They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and the joy that I was able to capture through these photos is something I will never forget. Seeing the smiles on these little faces made every trip to the bathroom in the middle of the sugar cane worth it. I met so many amazing children when we went around to different battles every day. Even though I did not get a special relationship with on person since we moved around every day, being able to impact so many people and see all these smiling faces was such a fulfilling reward and I am so grateful to have had this experience. I hope you all enjoy these smiles as much as I did 🙂 -Melissa Fryer
It feels like yesterday when our whole class was saying how our trip is only 3 months away. Now I have been back in the US for about 3 weeks now and I cant believe it. Signing up for this trip I had no idea what it entailed except that I knew we were going to be helping people. I have always wanted to experience a service trip every since I was little, and I am beyond grateful that I was able to be apart of this one in specific. Even after having class together all semester I still barely knew anyone boarding the plane to the DR. I ended up sitting next to Jackie who ended up becoming one of my greatest pals on the trip. After the first couple days in La Romana I realized that you may be able to get educated and familiar with what you’re going to see when you get down there, but nothing is going to be able to prepare you for the way you’re going to feel when you come back home. I was on the Batey 50 team all 10 days and the bonds and relationships that I was lucky enough to form were irreplaceable. I fell in
her family the whole time down there and the day we said goodbye I was a complete mess. I never thought I was going to cry, but you can’t help it when you realize you’re leaving behind such kind and loving people who are so helpless. The days spent in Batey 50 were days I will never be able to forget. The way the kids ran around in their raggedy clothes, the way they craved your love and attention, and the way they tried to give you everything they had even though they had nothing. They just wanted you to love them. I wish we had more time down there so we could help that much more. I also was able to bond with this witty and smart girl named Estella. She was older compared to the
other kids in Batey 50 but we had a really good connection. I realize that a lot of the older kids do not get as much attention as the littler kids because they are not as small and able to be thrown on your back and piggy backed around. She was so funny; She could make me laugh harder than some of my friends back home. In addition to meeting amazing people in Batey 50, I was able to form the greatest new friendships with the people I experienced this journey with. I never thought I would
become as close as I did with my entire class. Being able to witness and experience helping the people of Batey 50 and the other Bateyes together is something I will be forever thankful for. I was also lucky enough to meet so many amazing people outside of my class. I was lucky enough to meet people that had experienced this trip before and learn so much from them. On top of meeting so many amazing people, I am so grateful for all of the things I was able to learn when down in the Dominican. The people of the Bateyes really opened my eyes to what is truly important in life. Friends, family, and doing as much as you can to help the people around you are what really matters. The simple things in life are what really make a difference. And because of this trip I have now learned to make sure I cherish the little things done for me and am even more eager to do those little things for others. I have found that it is impossible to go one day without thinking about the trip and all I can really say is that I am already counting down the days to go back next summer. Until then I am just going to have to live through the pictures, videos, and all of the memories that come with them.
It has been about two weeks since returning home from the QU 301 trip to the Dominican Republic. I find myself every day thinking about the people that live in the DR and how much they have impacted my life. Not only have the people who live in the DR left an impact on my life, but also the people who went on the trip. I remember working on projects during class and not knowing who any one was. Then when I found out we were going with the larger group I figured it was going to be nearly impossible to get to know everyone. However, I was amazed at how quickly everyone was able to bond with each other and I am forever grateful for these people.
I still wish that I could be back at the Joe Hartman School playing with the children and painting classrooms. My friends from home are probably getting tired of me talking about my sponsor child, but honestly I am so proud to be known as her Madrina and I want every one to know that. Leaving to go home I did not think that my trip could get any better, but when I was looking at the Joe Hartman School Project Facebook page I was looking at the children available for sponsorship. I found my sponsor girl, Mailin, and it was then that I discovered that her birthday was the same day as mine, November 3rd. I immediately was so overwhelmed with happiness and it made me want to get on the plane to go back to the DR rather than take the plane back home to Maine. I made a coordinates necklace with the coordinates of the Joe Hartman School where I met Mailin for the first time so that this way even if I cannot be with her every day, I am still reminded of her.
The pictures from the trip do not do justice to explain the experience of a lifetime. I believe that everyone needs to experience a mission trip because it is not like anything else. The feeling of giving back is so rewarding that you find yourself trying to think of so many more ways you could help the people of the DR. It honestly is so difficult to explain all the emotions and thoughts that I had while in the DR and the only way I can explain to my friends is by saying “you need to go on the trip to understand how I feel, because it really is indescribable”.
