It is hard to put into words the experiences I had in the Dominican Republic. I do not know where to begin other than to say… one week can change your life. I did not go to the DR thinking I would return to the United States a different person. But, my life has changed completely. I have no reason to not smile anymore. Things may not go my way or something bad may happen- but all I need to do is look at the pictures of the kids that live with practically nothing. Their smiles remind me that there is nothing to be sad about.
I spent my week at Joe Hartman School building a wall. But a wall is not all I built during the week. I built strong relationships with the children (some that went to the school and others that were just there to get away from their houses). I heard a lot of stories and had a lot of laughs. I walk away from that school knowing there will not be any more break-ins, but also knowing that these kids do not complain about the little that they have. Alberto works hard every day, even when he is sick, so that he can pay for his 8th grade graduation pictures. Johnny comes to work to get away from his parents that do drugs in his house and also to make money he can save to move to the United States. Every single person I talked to had a story. These kids do not complain. They have dreams and work hard to reach them.
One day at the school, we were all washing our gloves that were covered in cement in a bucket of water. One of the kids looked at us and said in Spanish- you are not used to doing your laundry because in the United States you have servants to do that. My first instinct was to laugh and say no, but that got me to think… the couple days before that I had asked them about their stories but they had not heard mine. They did not know what my life was like back home because I did not think they cared. But when I started explaining to them that not everything was done for us and that I did my own laundry in a machine, I knew they were interested. From that point forward, I listened to their stories and told them mine. I taught them English and they taught me Spanish.
We became best friends in one week because we listened to each other’s stories.
Even sitting back home, I think it is not only important for us to think about the stories we heard in the Dominican Republic- but learn from other people here. Ask questions. Listen. You can learn anything by being interested in other people. Everyone has a story to tell… and that story can change your life forever.
Class of 2016