Monday, March 15, 2010

Parting Thoughts

Marcel, Cerel, Emmett, Dilong, Ross –- Last day, Monday
We got up very early today at the break of dawn, the sun barely up. The view was breathtaking. Bumping along, we rode in trucks to the farm of who we think will be the future mayor of Cambita, Cesar Lorenzo. This humble business man took us to the house where he was born, a shack on a ridge above a tropical forest. During his youth, his father farmed coffee and now he farms avocado. Some of us slipped down a steep hill we descended through the avocado trees. One other skirmish included disarming an orange tree of its deadly oranges. Not only were they tedious to peel, but also dangerously sweet. As spoils of war we were awarded avocados from Cesar.

The school of Santa Maria was our next stop, where we began our painting extravaganza. Working furiously we were able to almost finish staining the walls of the art room with a sky blue heaven. After lunch with our host families, we returned and finished painting the arts and crafts room while another group painted murals along the street. We painted three panels along a giant concrete wall with images depicting the different international rights of children – right to protection, education, etc. Being dehydrated everyone took turns painting and drank a lot of water. The sun was intense today, much hotter than any other day we experienced.

At the end of a long day of work, we had a final meeting to finish off the “Marketplace of Ideas.” In this brainstorming activity, we developed a strategy for making the Groton-Cambita relationship sustainable for the long-term. We also finished our Leadership Goals and Life Vision class, in which we all capped off our study of leadership, and the different styles of local leaders, by looking inwardly to define our own leadership style and leadership goals.

The best part of the evening was the farewell party. We had had a salsa party on Friday night, where we learned to dance salsa and meringue and some of us actually kept dancing right through a very strong rain storm! At this party there were speeches from Nilsa, our community coordinator, and her husband, Felo. One of the host moms, Arelis, also spoke along with Patrick and Ross. Gifts were given. A feast of chicken, beef, vegetables, and several different styles of rices, spaghetti and other different delicacies were served. Then the dancing began!

It is not midnight and time to go to bed. This has been such a fantastic trip in so many ways. We worked hard every minute of this trip and felt very welcomed by this community. We look forward to returning and continuing this wonderful relationship.

About to leave for home, I can’t help but think about how fun I have had here with the group. I admit. I had doubts about the program. Before going on the trip I heard about so many community service projects that don’t get enough work done on the trip. But our group was different. I’m still amazed to how many things we got done here in the Dominican Republic. Not only did we have fun dancing salsa and going to the beach, but we also finished projects at schools and got to really experience life in the Batey. Spending only a week in Cambita, the community already feels like my home. Everyone knows everyone and we all have so much fun. However, I can’t assert that my Spanish has gotten better grammatically during my stay with my host mother and father. But I have definitely gained confidence in speaking the language: sometimes I even get my English and Spanish confused! I also think that the trip gave a lot of chances for self-evaluation. Especially during our leadership workshops and the egg drop experiment, I really got to know not only the leadership styles of others but also my own leadership strengths and weaknesses. Through the projects, I evaluated how I led others and got to see how to make up for my weaknesses from others. I am really going to miss Cambita, especially our home stay family. The trip had amazing mentors, amazing students, and amazing families ready to take us in. This experience has become not only one of the most fun experiences of my life but also the most educational.

Trip Video - first installment

Here's a short video from the first few days of our trip. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Saturday at Escuela Majagual


Yesterday we went to the Escuela Majagual, which is the public primary school in Cambita. We worked with local community leaders to come up with a few projects we could do to help improve the school and to talk about ideas for future projects. Hopefully, Groton can form a relationship with this school and send groups of students to work with it for years to come. One project we worked on yesterday was leveling the front yard of the school, creating rock walls, and bringing five dump truck loads of dirt up to the yard. This way the school can create a garden or plant trees in its front yard. That was by far the most time consuming project, and the little kids loved helping us, even though that involved carrying huge bags of dirt up a steep hill! We were leveling the yard until 7 pm. Another project was a water collection system for the school. Water is scarce here in Cambita, and the school needed a way to collect rainwater for washing the school, washing students’ clothes, cooking, and more. We installed a gutter system that led into a trench where we buried a pipe. That led to a water collection area, and now the school will have plenty of water for years to come. It was awesome to see a lot of the students’ parents come out to help us and to work with them on the projects. Lastly, we created a mural on the school’s wall with help from one of the teachers. We painted a Dora the Explorer and her pal Diego, a tree, numbers, flowers, and repainted the railing. It looked really cute at the end and definitely cheered up the school. Yesterday was the biggest work day by far and even though we were tired by the end, we all felt great about how much work we had finished in just one day!

I also had a chance to go with Ross to speak with Hilario, one of the student’s parents. Hilario is very involved in his child’s school, and brought us to look at a shuffle board game that he wants to install in the school. We met an American who had the game and told us how to order it and send it here to the school, so we will be ordering that with the rest of our fundraising. Also, we talked to Hilario about sending other groups of Groton students to work with the Escuela Majagual and where they would stay. We knew that we should work to establish a lasting relationship with the school in part because were so many students and parents helping us work on the school. I loved being able to be part of the planning process now that we can actually see what Groton students will be doing. Hopefully, this trip will be a program that lasts at Groton and that we can work with this school again!

Dylan: Today we did a marvelous work program in a local elementary school. We finished some walls that would prevent soil erosion on the slope in the school. With plastic tubes, we established a water system that would carry rain water to different parts of the school. In the afternoon came the most strenuous part of our work program—carrying four trucks of black earth up to the hills. To our surprise, kids from nearby were willing to help us; with their help, we finished our work around 7 p.m. – then it was time to head home for dinner and rest.