While in JFK getting ready to head to the Dominican Republic with the rest of my QU301DR class, I barely knew anybody’s name. Not only did I not know anybody’s name who came down with the church, but I hardly knew my classmates’ names. Although it’s simply because I have a hard time learning names– I was nervous. I can remember sitting in the terminal nervous that I would not be able to forge relationships with my classmates since I did not know them well until the trip. Ten days later, back in JFK with those nameless people that I had left with, I returned with a family. Exiting the plane we were either making group chats, creating plans for the following semester or reminiscing on the incredible past ten days that we had.
One of the strongest memories I have of the trip is of a woman we had met in Batey 50, Melissa, accepting her new home. Each day of construction this elderly woman would come out of her house to personally hug and kiss while telling us how much she loved us. A woman that I had never met before was walking up to me and telling me how much she loved me– and I believed her. I vividly remember walking away from her dedication ceremony and looking at her in front of her house. It was moments like these that made it all worth it.
Throughout the trip, veterans of Batey 50 consistently told us that opening the fridge would be difficult– as weird as that may sound. I brushed it off thinking that I would be able to adjust but I was sorely wrong. One of the most difficult aspects of coming home was truly opening my refrigerator. In Batey 50 I had children begging me for food and water in their own home; however, when I got home I was able to open a door to a plethora of food and drink, some of which I didn’t even know had been in there in the first place.
With each day that has gone by, I have been able to appreciate my life more. Instead of throwing out a half-full water bottle, I make sure to drink and recycle it. Instead of throwing out my old clothes, I make sure to donate it to people in need. Instead of forgetting about my experience in the Dominican Republic, I make sure to share my stories with everybody.
I am so incredibly fortunate to be able to have participated in the QU 301 DR experience. I had heard so many wonderful stories about the trip, that was “sure to change my life”. While sitting in class, I listened and acknowledged the students who had been fortunate enough to travel there in the past. But how can you know what will happen from sitting in a classroom? Each student in the class was busy with school, friendships, and their overall college life. A group of 20 something year olds had truly no idea what to expect. The night before the flight I was incredibly nervous. I worried about what this trip would entail, what I would learn, and would I even enjoy my time. Looking back now, I wish I could tell myself that the next 10 days will change your life for the better. Traveling to the DR, opened my eyes to a world I never thought I would experience.
The day I returned home, my mom called me from a vacation and asked me to pour out a gallon of milk in the fridge. The milk was in perfectly good condition, but it would spoil in the days that we were away. As I started to pour the milk down the drain, I stopped half way and stared at the gallon for at least a minute. How many people would drink this? How many families could share this gallon of milk? How many children would this milk nourish? I was so deeply saddened that I was just about to throw this away. My life after the DR began at this moment. Since I came home, I am so incredibly grateful. You can look at pictures and watch videos of the people in the Dominican, but nothing compares to the experience there. Something changes inside you, when you have to tell a 3 year-old child “no” to having some of your water. It’s truly heart-wrenching. Coming back to America, we can not take anything for granted. Our homes, food, education, families, and experiences. We are not better than the people in the Dominican. We are all humans, we were just born into a different world. I feel that this opened my eyes to the opportunities I have been blessed with. Hopefully, I will be a nurse in one year. I hope to use my skills and talents to be able to help people that are in need. Maybe one day I will be able to return to the Dominican again to participate in more medical clinics. I would be able to care for the people who influenced my experience so much. We can all say that we went to the DR to help people, but I can trust that everyone who returned from the trip will say that everyone that we met there truly helped us.
