Going to the Dominican Republic last summer truly, as cliché as it sounds, changed my life. Before I was so self conscious of what I did not have (for various reasons), but now I feel ashamed that I used to feel that way. Not until I stepped inside of Batey Margarita, did I know how many people in our world are suffering. I am lucky enough to be blessed with an abundant amount of resources that I overlooked and abused and I wish I would have realized earlier that I could do something more productive with all of the opportunities and people around me. In the Bateyes I visited, the struggle for survival is real. Starvation, malnutrition, and diseases are daily realities for these people. My experience truly changed my life, and my way of thinking.
I cannot describe a typical day because each day was so unique and astounding. My time in the Dominican Republic was extraordinary, but I do have one story about a young boy who I will never forget. My third day in the Dominican Republic, our group went to a small community center in Batey Cachena, where I met this young boy, named Ricardo (spelling is probably wrong).
What caught my attention was that he sat alone in a small corner of the small building while all of the other children were playing, dancing, and coloring. So I walked up to him with my stickers, crayons, and coloring books in hand. I introduced myself and as soon as I did, he just smiled, gapped tooth and all. I lifted up the sticker sheet and asked him if he wanted a sticker. He stared at me with a confused look, so I pulled one off and stuck it to his forehead. Immediately he began giggling and showing it off to all the other boys. Later in the afternoon, I found out that he did not know how to count. So we sat down together for the rest of the day, and I stuck stickers all over his arms, face, hands, and legs, making him count almost to twenty, which was a vast improvement. Initially he could not count to four!
Many of my peers think that community service is just something school officials force us to do as a graduation requirement. However, for me, community service is a way of giving back and I do it because I want to. I knew that my time in the Dominican Republic would not always be easy, because it was very demanding. The physical labor was draining, and the mental fatigue I experienced when I saw how poor Batey inhabitants’ living-conditions was crushing! However, the most demanding challenge was to develop the ability to connect with people who were completely foreign to me, but I conquered that and now have strong relationships with many of the locals that I met.
My experience in the Dominican Republic has led me to believe that community service is essential to a more empathic individual. Community service is not a choice: community service is a moral necessity! My short adventure has made me want to do more for those communities that I visited. I know I can make a difference in the Bateyes, and I yearn for an opportunity to do so.
Because of my time in the Dominican Republic, I was given a chance to explore myself as an individual, but without my support system, I would have never been given the opportunity to participate in this program. I want the people living in Bateyes to feel the same way as I do, to feel like they have a support system, and realize that there are people out there to help them. Like how I know there are people out there to help me.
I recommend this program to every single person I meet!!