When I signed up for the Dominican trip I had no idea what to expect. As the countdown progressed, talking to others who had been on the trip in the past helped me to form a broader idea of what the trip was about.
When I stepped off the plane on Saturday afternoon, my first impression was that it was hot. Saturday night was mostly spent getting to know each other, and learning names. It’s amazing how quickly 27 students from different grades, social groups, and interests can come together and bond.
Sunday morning I realized it’s a lot easier to wake up early if it’s 30 degrees, sunny, and you can hear the ocean. That morning we had our first experience in the Dominican culture. Church in the DR is very different from church at home, but I still found it quite interesting. The entire service was in Spanish, but the language barrier didn’t stop us from appreciating how faith travels across boarders. One thing that really struck me as we drove to and from the church, especially because this was my first Dominican outreach experience, was how friendly all the people are. We would wave to them from the truck and the were just so happy to see us and would wave and smile back. I remember looking around and just being amazed by their culture and their outlook on life.
That afternoon, we took out first trip to the job site, and met the community pastor and the family we’re building the house for. The family was so deserving. The grandmother had prayed for months to get a new house, and had a series of dreams about a new house before she found out she was getting one. The two little girls were super cute and all three of them were just very happy and grateful, despite their circumstances. It shocked me, but at the same time made me really happy. We started working on the house in the afternoon, and worked hard as a team to get done what needed to be done. We also played with the kids, who were constantly smiling and so happy. I was playing with one of the little girls, I let her play with my gloves, and she was so happy just to play with my gloves. How little made her so happy amazed me and made me realize what a privileged life I live back in Canada.
One of the somewhat lighter moments of the day was lifting a piece of concrete to find a tarantula, the size of a large hand, crawling out. Naturally everyone freaked out and ran out of the house, and one of the contractors had to kill it. Needless to say, our group does not like spiders.
On the way home from the site, we stopped at two houses that our school had built in the past. For those that had been on the trip in the past, and had built those houses, the emotion on their faces was evident and how much it meant to them to see the families again. The families were ecstatic to see those who had built their house, and were still very appreciative and grateful to them.
Day one and two of our trip was filled with new experiences and learning opportunities that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.