past, and their goals in life. We learned things friends usually take months or years to learn about each other.

I also took note to how easy it was to pick up another lanuage when forced into it. We had all left knowing how to say basic phrases and questions to get by in everyday conversation with the locals. I also noted how this would not be the same in western culture. we do not have patience for those of another language, or with a thick acsent. We get frustrated about the amount of time it is taking to get whatever we are trying to say across. In the village though, they took their time and just enjoyed the fact that we were trying to learn their language.  

However, one of the biggest lessons I learned from this trip I did not realize until I came home. After a long day of traveling I returned back to waterloo at 3am and when coming home with my fellow room mate, we realized our student home had been broken into well we were away. Our doors were literally kicked in and our computers, televisions, D.V.D players, and stereos were gone. We felt violated and vulnerable. You hear about it but never think it will be you. We stayed up the rest of the night not able to sleep. From what we had seen and when we realized how the intruders got in, we came to the conclusion that they must have known us. They must have been at one of our parties, seen our home and known when we would all be gone.

They were part of our community and might even go to the same school as us. It made me think back to when I was still in the village and I ask a boy named Eddie to pick up a baby chick for me. He told me he didn?t want to because the chick did not belong to him or his family, and did not feel right about touching another families things without permission. He was respectful of his village and the people within it.

Another time a man not from the village was caught stealing a bag of onions and was sent to jail for five years. I thought that was to extreme for the crime committed but they do not see it like we do. They do not like at the object stolen, but the act itself. When comparing it to the community I have come back to it hurts. The same community stealing from one another and destroying property without any sign of remorse. Our own neighbors saw a car leave our place at 5am but did not think anything of it because they don?t know us and didn?t know we weren?t gone. this is so different in the village we stayed in. In the village the people came and helped us build the house, even though it was not going to them or their family. Even the children came after school and helped. They made sure we were happy and felt safe.

We want to keep the campus club going but its hard to find funding and corporate sponsors. The people who do go on this trip also have to find sponsorship to pay for their expenses, or have to pay it themselves.

To build one of these houses it costs 3500.00 American. The family who gets the house is one that needs it the most and one that helps the community they live in. The family has to be able to pay 500 American towards the house, or work for fifty days to earn it. the way it works really does bring the village together and gets them able to function well on their own. once a family has a stable home enviroment they are able to focus on their fields and farming to make better income. Its an amazing orginization, but its still new and growing. we need support and more awarence.


From Bryan Rite on Jun 4th, 2007

Hey Laura, I'd be interested in getting some contact information about DREAMS from you. Maybe we can add it to our list of charities and Footstops can help support them?