Emmett: Saturday was the hardest day on this trip so far. Our group put in nine hours of work at a local school and the results were amazing. We built walls on a rocky hillside to keep soil from eroding and then covered the whole hill with four truckloads of black dirt. We also laid pipes for a drainage system to carry rainwater from the roof to the cistern and painted a mural for the kindergarten class. This painting included flowers, a tree and a couple of children with a sky full of letters.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Pictures 3/11/10

Today, Friday, Cerel and I got to sleep in. After having grilled cheese and juice for breakfast, we picked up trash at the recreational fields of Cambita. All of us were very surprised about how much trash there was around the park. After picking up trash we ate lunch with out host families: chicken and mash potatoes. Next, our group did a leadership exercise. First, Laurie asked us questions and determined what type of leaders we were. I was a traditionalist or also known as guardian. It was weird because my online test told me that I was an idealist. Afterwards, using straws and an egg we performed an egg drop. Dylan, Jackie, and I were in a group and we all came up with the craziest ideas. At the end we agreed to use the straws as a pyramid casing to cover the egg. In reflection, it was interesting to see how each of use went through our own unique process as a leader to get a job done. Afterwards, we painted signs that encouraged people to keep their park clean by reducing littering. Julia, Emmett and I painted a sign that said: “Cero basura, salud segura.” We also got to paint with the local youth group and it was a really fun experience. Looking forward to the salsa lessons!

Haitian Batey Visit

Darden Callaway:

Today we went to the town of Tomayo to visit a batey. Bateys are communities of Haitians who work on sugar cane plantations, and The Price of Sugar was filmed near the batey we visited. The peace corps worker, Allison, that lives in the batey we visited, organized activities for us, including a tour with some of the Haitian kids. When we first piled off of the bus, we stopped at the local school to use the bathroom. However, most of the kids had not seen more than a few foreigners, so our presence caused a lot of chaos! It was fun to get attacked by the kids who taught me a little Creole and showed me around their town. The batey was extremely indigent, and unlike any other community in the DR that I have visited. It was difficult because a lot of the kids who held my hand and talked to me had protruding bellies or other signs of malnutrition. When we visited the preschool, the teacher also said that one of the baby girls with me hadn't been coming to school recently. Still, a lot of the kids were very energetic and loved our cameras. They taught us how to eat sugar cane, and I got a pretty bad sunburn just from walking around! I am really grateful that we have been able to do so much with different Haitian communities on this trip, especially in light of the recent earthquake. It is so cool to be able to travel to different parts of the DR on this trip rather than staying in just one community. What a great opportunity!

Julia Haney:

Life on the Haitian bateys is incredibly different from the schools and communities we have visited thus far in the Dominican Republic. The vibrance of the people in batey ocho and their willingness to share their home with us took me by surprise. They proudly taught us how to eat sugar cane, sang with us, and eat showed us their preschool. Some of the mothers in the community made us all lunch, which we ate together with some of the girls from the batey. I loved hearing Allison, the Peace Corps volunteer, talk about the girls softball team, which was recently started in the neighborhood with the help of a Kids to Kids grant. The girls talked animatedly about their team as well and Allison told us about how the entire community goes to watch the girls play. It doesn't matter to them that the girls are just beginners, hundreds of people go to cheer them on and as Allison says, "The entire community parades around the batey if they win". I am so glad Kids to Kids sponsored a project for these people. With four little girls clutching onto my arms i found it exceptionally difficult to lift my feet back onto the bus. I didn't want to leave. I didn't want to forget their smiling faces. I could have spent weeks there, in that colorful and generous community.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Haitian Orphanage Visit

Today we visited a shelter for Haitian children. I was amazed to see how happy and joyous the children were even though they have lost so much. The most fun I had today was playing dominoes and even though the kids cheated it was all in good fun. It was truly an inspiring experience.

Bob Dylan/Jackie Chen:
The visit to the Haitian shelter in Santo Domingo made me experience the pathetic outcome of the earthquake in person. Witnessing kids without arms or with just one leg, I knew what I should give them was a smile of hope rather than complexities of sadness. Embraced by some kids as “Jackie Chen,” I decided to act as Jackie Chen. I knew that it would bring great happiness and hope to them if they believed that “Jackie Chen” had visited them. The only regret today was that we did not meet with a politician from Canada (Morgane’s country), who was supposed to visit the orphanage today.

Daniel Choi Lee:
Today, we visited the Haitian shelter and got to meet many survivors from the earthquake. Despite going through such a catastrophic event, the kids were extremely cheerful and energetic. The kids were shy at first but after getting to know them, we colored together and played with my camera. I met a boy named Blanc Rosley who had his leg amputated during his operation. He is extremely good at drawing and was really fascinated by the paper rose I made him. It was a moving experience to see the kids so happy by such little things such as asking their name. It was tiring but it was definitely worth the experience.

Cerel Munoz:
Today we went to a shelter for amputees and the still recovering Haitians. I had a lot of mixed feelings about the whole situation. It was a sad sight but all the children seemed so happy even with their severe injuries. The most moving thing I saw was a 3 pound 2 month old Haitian baby with a broken arm. During the quake it was in its mother’s womb and she sadly died but the baby was alive and born artificially. It was a sad day overall for me.

Emmett Horvath
Today we visited a shelter for Haitian children injured in the earthquake. Even though all of them were cheerful and happy to see us and we were happy to be there, it was saddening to see those who had lost limbs and had other injuries. Our group played dominos, checkers, cards, colored pictures and took pictures. It was a very moving experience.