By Elizabeth Anderson
I was told after my first trip to the Dominican to never compare the next one to the last. No one experience can top the other, they are all unique. This advice could not have been more true. I honestly didn’t think anything could compare to my first trip in December. I still remember the exact moment I stepped foot off that school bus into Batey 50 for the first time, immediately greeted by the most amazing and loving people in the world. That single moment changed my life.
However, returning in June was just as life changing. It didn’t hit me until the plane landed just how excited I was to be back. It almost wasn’t real to me that I would soon be reunited with the children I had met just a few months ago. But the second I stepped off that bus into Batey 50, I felt like a part of me was whole again. This trip is something that changes you without you even knowing it.
Being there a second time, I felt more familiar with everything and it allowed me to form even closer relationships with the people of Batey 50. I had the opportunity to talk with more of the parents of the children and really get to know a lot of them, which made it that much harder to leave. I also was a part of the medical clinic the day they were in Batey 50. It was amazing seeing the people I had grown to love get the medical treatment they needed.
After coming home, I find myself dreading the inevitable question: “So, how was your trip?!” It really is hard for me to form an answer. Instead, I try to tell as many stories as possible. One that sticks out in my mind is one day when me and a few of the other girls wanted to find the mango tree in Batey 50. We asked one of the boys of the Batey where we could find the mangos and he nodded at us, confidently leading us through the Batey. Expecting to be brought to the tree, we were surprised when we ended up at his front door. He went inside for a second and came back out with enough mangos for all of us. His mother was in the doorway smiling and encouraging him as she watched him give us the mangos he just took from their kitchen. Stunned, we politely declined them, explaining that we were looking for the tree and that we didn’t want to take his family’s mangos. He ended up leading us to the tree and even climbed up to get them for us. Could you imagine? A family that is starving being so overjoyed to be giving us their own mangos.
After spending my entire trip in Batey 50, it was extremely hard to say goodbye. I started to tear up when saying goodbye to one of the little girls I had spent all week with when one of the young mothers, came over with her baby in one arm and gave me a hug. “Don’t cry” she said in Spanish “you are so strong. Don’t cry”. That’s when it hit me just how much of an impact every little thing we do there has. This woman who is my age and already has a baby and a family to care for, is looking at us as inspiration and for hope. Just us young women being there, working in construction all week makes them feel just a little more powerful and strong. As much as this act of hers made me want to break down even more, I wiped away my tears and gave her the biggest smile. If only she knew how much SHE was actually changing MY life.
Coming home from this ten day trip was one of the hardest things I have ever done. It hit me when I was driving home. I’m going home to a house. One that is air conditioned and has a stocked fridge, while these people stay in the bateyes, day in and day out. Even a month later, I still find that I am catching myself whenever I complain about anything. I find myself irked when others make a big deal out of a little problem, and overall I still feel the intense appreciation for everything I have and all the opportunities that are laid out in front of me.
This trip is such a gift. The things you learn, the people you meet, they are things that really don’t compare to anything else. No words or pictures can really capture how you feel when you’re greeted by your favorite little Batey child running to you when you get off the bus in the morning, or hearing her call your name as you drive away. There’s nothing like meeting your sponsor child at the Joe Hartman School and seeing their face light up when they are told that “this is your madrina” (godmother). The most we can do is continue to tell these people’s stories, and hope that somewhere down the line someone will hear it.
For more information in how to get involved in this life-changing work with the DR Mission Team, please visit http://drmissionteam.org.