Jesuit Portland High School in Los Robles, Dominican Republic

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“The most difficult part of coming home is culture shock. People always say arriving into an impoverished community will be so different, but they never say anything about leaving.  About how saying goodbye – or not saying goodbye – will break your heart. About how accommodated you are to having little makes going home to everything impossible. If it was hard to arrive, going home will be 10 gazillion times worse.”  – Elisabeth Denny

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It was a trip full of smiles, sweat, laughter and tears. On Thursday July 21st, a group of 22 students from Jesuit Portland and their chaperones landed in the Dominican Republic ready to embark on their Courts for Kids adventure. For a week, the group lived and worked in Los Robles, a small, impoverished batey community in the south of the DR. During the day, they worked (and played) side by side with community members. At night, they admired the clear, star-filled sky and slept under mosquito nets on foam pads in the elementary school.

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Every day, more progress was made on the court.  And every day, the bonds between these two groups strengthened.  Despite being from two very different worlds, they opened each other’s eyes, minds and hearts. Rising junior at Jesuit Portland, Katie Amann wrote the following poem about her CFK experience in Los Robles:

 

My Home for a Week

At my home for a week, it’s hot and dusty,
littered and dilapidated.
People speak a different language,
and have no concept of personal space.
The men call you “bonita,”
And the spiders are gigantic.
But my home for a week is a home, nonetheless.
It’s colorful and vibrant,
They give you rad cornrows.
People are generous with nothing.
The kids contain unrestrained joy and promise.
They greet you in their Sunday best,
and welcome you with open arms.
They make you a part of their family,
They make it a home.
At my home for a week, life is simple,
relationships are deeper and love is real.
Now I can’t bear to part from my new family.
But I know we are connected
we share the same home.

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First game on the new volleyball court, everyone wants to play!

“I would always receive a big greeting from my little friend, 8 year old Diego.  I will always remember his smile, his eyes, his laugh, how he said my name and how he hugged me tighter than anyone had before.” – Mack Barton

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“The most important lesson the community of Los Robles taught me is how to make the most of tough situations. When running water stopped working and we had to travel to the river with buckets to work on the court, the community members made an exciting game out of who could fill their bucket the fastest. When we needed to bathe with no showers, the community brought us to the river and helped rub us with soap. We laughed, had a water fight and nobody seemed to care that we weren’t living with a luxury like a shower. This week I found joy in living with less and learned to look for the positive in all things.”  -Kennedy Hering

The old, makeshift basketball court

The old, makeshift basketball court

“My favorite memory was bonding with the community members.  I feel like in a sense we touched their hearts as much as they touched ours. If I had to pick one moment that stood out to me, it would have to be when I was holding Diana’s hand and all of a sudden she kissed my cheek. This moment stood out to me because it showed how much we bonded and the love we shared for each other.” – Grace Kyle

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“The low point, as it was for many, was leaving. Seeing the sad faces of the people I had grown so close to and love so much was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.”   – Matthew Eichten

Jesuit guys with some of their buddies

Jesuit guys with some of their buddies

“My low point on this trip was when we left. My heart had been so filled with joy and happiness all week and in a few moments it had all been taken. I loved these kids so much and it hurt so much to leave.”
Walker Reiersgaard

“I also realized from living in the batey for a few days that some people are basically stuck in life… Systems of government and education and job opportunities prevent people from moving up, no matter how hard they try. Luck or chance is the only way for some to get a better life. I think that’s the most difficult part of going home.  I won’t probably see any of these people again and they may be stuck as I freely navigate the world. I get to leave and live in luxury with my free access to water, ease of food, education, healthcare, job opportunity and so, so much more.”    – Emily Piszczek

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“My favorite part about this trip, strangely enough, is when we left Los Robles. Not because we were leaving, but because it showed the love and how close we all grew together.”  – Sydney Evans

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“What I learned from the community is so much more than can be said or written. I learned that even through the hardest and darkest times, light and happiness can be found. I see that through the children or adults joking around. I now know better than ever that materials do not make a person happy in life, but the friends and family that surround them and give you love.”  – Tanner Kaczmarek