Over the summer, I went on the 21-day GLA Dominican Republic: Building a Sustainable World trip. It was a great experience and I had an amazing time. From meeting the locals to talking about how we impact our environment, I was able to learn a lot of new things while getting to know some pretty exceptional people. I thought that 7elements and GLA did a great job integrating an educational factor to the trip and that it was a perfect mix of service and fun.
The lodging was beautiful and it was really close to the beach, so we were able to go to go the beach after long days of building basketball courts or constructing green houses. The work hours were really fun and interesting because of all the exposure to the Dominican culture and lifestyle.
My favorite experiences were the service hours we completed because I really felt like we made a difference. Turning cement for hours can be vigorous, however, the outcome was more than worth it. We were able to help establish a water filter/tank for a local batey. A batey is a community made of both Dominicans and Haitians and they are usually very segregated because of all the political issues the countries have had with one another. It was great seeing our progress, especially after witnessing the quality of the water the community uses on a daily basis.
Other than the service, I loved all of the excursions that were offered. We were able to go cliff jumping into lagoons, hike mountains, snorkel, sightsee in Santo Domingo, go to waterfalls and beaches, tour a water filter factory, go to a Haitian market, and go on a cable car. There was always something to do or see, so you could never be bored. Every excursion helped get you out of your comfort zone and brought you closer to the people around you. Whether it was jumping from the 30 ft. cliff or struggling through the Haitian market, you knew you had people behind you.
This program made me reflect on my life, figure out what I am passionate about and discover what I want to accomplish in the future. It’s one thing to see the conditions that these people live in and it’s another thing to witness them. There are no words to describe the feeling of entering the Haitian side of the batey, where barely any of the kids were clothed and families of 5+ lived in windowless, 1-room houses, and have all of the kids run to play with you.
Overall, I had an amazing time on my trip and I think that it helped me grow as a person. It’s revitalizing to experience these moments and to learn about how we can help one another on a local and global level. I hope that I can use what the program taught me and help make our world a better place. For all of these things that I was able to learn and experience, I would absolutely recommend this trip to other kids who want to broaden their horizons and who genuinely love to help others.