JFK once said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but live by them” – I believe this quotation perfectly frames my experience in the Dominican Republic.
For everyone else who was on this trip, I’m sure you will agree with me when I say that a perfect way to describe the trip, the things we did, the people we met and the sights we saw as “life changing”. However, after slightly over a week, it is amazing to see just how quickly and easily I can fall back into some of the same exact habits that I swore I would ditch at the end of the trip. Without even trying, I find myself taking things such as clean faucet water, food, and electricity for granted. I have caught myself in saying that “there’s nothing to eat” as I stand in front of a fridge full of leftovers- these are things that I am certainly not proud of and that I continue to work on with each passing day. However, they are also things that I would never have thought twice about if I had never been blessed enough to experience what life may be like in the Bateys of the Dominican Republic because trust me, talking about it and seeing it with your own eyes is completely different.
Take a look at what your home may be if you were to live in Batey 50.While the mountains and the sugar cane provide a breathtaking view around you, your home consists of one room, no running water, no shower or toilet, no electricity (this means no AC !), little to no food, and did I mention you share this home with your parents and your eight siblings? Talk about tight quarters! Yet, when you talk to the people who live here, they are some of the happiest people that you have ever met. Suddenly, that cold shower you took this morning or the room you have to share with your one sister or your annoying roommate doesn’t seem so bad huh? I had the same feeling when I walked into this house. It was strong shot of reality that I needed because not three days prior, I had gone off on my sister for taking too long of a shower and leaving me with lukewarm water… crazy how a little bit of perspective can bring the important things back into focus.
There was not one person that I met in any of the Bateys who wasn’t welcoming, friendly, and grateful for the little that they have. If anything, I feel that Americans could learn a lot from these people- I know that I did.
I am so completely grateful that I have had the opportunity to travel to the Bateys of the Dominican Republic. Not only did I get an invaluable wake up call about what the important things in life really are, but I also got to help these amazing people. On the the trip I was able to help build some of the new houses that a few of the families in the Batey will get to move into and I was blessed with the experience of giving these families food that they desperately need. Being able to know that I left something behind that means so much to these families meant so much to me and has only fueled my desire to do more. As of right now, I have begun saving so that I can donate a house to a family in Batey 50… I also plan to return next summer.
So as JFK said, the best way to express my appreciation for this experience is not to simply tell you about how this trip has changed my life but instead live my life differently in accordance to the things that I have learned. (I confess, this is harder than you would think but is absolutely doable) I encourage anyone who is up for some hard work and big rewards to go on this trip or on a similar trip because there is really no way to express just how amazing the experience was and how much my perception of the world has changed.
Before we left to return to the Americas, John said “the sacrifice is not coming here. It is going home”- to you this may seem a bit silly because who wouldn’t want their own bed right? Wrong. Once you’ve experienced the Dominican Republic and the warmth that these people have to offer and you have felt the pure joy of helping them in the best way you can, you will never want to go back home, i promise that when you do indeed return home, you will catch yourself doing the same things that I am now such as using less water, thinking twice before getting upset about something like traffic or an incorrect coffee order, and constantly wondering how your friends that you left there are doing and what you can do to help them.
Hope to see you there next year!