Touching Hearts, Changing Lives
By Taylor Sheridan (DHS Class of ’14)
When we arrived at the airport at the early time of 4 am, it was finally real. Our group of thirteen high school juniors and seniors from St. Mary’s Dominican High School, four parent volunteers, our Spanish teacher Mrs. Claudia Vallejo and Sister Pat Harvat, O.P., Vice President of Dominican Catholic Identity, were really going to the Dominican Republic. Filled with excitement and no idea of what to expect, we anxiously awaited our flight, talking about the possibilities of what this experience would be like.
Once we finally landed in the Santo Domingo, we picked up our baggage and snaked through a chaotic customs process. Piling onto our little bus with hot pink curtains and seats, we began a two hour journey to the town of Bani. When we arrived at the school – Espiritu Santo, five Dominican sisters warmly welcomed us. Two of them are from the Dominican Republic and three are from the states. We then each chose our rooms, hung our mosquito nets over our beds and awaited our first day of work.
With no idea what to expect, we headed over to the high school the next day. The surprisingly welcome attitudes from the students reassured us of why we came on this trip in the first place. We spent the day talking to them in our broken Spanish, but the high school students were very understanding and quick to help us out. We taught them about New Orleans culture and shared Hurricane Katrina experiences, while they shared facts about their culture and food with us. It was a learning experience, not only for them, but for us as well.
Next we headed to the preschool, where we got to sing and play with the little ones all afternoon. They immediately pulled at our hearts with their sweet little smiles and eagerness to play with us. That night we enthusiastically sorted through the crayons, paper, notebooks, books, coloring books and other supplies our classmates from St. Mary’s Dominican High School had collected, and planned our lessons for the next day. As we passed out the new supplies, the excitements in the children’s faces showed how much they appreciated and were grateful for our donations. We served them by not only providing needed supplies, but by giving them attention and love, showing interest in their lives, and being open to forming friendships.
On the last day, we climbed the beautiful sand dunes, visited the beach and went to a lush mango farm to relax from our hard week of work and experience the culture in the Dominican Republic. Our trip was coming to a close, and despite the heat, mosquitoes, lack of electricity and hot water, we found ourselves reluctant to leave. Our journey home was filled with sharing stories and reminiscing on our time with the students and their teachers. Although we went on this trip to better these people’s lives, they also affected our lives with their gratitude and openness to our help. Our service to the people in the Dominican Republic truly changed our lives for the better.
Click here to view pictures from the mission trip taken by senior Laura Pivach and Sr. Pat Harvat.