A “home” is a place where you eat, sleep, live and it is somewhere you feel safe and comfortable. For an entire week, a small village in the mountains of the Dominican Republic was mine. When I am asked about my experience with the D.R.E.A.M.S. program I find myself overwhelmed with so many thoughts and recollections that I can only simply reply that it was, “indescribable”. I could not find the words to explain how amazing and how much of a blessing this trip was for me. Life seemed to feel as if it was at a stand still when I was in the Dominican. I was fully consumed – almost mesmerized by all that I was seeing, hearing, and doing. The small community that I stayed in was like one huge extended family, I found myself often mistaking friends as family members because they were so close. From the first day, we were welcomed with open arms and were now apart of this family. Everyone in the entire village were like parents; voluntarily taking our safety, comfort and well-being as a priority. Now this was not a social party. We were there to work and only had a scheduled amount of days to get as much done as we could. Our task on the work site was to dig out and fill the foundation of the house…that means a whole lot of digging and lifting. I could really tell that we were dong a lot because I consequently forgot to switch lifting from arm to arm so my right arm muscle was huge and buff while my left was lacking tone and any type of physical strength. Even when you felt tired you didn’t want to stop. A type of adrenaline set in and you kept working because you felt that it was your responsibility to keep going – to exert the total maximum amount of energy you had and push yourself to go beyond it. There was an obviously large language barrier with my very limited Spanish vocabulary and the Dominican people knowing little to no English at all. Yet against all odds, we were all able to successfully communicate. It could have been a simple head nod or exaggerated hand actions to mimic a movement; it was like a huge game of non-stop charades. After a few days I was able to pick up on basic Spanish and became a master at “small talk” – when in doubt just say “si!” The whole community came out to help with the building of the house, the men on the work site and the women preparing wonderful meals for us to have after working. I must have said every time I sat down to eat that “this is the most amazing meal I’ve ever had”. After a long day of work the best prescription for sore and tired bodies was to fiesta! Every night just after dusk, the music would start to play, slowly becoming louder and louder. Boy, do the Dominicans know how to dance; it was hard to keep up with all the skilful moves. I was so thankful for my grade 9 gym dance class where we were taught the salsa.
My group and I became very close with the people of the village where we stayed. It was a bond greatly formed out of respect and genuine care for one another. I began to realize that the society we live in strives on personal success in career and high financial wealth, whereas the Dominicans find happiness in each other.
I was privileged enough to take part in this D.R.E.A.M.S. program but what I have discovered is, that it doesn’t take a trip to a different country to make a difference – even the smallest acts of kindness can have just as great an impact. As Mother Teresa once said, “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless”.
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