I attended GLA’s 21-day Building a Sustainable World trip to the Dominican Republic this past summer. I can state without reservation that those 21 days singlehandedly altered my perspective both on global issues—poverty, international relations, and our population’s relationship with the environment—and on what I want to do with my life.
From my experience, what I imagine sets GLA apart is the experience, knowledge, and passion of the staff (two program directors and several counselors), who are inspiring, to say the least. I felt absolutely comfortable throughout my stay. Maintenance and food are handled by a couple of families who live in the surrounding, relatively impoverished community of Las Canas and have worked with GLA for a while. The food was simple, delicious, and healthy; our home base was rustic but clean, cozy, and safe.
Our service centered on three main sites: Ascension, a Haitian refugee village, home to extreme poverty and political difficulty (the refugees in the village are stateless and cannot leave their community whatsoever), where we helped on the foundation for a bottle school; Las Canas, where different groups worked on assorted projects, like rerouting a river, paving a gravel trail, and digging for an aquaponics project; and La Boca, where we helped on the construction of a bottle school. The service was concrete and fulfilling; I think we were genuinely useful during the hours that we worked.
Educational activities included trips to historic Santo Domingo, an eco-institute in the mountain town of Jarabacoa, and the shocking market and Haitian border at Dajabon, which I don’t think I’ll ever forget. These experiences, combined with the service, the documentaries on the environment and other world issues that we watched, and our lecture-discussions, truly changed me, for the better. :) We also got to enjoy snorkeling, ziplining, the Dominican Republic’s spectacular beaches, and plenty of fun!
The other kids on the trip were amazing. It’s hard not to become close over 21 days! It was awesome to meet kids from all over the country, as well as England. Reading reviews on other websites for similar trips before I went on my own, I wondered if our trip would be filled with “snobby” kids who didn’t care or didn’t want to work, as some reviews described; thankfully, it wasn’t at all.
Some notes: It isn’t necessary to speak any Spanish for the trip, though it’s definitely a good idea to brush up on some words before you go. It also isn’t required that you know much about environmental problems or sustainability before you go—I didn’t, but I learned so much on the trip; I’m now inspired to learn more on my own. That said, you do need an open mind and a strong willingness to work hard. Another recommendation: it’s a great idea to keep a journal during your trip, because you’ll see and experience so much.
I can’t stress how strongly I recommend GLA—my experience this past summer was fantastic!