This summer I had the opportunity to travel to the Dominican Republic for three weeks to do humanitarian work and experience a whole new culture. Going on a humanitarian trip had always been a dream of mine since I was a little girl, and it was finally made a reality.
After traveling on an airplane by myself, I met up with about twenty people my age who I had never met. We stayed in a hostel about 30 minutes from our worksite. We spent most of our time in a high poverty area in Tamboril, building a preschool for the children. Most of our group had very little to no experience with construction work and our building crew spoke little to no English.
Our humanitarian group’s theme was “There will be miracles” and, let me tell you, that theme held true the whole trip. Little did I know at the beginning that I would so quickly grow a love for the Dominican people we were serving and the place we were building.
On the weekdays, we would spend our time building the preschool, hauling wheelbarrows, digging a trench for a fence, teaching English to the local children, playing sports with the locals, and making memories we would never forget.
The work wasn’t easy. It was hot, a good workout, and a struggle at times to understand what we were told to do in Spanish. However, I quickly came to discover that you don’t need to speak the same language to communicate. Laughter, smiles, service, sports, and kindness were all ways that I felt I could communicate to others in the Dominican.
On the weekends, we would spend our time exploring the beautiful country. We went on a catamaran tour, did some river rafting, repelled down waterfalls, did some canyoneering, hiked, snorkeled on a private island, and tried lots of amazing food. The Dominican Republic is beautiful and I was constantly in awe of the amazing green views.
Something that amazed me the most: How poor the people were, and yet how happy. They had the biggest smiles and always seemed to be so kind and loving to us. It made me realize how much I take for granted. The people taught me that it’s not the circumstances that create joy — it’s you. You determine your happiness. I’m forever grateful for the friendships I made in the DR and the humbling lessons they taught me.
When the three weeks came around, it was hard to say goodbye to the people that had grown so close, especially the little kids that we would spend time with at our worksite. And it was hard to say goodbye to such an amazing place. The Dominican Republic and the people I met there now have a little piece of my heart.
It’s amazing how much we can grow when we step outside of our comfort zone and learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.