– Nicole Leonard
I’ve been finding it extremely hard to sit down and take the time to think about all that I experienced and witnessed on the trip. I am in absolute denial that I am back in America and that the trip is over. When I think back to when our class was first announced, like Tyler said, I would have never expected to feel like way I do about the country, people, and the trip. Throughout the week I was lucky enough to experience Team B, A, Med Team, and the Teaching/Food/Evangelism team. All of my friends and family at home pretty much want to strangle me every time I bring up the trip but I just can’t help but think about every single moment whether it’s painting the church in Batey 50, talking on the roof with the class, singing on the bus, holding sleeping Isandri for two hours, falling in love with my sponsor child, Jackie performing surgery, the house dedication, or Juan peeing on me, the whole trip was memorable from start to finish. On every team I witnessed a major similarity – the overwhelming happiness that everyone had eventhough their world was something I could never imagine. The happiness that people have and their sense of community is much more immaculate that I would have ever imagined when thinking about the living conditions that these people of the bateyes live in. One moment that could have easily been overlooked was when I was with the food/teaching/evangelism team. There was this one woman who was watching us very closely and we could see her walking from house to house which concerned our translator because she was starting to think that the woman was just trying to get the most food by pretending to live in other houses. The woman was actually going to the houses where there were no parents and just children living there to make sure that they got food. I feel like sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own lives that we forget to look out for others. The people in the worst conditions imaginable still hadn’t forgotten about the basic act of caring, and us Americans who have everything at our fingertips have. As basically everyone who has ever experienced Joe Hartman Day has said, it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I know I keep saying “I would have never imagined” but I seriously never would have known what a lasting effect the this one family made on me. Kenia Cayetano is my sponsor child’s mother and I instantly had a connection with her, before I had even met her son. She lives in the barrio of kilometer 6 with her husband Alberto, daughter Keisy, and son Keibert. My first conversation with Kenia was hysterical because I have only taken one semester of Spanish and took Italian for 6 years so I was trying to form a simple sentence while having Kaitlyn try to translate the words I didn’t know and Kenia starts giggling and says “Just speak in English I can understand better!” She went on to tell me that she went to a university for two years to learn English. The most disheartening thing she told me was that she had nobody to talk to because none of her family members could speak English and that is why it was so important to her to have her two children go to The Joe Hartman School and learn English at a young age. Kenia has taught her sister Mayroni, who also lives in the baracca and is Kaitlyn’s sponsor girl’s mom, some English and is slowly trying to quiz her kids when they learn something new in school. She told me that she hopes to help her community by being a translator which could eventually help her make a living and not have to be supported by just her husband’s cane cutting. After I met her at Joe Hartman day, I was looking at her Facebook, that she LOVES using, and after her graduation she wrote “Y le doy gracias A Dios por a ayudarme a cumplir mi sueño de ser profesional y tener una carrera para el mañana” – “And I thank God for helping me fulfill my dream of being a professional and have a career for tomorrow.” She has taught me that no matter what is going on in my life, which is definitely not as trivial as what she has to face on a daily basis, no dream is too small. She has so many things pushing against her – her living conditions, deportation threat, her children possibly not being sponsored for the next year, her husband getting hurt in the fields, and most of all hunger. I have so much love, admiration, and respect for Kenia and her family. She’s awesome. Now that I am sobbing in the coffee shop where I’m writing this blog post, I can not go on without thanking everyone in this class, the Power’s family, my family, and everyone from DRMT for the most amazing experience of my life. You all rock. Haley Abbott Biology Major/ MAT Secondary Education Quinnipiac Class of 2017
Flashback to 9 months ago when the QU 301 DR class was announced. The only people I knew in the class were two of my good friends, everyone else was a stranger at that point. Regardless, we all were about to embark on one of the most unique class trips that Quinnipiac has to offer. We spent an entire semester meeting and discussing the trip, the Haitian/Dominican relationship, Batey 50, and Joe Hartman Day. Then in a blink of an eye it was June 26th and we were boarding a plane at JFK and headed on our journey. We were all about to spend the next 10 days together in a country many of us had never been to.
After arriving in the DR and taking a bus to La Romana we finally were able to relax and take it all in. However, we weren’t here to relax and we quickly began to work on our individual teams. As a member of the construction team, I was able to visit Batey 50 right away. One of the first things I noticed once we arrived there was the sense of community they had. There were children of all ages playing with each other, mothers holding babies that didn’t belong to them, and men working to accomplish a task together. It was such an amazing sight to see. These people have so little yet they are so happy simply because they are surrounded by people who love them.
This sense of community lasted all week. I noticed it first in Batey 50, then in Batey 80, and it was especially evident during Joe Hartman day. These people truly just care for each other and that’s something we should see more here in America. It wasn’t until the last night of the trip that I truly realized the a community that was right in front of me, the QU301 group and the mission team. I had been working with these people all week and I had never met a majority of them in my life. Now I was saying goodbyes and wondering how long it would be until I saw them again because I was going to miss this group. There was over 100 people on this trip and we had completed so many tasks by the time we left. Whether it was on the construction team, medical team, or education teams everyone had a great time and got work done as well. I never would have thought that I would become friends with a group of total strangers in such a short amount of time.
