I remember my friends…
I remember Kaitlyn hard at work with a smile on her face as she was digging dirt, happy even while performing hard labour.
… how brave Caitie was when she was buried under a mini avalanche, and her face when she held and played with little Carolina.
… how sweet Emily was throughout the whole trip – even the bugs liked Emily best!
… how DJ was the most excited to be on this trip! He truly let show his sensitive side and was always ready to energize us with his humour!
… talking with Lucy about our future hopes and dreams. She gave me some of the greatest advice for any obstacles in life, “This too shall pass.”
… how much Danielle loved the children, especially when she gave them jump ropes!
… Jeff having the best funny quotes and pictures – whether it was him contemplating life or him playing the accordion!
… working with Kate on cementing the walls, and how she was such a hard working, wonderful and sweet person to be with!
… A hilarious hair washing experience with Andrina, as well as her facial expression on her epic wheelbarrow ride!
… Mike and how we bonded over digging dirt, and how much of a gentleman he was on the whole trip. He was our best interpreter as well!
… Alanna and how she always made us laugh with her funny faces and her lovable comments.
I remember the land…
… how the massive poverty of the small huts with metal roofs, especially the one hill piled with hundreds of metal shacks, made me weep.
… the many horses, donkeys and mules that bore the cruel loads of wood and food to provide for a family’s survival.
… the beautiful sun beaming on our faces, as my beloved palm trees swayed in the breeze all around me.
… the gorgeous mountain range as far as the eye could see, so beautiful that it took your breath away.
… the colourful sunsets on the mountain, as well as looking at the stars from the roof of the convent – where the heavens seemed so close we could reach out and touch it.
And I remember the people…
… the faces of the hungry children, desperate for whatever food we could give them.
… how their faces lit up with joy when we gave them the simplest of gifts; a hacky sack, a sticker, even a simple hug could make them smile.
… how no matter where you went, the people were always cheerful enough to greet you with a friendly “Hola!” as you pass by.
… working and singing in harmony with the locals, mixing cement together and singing the beloved Spanish songs from my childhood. That unity brought me such joy that I don’t believe anyone else can understand, being able to share our love for song and God, even across a language barrier.
And finally, I remember the love…
… how much the Dominican people cared for each other. They did not fight or squabble; they shared what they had with everyone, and were not afraid to tell others that they loved them.
… how trusting the children were of complete strangers, in how they would climb in your lap to play, accepting you completely.
… how the Dominican people were so happy for our help. They made us wooden boxes out of love and gratitude. We came to give them help, but we received so much more in return. They loved us without reservation, even when the work we did for them was so little.
I thought that in travelling to the Dominican Republic, I would be able to do some good in this world and help these people. I began this trip excited about the fun I would have and the changes I would help bring about. I came back humbled, for the people of the Dominican Republic have given me more than I can ever hope to return in this lifetime. These wonderful people have shown me what it truly means to live the Gospel preaching “Love your Neighbor as Yourself”. These people are not just my neighbors anymore. We have created irrevocable bonds that cannot be broken by distance or time. We have all become a family, united by work and a new house, built on love and faith in fellow man.
The number one question that everyone asks is, “How was D.R.E.A.M.S.?” Phrases like “amazing”, “awesome”, “completely unique” and “the best thing I have ever done” pass through my mind, yet they are all inadequate – there are no words to describe the wondrous experience known as D.R.E.A.M.S. Every trip is unique, yet so alike in this way: you will be forever changed, and no one comes back the same.
Wise Mother Teresa once spoke of the dire needs of her people. When people asked if they could help, Mother Teresa said only this: “Come and see”. I understand now. I have seen the poverty, the need, and the great love, and now I see that they are not the ones who are poor – it is us, our society and how we treat others. I wept in the beginning for the mass poverty and hunger that could be seen in a child’s eyes; now I weep for us, for our world does not seem to comprehend what it means to truly be grateful, to truly love life and others.
I can no longer be a bystander. I plan on eventually going back and assisting those people as a nurse some day. Until then, I can only attempt to explain the importance of the trip through these snapshots of my memories. Not only is this trip for the people, but also for future students, as I believe that D.R.E.A.M.S. is the best trip that can completely change your life forever.
I went down to the Dominican as a student, with my friends and peers, intending to leave everything behind. Yet I came back so much richer. We went down as friends, and came back as family, as well as leaving our new family in the Dominican. Thank you for this life changing journey D.R.E.A.M.S. – you are forever imprinted on my memory. I will remember.
D.R.E.A.M.S. the (Dominican Republic Education and Medical Support) is a program in which grade 12 students at St. Mary Catholic Secondary School of Hamelton, Canada. Groups of students go to the mountains of the Dominican Republic to build homes and help in other ways. These witnesses are sent to me from time to time by my friend Don Hall,