Tears of Joy

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As a Gonzaga student who got to go on this Dominican outreach trip last year, preparing to go for this trip was both nerve wracking and exciting at the same time. There were several things I knew I could look forward to and many new experiences I didn’t expect to have, but have made this trip a whole new experience for me to remember. 

After meeting the family we were building for and starting full work days to complete this project, it didn’t take us any time to get into the routine of working together as a team. This year our group has many more students compared to previous years but for me, now my Dominican family has grown and I couldn’t be more grateful. 

By Tuesday, all of us students, teachers, LiveDifferent staff, contractors and members of the community were working hand in hand to build this home for Alejandrina and her two granddaughters. Our work consisted of tons of cement mixing, smooth coating, sifting, painting and much much more. After working several hours in the sun, many of us were exhausted because of how much physical work we were doing in comparison to our normal weekdays at school. But one thing that stood out to me is how not one person complained because all of us were fuelled by the smiles on the family’s faces as they watched their new home be built up from the ground where their old home used to stand. Even though many of us face the language barrier with people here in the Dominican, their smiles were something that needed no translation. 

After working hard to complete as much as possible on the house and helping out at the local school to build a new office, we all got some time to play with the children who were there at the playground that afternoon. Just pushing them on the swings or playing tag with them is something that they cherished and looked forward to which was then passed on to each of us in ways we could have never predicted. The love that they showed for us was something that you can’t buy anywhere and will never forget. 

That evening was our team dinner out in Cabarete which is a beautiful beach town where we all got to eat dinner together by the shore. We all bonded some more, learning things about each other and just becoming closer as we continued to share this experience in our lives. 

Wednesday morning we were back to work on our last building day which was the final stretch for us to complete this home before Dedication Day where we hand over the keys to our family. All of us were exhausted, sunburnt, and sore but I think it was the best work day we had by far. The motivation we all had to keep going and energy that was present at the work site was something everyone could feel because of how excited we were to give not only a new home, but a future to the Martinez family. We mixed batch after batch of cement, passed buckets along in a line and helped each other out to finish up everything left in the house before our workday ended. When the end of our workday was coming close to an end, those final few moments to push through we’re definitely moments to remember. While painting the house we all got into a little paint fight and everyone was covered in paint among the cement already on us. But one moment I won’t forget is when the floor was finally finished in the house and I went to ask Alejandrina if she was excited and she nodded her head because overall she was just speechless, and when I told her tomorrow she will be living inside a new home with her granddaughters she teared up which just made everything that we worked all week for absolutely worth it. It didn’t matter how exhausted we were because just the fact that the time we spent this week changed a family’s life is something you’ll never forget. 

Overall this trip not only reinforced the lessons I learned last year but added on new ones. The importance of community, the benefits of hard work and determination, hope, love and appreciation, which I hope to continue to remember and implement not only for myself but to share with others for the rest of my life. 

 – Lisa, LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Volunteer, Gonzaga Trip 2014

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 1st, 2014