Hero Holiday Dominican Republic 2006 – July
In July of 2006, we once again descended upon Dominican Republic, only this time we had doubled in size! As students and leaders had returned home after their experience in 2005, the buzz began to grow, and many returned, bringing new friends with them. We had over 300 students and leaders join us again in Sosua, and once again, we worked on many new projects and made many new and meaningful friendships. We built three houses for families that were without adequate housing, and helped to give them a fresh start and the dignity to move forward. In 2006, we took on our biggest challenge to date: we built a school!
Everyday, as we would pull up in our trucks to the school work site at Arrayusacu (the village), you could hear the children shouting and singing as they came running across the fields and roads to meet the Hero Holiday team, and they were always met with non-stop hugs and laughter. During those short 14 days we met, worked among, and became a part of the lives of those families and children. Many team members were able to visit their homes and learn about what life was like in their world, because this was not just a project, this was a joining of hands to make a difference. Day after day, Canadian students worked alongside of Dominican villagers and learned about their world: their struggles, their hopes, and their dreams. We will never be the same.
For some of us who participated in 2006, one of the most humbling and life-altering experiences happened in a little orphanage in the middle of downtown Santiago. Each day, some of us had the opportunity to cross over the mountains, into the central area of the country and visit this orphanage, which was a refuge and home to about 40 physically and mentally challenged children. The orphanage was a state-run project, and had NEVER had visitors until we came. The kids there had mostly been abandoned or dropped off, or left for dead by families who were too overwhelmed by their own circumstances to be able to deal with caring for them. This little orphanage became a place where we learned so much about the value of life and dignity, as we held these children, played with them, fed them, and even changed their diapers to give the staff a break. In their eyes we could see hope and joy as we reached out to them and let them know that someone cared about who they were and that their lives held significance. As we would pull away from that special place, we were always humbled by the reality of how much we have been blessed with and how much we always receive when we give of ourselves.
Once again, as we returned to our homes, schools, and communities, we were transformed in our thinking and more resolute than ever to join together and begin to change life for those who were less fortunate.