Leaving the cold, chilly weather of New England, a strong group of students were eager to dive into the hot sun of the Dominican Republic (DR). The group along with faculty members, Ms. Parada and Mr. McCandless, arrived at approximately 2 A.M in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Instead of becoming more tired, they became more excited as the beautiful scenery of DR appeared before their eyes. On the bus ride to the hotel, Jose, the founder of the nonprofit business, Cambiando Vidas, and their guide for the trip, introduced himself. The sleep-deprived group finally arrived at the luxurious five-star hotel in Santo Domingo, checked in at the counter, and immediately separated into their respective rooms, ending a long day of travel.
The next day, the group drove approximately four hours to arrive at the construction site where the group would help build a house. Supported by Cambiando Vidas, a nonprofit business that builds houses for families in need, the group built a house for Yuya and Marianela, a local married couple. This couple had two kids who both died at an early age, and the couple’s dream was to have a home where they could safely raise their future children. For five consecutive days, the group worked hard to make cement, to deliver blocks, and to paint walls. Though the task was mostly hard labor, the group worked collaboratively and managed to successfully build the house. Along with the Loomis group, almost everyone from the community ranging from 3-year-old children to grandparents helped construct the house, demonstrating the welcoming community of the DR.
Making new friends in the Dominican Republic, the group gained an experience that was more than simply building a house. They learned to rely on each other and developed a strong sense of teamwork and friendship. Painting the final blank spots of the house, the group felt a sense of accomplishment and was proud of the final product, which would have been impossible without the group’s teamwork. Through this valuable experience, the group learned the skills of teamwork and collaboration, noting that language barriers should never be an excuse for a lack of communication.
To celebrate their achievements, the group and everyone from the community who helped build Yuya’s and Marianela’s house were invited to a dinner party at the newly built house. As the group estatically learned how to dance to Bachata and Merengue, a traditional folk dance, there was a sense of sadness among everyone as the party came to an end. Cherishing all the precious memories, the DR group boarded the bus, saying their last goodbyes to the warm-hearted community.
The next morning, they drove for two hours to the resort where they would spend the rest of their time before leaving the Dominican Republic. Arriving at the only 100% eco-friendly resort in the DR, the group was immediately intrigued by the enormous, blue waterslide. Relaxing for the first time throughout this trip, the group played basketball, ping-pong, and poker at the hotel. The next day, the group travelled to one of the top five most beautiful beaches in the world. Though the salty waters of the Caribbean irritated everyone’s eyes, the group mostly spent time playing in the clear, turquoise, ineffable beach and bathing in the sun for a nice tan.
This fun and excitement would only last a few days as the group was notified that a severe snowstorm was directly headed toward New England. Originally planning to go back on Monday, Ms. Parada and Mr. McCandless, decided to leave on Sunday afternoon, a day early. As they rode the bus back to Santo Domingo, some were relieved that they were going back early and some were sad that they could not experience their last tour in Santo Domingo. However, during the bus ride to the airport, the faculty were alerted that JFK would be closed and that they had to stay at the DR until there was an available flight. After checking in to another luxurious five-star hotel, the group was notified that the most recent available flight was on Friday, five more days from the current day. Stuck in the DR for five more days, the group tried to enjoy their stay at the hotel as best as they could by swimming in the pool and biking around the community. However, during Tuesday dinner, the faculty had welcoming news for us — that we would take the indirect flight to Haiti then to Atlanta and finally to JFK. Desperately wanting to return home, the group eagerly packed their belongings and left the hotel early Wednesday morning just to be notified at the airport that there was a strike in Haiti and that they could not return to the States. Now the direct flight to JFK that they originally booked, did not have any open seats left and the only option for them was to take the indirect flight to Minnesota on Friday and a flight to Bradley the following day.
Friday finally came and the group safely arrived in Minnesota. When they strolled into the hotel, the front desk lady informed them that there were only four rooms available — five girls had to share one room with one bed and four boys had to share one room with one bed. Though it was a rough night, they were eager to get back home. Finally arriving at Bradley with only three days left till the end of spring break, the group was warmly greeted by their families despite the frigid New England weather, marking the end of their lasting, memorable journey to the Dominican Republic.