Before going on the trip I spoke to individuals who had been on the trip in previous year. They told me that it was a life changing experience and you can’t really describe it in words. I thought they were over exaggerating but it’s completely true. This trip is indescribable, you need to go out and experience it for yourself to fully understand it. Everyone on the trip takes away something different from it and it has a different impact on everyone. I hope that I can go back one day to create more friendships, help more people, and discover more about myself than I could ever imagine.
Not a day goes by where I don’t think about the trip. Someone will do or say something, and I’ll immediately think of a story or experience from the Dominican Republic. When we landed back in the States, I was overwhelmed by many conflicting emotions. I was more sad than happy to be back, and I remember thinking, “well, this is it.” Back to reality. Or should I say American reality. I remember being so excited to share my pictures and videos with my friends and family. I couldn’t wait to show them the different stages of the house construction. I was eager to share stories about the movie night in Batey 50, and fill them in about the child I decided to sponsor. But when I was finally able to sit down at the dinner table with everyone, my mind went blank. There was so much to tell, I just didn’t know where to begin. On top of it, I felt like my pictures just couldn’t do my experiences justice. Eventually I settled back into my everyday routine again. The first time I drove again, I was driving to work. John was right when he said that driving after coming home is one of the strangest experiences. I remember getting into my car and looking around at the 4 other empty seats. As I pulled into the parking lot at work, I realized that my 20 minute commute was driven in complete silence. No radio, nothing. That has never happened to me before. One of the things that I found to be the most incredible was the kindness and trust expressed towards us from the people in the batey. Parents hand over their babies, not even thinking twice. Kids run up to the bus to welcome us with smiles and hugs. It is amazing how you can form bonds with people without even speaking the same language. You can form a friendship by just being around someone, and to me, that is friendship in the purest form. To make a connection with someone without being able to communicate (as well as you’d like to)….it’s just incredible. This trip taught me far more about trust and relationships than I can even comprehend right now. I know as time goes on, and I remember my experiences I’ll uncover more.
Check out the video I made to remember my trip!
After coming home from the Dominican Republic, I find myself thinking about the children constantly. It breaks my heart to think about the conditions these babies are living in while I am at home with clean drinking water, plenty of food to eat and a bed to sleep in every night. There is one child in particular from Batey 50 that stands out to me. His name is Robert and just a few minutes with him changed my outlook on life forever. When a DRMT volunteer was passing out beads to the children of Batey 50, many of them were swarming her trying to get as many as they could for themselves before the bag was empty, but Robert was patiently waiting his turn with an outstretched hand. The handful of beads he was given happened to contain an extra piece of string. Instead of taking the string for himself, he immediately unwrapped it and took my hand to measure my wrist. He then patiently waited again for his turn with the scissors to cut the piece of string. Carefully and strategically he chose the beads to put on my bracelet. Once he was finished, he tied the bracelet around my wrist and looked up at me, proud of his work. The look on his face was something I will never forget. It astounded me that a ten year old child who lives in such poverty was generous enough to make something for me. Not only did he make something for me but he made it before he even thought about making something for himself. Later in the week I gave Robert a stack of stickers. There were probably 20 or more packages of stickers and instead of taking them all for himself, he shared them with all of his friends. He made sure all three of his sisters each had a pack before dispersing the remainder to other children. The happiness he felt being able to share something with so many of his peers was evident in his body language and facial expression. The generosity and kindness this child showed are qualities I aspire to exhibit in my own life. In America I think people, myself included, are mostly focused on making sure they have everything they need for themselves before they worry about what others may need. In Batey 50, however, the culture is much different. These people go above and beyond to share what little they have with their loved ones. Kindness and generosity are two qualities that we as Americans should learn from the people of Batey 50 and we should treat everyone in our own lives with the same respect and compassion that these people treat everyone with.
After coming back from La Romana, I feel the impact of the trip more than ever. While you’re there, you don’t realize the effect it’s having on you. When in the bateyes, you are aware that it is poor and that the people have minimal items, but you don’t understand the intensity until you come back home and things that you take for granted are things you didn’t have while there, and things that the people in the bateye have never had.
