March 30, 2007
Kate Hanson journal entry
During spring break, I joined about 25 other Ohio University students in traveling to the Dominican Republic to volunteer with an organization called Orphanage Outreach. We spent the week in Monte Cristi, a province in the northwest corner of the country near the Haitian border. The purpose of our stay was to serve the disadvantaged children of the orphanage and of the Monte Cristi community.
When we arrived in the Dominican, we brought suitcases filled with donations for the orphanage, including cans of food, school supplies and clothing. We stayed on the grounds of the orphanage in camp-style shelters with tin roofs and bunk beds draped with mosquito nets.
Each morning, we woke up to the chattering of goats, roosters and dogs. After breakfast, we walked about a mile and a half through the dirt roads of Monte Cristi to Escuela Rosa Smester, a local elementary school. There, we divided into groups of five to six volunteers to teach English vocabulary to classes of about 30 students. At recess, we played and conversed with the students. Then we returned to the orphanage for lunch and a siesta; it was a time to relax and spend time with the orphanage children. After the siesta, we walked back to the school to teach our afternoon classes. Evenings were spent preparing handouts, games and activities for the next day's lessons and interacting with the children at the orphanage.
Throughout the experience, I was struck by the beauty of the country and the generosity of the Dominican people. The fifth grade teacher of the class I taught gave me pictures of the country so that I could remember the landscape. During recess, children gave volunteers gifts of candy that they had purchased with their own money. Walking to and from the school each day, we were warmly greeted by locals sitting in front of their homes. Their children waved excitedly and eagerly posed for pictures with the "Americanos."
The trip was an eye-opening experience that increased my cultural awareness. It changed my perception of the world and showed me that small steps really make a big difference in the world.