Traveling to La Lima, Dominican Republic, will forever be a time of my life where I’ll look back on it and wish to go back. I went into this trip with a positive mindset, very excited for all the new things I was about to experience. I think this allowed me to get the most out of it.
My greatest takeaway would be the inspiration I received from the community. Every single local seemed to be so happy, full of life, and very welcoming. Everyone was so kind, courteous, and generous. I was inspired to bring that energy of loving life to the States. It is typical for us Americans to get lost in our everyday lives, strict schedules, to get places on time. Sometimes the stress becomes overwhelming, and some forget to be kind to others. I want to attempt to bring a little bit of the upbeat Dominican culture to America.
My favorite attribute of their culture was the simplicity. Getting places without the stress of being on time, smiling at everyone you walk past, eating every meal together – situations like these made life seem simpler, and I appreciated that new perspective.
There was a challenge for me going to the Dominican Republic, and it was the fact I did not know any Spanish. I took American Sign Language in high school, so only a few Spanish words are in my vocabulary. Entering the Santo Domingo airport, all I heard was Spanish and I couldn’t understand it or even read some of the signs. At this moment, I instantly began to regret not at least teaching myself some of the language before I got there. Thankfully, everyone else on the trip knew it and were kind enough to help translate for me when I needed it.
Once we got to La Lima, I was thinking to myself, “Oh no I hope I can still connect with this community; I hope this language barrier won’t mess up the experience for me.” I was worried for nothing. The people in La Lima were beyond welcoming. No one there even paid attention to the fact that one American girl didn’t know any Spanish.
During the first night there was an adorable little girl, she was around four years old, she was sitting on a step and I was standing just a few feet away. When we made eye contact I waved to her, she then stood up, walked toward me, and gave me a hug. This was one of the most heartfelt moments from the whole trip. Without any words of communication, this precious little girl made me feel welcomed. This was not the only encounter I had like this.
Another one of my favorite memories was a recurring action made by many of the children. On the work days we took breaks for water, and there were multiple times where a kid would go grab us a chair to sit down in, or even stand up and give us theirs. These acts of kindness made my heart smile a little bit every time, these young kids were so comfortable putting others first.
Reflecting back on this experience makes me genuinely miss it. I find it challenging to find the words to express how amazing the people were in the community, they inspired me to be a light to people around me here at home. I thank everyone who made this trip possible for me, I’m so grateful I got to receive a life-changing experience like this. – Hailey, Union High School Student
“After watching kids play together and spending their time outside with each other rather than being on social media, I realized that those things like my phone and TV were incomparable to invaluable experiences that could be created from interaction.” – Matthew
“One of the things I learned is to be more sharing and giving to others. Throughout the week I watched how the community constantly put others before themselves. Whenever a group of us would go on break while we were working they’d always give up their chairs for us to make sure we were comfortable. They’d do the same thing when we went to their houses for dinner. They would pull out chairs for us to make sure we weren’t sitting on the ground.” – Emily
“Lessons I learned from the community include selflessness and the importance of family and friendship. From the beginning, the community was extremely welcoming and selfless. They treated us like we were family despite being complete strangers, and when seeing that any of us were uncomfortable in any way, they would immediately offer a solution.” – Amy
“This trip has changed me in that I will look at life from a different perspective. I now know to be extremely grateful for the people on my life and to be more inclusive. I also hope not to stress as much about first world problems since they seemed so insignificant in the bigger picture of life at La Lima.” – Hunter
“What I learned about myself was that I am capable of more than I think. I worked harder than I thought I could and managed the bugs, new foods and housing conditions better than I imagined. After finding myself getting used to latrines and mosquito’s nets, I have realized that I can actually manage conditions and situations that I am not used to.” – Payton
“From the community, I learned a lot about how family and relationships with the people around you matter more than anything. If you are with the people you love and who love you then happiness will always come. Material wealth is so insignificant in the grand scheme of things.” – Lauren
“I understand why not to rush in life. Life is not always a race sometimes you need to stop.” – Cole
“The synergy of the community working with us for a common good was inspiring! It reminded me that nothing happens without the support from others and that the power of change is in how we chose to work together.” – Leanne