When I was there, I loved observing the children and the way they interacted with one another. For example, in the video Marissa Landino created (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjwwJYRRoqc), at the time 3:15 in the video, there is a little girl, who is probably 8 years old, and she helps raise Suri, who isn’t her sister or a family member to her, so she can touch Marissa’s hand. We don’t realize how symbolic that is while we’re there, but when we come home and reflect on the trip, those little things are so powerful. They focus so much on relationships there, even if the kids fight or yell often. They all love one another as if each individual is their family, and that is something that we need to learn from them. In my own personal experiences, I know that I take my mom for granted sometimes. I don’t appreciate every single thing she does for me, regardless how big or small. The children in the batey taught me to appreciate everything and to realize that family is number one. I have always been a family oriented person, but watching the children has made me strive more to be with my family.
Another thing I observed when I was there was that Suri was given a piece of candy while she was sitting next to me. It had three little gumball type things in it. She looked at me and offered me one. I graciously declined and then she started opening the package. She took one piece and put the rest in her pocket for later. I know this doesn’t seem very influential, but the fact that she has absolutely nothing and is so gracious for everything she has is amazing. I feel as if little kids, if they come from nothing, and they get something that they really like, they would quickly eat that piece of candy or never offer to anyone. The fact that she asked me if I wanted one and kept them in her pocket for later was amazing. The children come from nothing but when they receive things, they don’t greedily devour it—they savor it for later and cherish it. That is something I learned from them. Here in the United States, I feel as if we take the food we have on our tables for granted. We take the food we can just go and buy at the store or deli for granted. We don’t appreciate the life we are given and the items we have at our expense. Watching her be so selfless was amazing. The little things like that had a very big impact on me when I came back home.
When we visited Batey 80, there was a little boy named Sergio. When we first got there, him and his sister were standing behind their barbed wire fence next to their mom, with the saddest faces on. All the other kids were playing with us, laughing, and having fun. Their mom wouldn’t let them play with us, even after a few people went up and asked her if they could. Seeing their faces broke my heart. After a while, their mother finally let them come out and play with us. The first thing that happened when they came out was breathtaking and made me instantly cry. Sergio was given a red ball and he kicked it was it was being thrown to him. He screamed so loud with joy and excitement that it instantly brought tears to my eyes. I cannot describe in words the feelings that came over me. He was just genuinely so happy and excited to be playing with that red ball. To us, it’s a piece of plastic we can just get at Walmart for a dollar. To him, it’s hope. Knowing that we came and made his day was life changing for me. But what I had a hard time with afterwards was the fact that after we left, those kids would go back to their daily lives of struggling. They no longer had people to play with, or people to interact with, besides the people they saw every day. I felt as if we got the children’s hopes up, and then crushed them once we left. They seemed to be having so much fun. And I’m not saying that they don’t have fun when we’re not there, but they don’t get to interact with new people or play games with new people. I wish that we could’ve stayed and played with them every single day. I loved how we could bring joy to them.
One of the more interesting days, in my opinion, was Joe Hartman day. I was told going into it how amazing and fun it was. When we first got there, the kids were getting name tags that indicated if they were sponsored or not. However, I didn’t like the way people went about finding a sponsor child. For example, I felt like people were going into classrooms, picking the cutest kid they saw, and sponsoring them. It felt as if we were window shopping in my opinion, which made me very uncomfortable. So that whole day I was not enjoying it, just because I felt like it wasn’t about meeting the children and getting to know them and potentially sponsoring them, but it was more of a competition to sponsor and find the cutest kid. However, one of the moments that day that influenced me was when a little boy, out of nowhere, ran up to me and grabbed me legs and we started slow dancing. This had a huge affect on me because he did not even know me, and came over and danced with me. It was amazing to see how happy the children were, just that we were there and having fun with them. He turned my day right around and I instantly loved that day after that.
Something that is very powerful to me is that, not only did we help shape the lives of those we met, but they also shaped ours. For future people going on this trip in the future, I want them to know that it truly is life changing, even if they don’t realize it when they are down there. The families in Batey 50, Batey 80 and Joe Hartman not only learned from us, but we learned from them. They help show that life is about relationships and those around us—not the material objects that are available to us. They truly cherish every moment there and they protect one another so much. Five year old kids were carrying and holding their 3 year old siblings. They do all they can for each other, and that is something we need to take advantage of and hold on to. This experience was amazing and something that I hope to be able to do again.
– Jackie DellaGreca