“Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot”

Batey 50 kid in wheelbarrow

Since I’ve been home from my week in the Dominican Republic, I’ve been asked, “was it what you expected?”, and I can honestly say both yes and no to this question. While the videos and pictures I had seen prepared me for the visual aspects of the trip, there truly is nothing that could have properly prepared me for the reality check that I would experience. I certainly expected the extreme poverty, with people living in makeshift homes, wearing the same battered clothing day after day, but I was in no way expecting to encounter the types of people who lived in Batey 50. These were some of the friendliest, most kindhearted and grateful people I have ever met, yet they have nearly nothing to their name. The kids were particularly amazing to me- taking shovels from our hands when we seemed tired, begging us to let them help push wheelbarrows full of rocks, all while smiling the entire time. Never once did I hear a child complain about their condition; I only heard them ask to help us help them. And they never gave up hope that things would get better for them. It made me realize how ironic it is that the people who have nothing are the most thankful for what they do have, while people who have more than these people ever will in one lifetime can still find things to be unhappy about. Now, every time I find myself wanting to complain about something, I think about the people of Batey 50 and I stop myself. If these people can’t find anything to complain about then why should I?

Every day our school bus was greeted with smiles and waving hands as we pulled into Batey 50. Every person who walked by me greeted me with “hola”, and a smile. Right before my eyes, people who had once been complete strangers from a different part of the world became familiar faces. I was thousands of miles away from home in a foreign country with people who I had met only a few days prior, yet there was not one moment when I felt uncomfortable. There is something about the feeling of comradery in Batey 50 that is contagious to anyone who enters it. I truly felt as though I was making a difference in the lives of these people, because we were able to connect with each other so quickly. But little did they know, they were impacting our lives more than they could ever imagine.

Batey 50 kid holding my hand

There is one memory in particular that stands out to me from Friday, my last day in Batey 50. The tradition on the last day is that the Americans give their shoes away to someone in the Batey before they leave. I couldn’t decide on anyone specific to give my shoes to, because I didn’t want to just give them to anyone for the sake of giving. I also didn’t want to be unfair to anyone. I decided I was going to leave them with the church so they could give them to someone who they knew for sure needed them. Then as I was walking to the bus to leave Batey 50, I walked by the old man who I had been walking by all week. He was always sitting near his house, watching everyone work and greeting me with a friendly smile every time I passed by. I could tell that harvesting sugar cane his whole life had taken a serious toll on his body; on Thursday, he had needed to be picked up in order to be able to move just fifty feet to get to his house. I felt so bad for him being in that condition that I immediately knew who needed my shoes. Every time I had seen him that week, he was always happy and never seemed to want much, since I had never seen him ask for anything from anyone. When he saw what I was giving him, he was so thankful- his eyes lit up and he said in Spanish “god bless you”, and shook my hand. At that moment I knew that I would never forget the look of pure gratefulness glowing on this man’s weathered face, and the feeling of joy that stayed with me the whole way home knowing that I had made an impact on someone’s life.

While it may be easy to measure what we gave to the people of Batey 50 during our time there, It is impossible to measure what the people of Batey 50 have given us. My perspective on life has truly been changed for the better, and I have them to thank for that. I’ve learned to be thankful for everything that I have, and never to take my opportunities for granted. But most importantly I have learned that we have a lot to learn from those who are less fortunate than we are.

Batey 50 man with shoes

Katie O’Connor
Public Relations Major
Class of 2015

Everyone Has A Story To Tell

IMG_0079 It is hard to put into words the experiences I had in the Dominican Republic.  I do not know where to begin other than to say… one week can change your life.  I did not go to the DR thinking I would return to the United States a different person.  But, my life has changed completely.  I have no reason to not smile anymore.  Things may not go my way or something bad may happen- but all I need to do is look at the pictures of the kids that live with practically nothing.  Their smiles remind me that there is nothing to be sad about.

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I spent my week at Joe Hartman School building a wall.  But a wall is not all I built during the week. I built strong relationships with the children (some that went to the school and others that were just there to get away from their houses).  I heard a lot of stories and had a lot of laughs.  I walk away from that school knowing there will not be any more break-ins, but also knowing that these kids do not complain about the little that they have.  Alberto works hard every day, even when he is sick, so that he can pay for his 8th grade graduation pictures.  Johnny comes to work to get away from his parents that do drugs in his house and also to make money he can save to move to the United States.  Every single person I talked to had a story.  These kids do not complain.  They have dreams and work hard to reach them.

One day at the school, we were all washing our gloves that were covered in cement in a bucket of water.  One of the kids looked at us and said in Spanish- you are not used to doing your laundry because in the United States you have servants to do that.  My first instinct was to laugh and say no, but that got me to think… the couple days before that I had asked them about their stories but they had not heard mine.  They did not know what my life was like back home because I did not think they cared.  But when I started explaining to them that not everything was done for us and that I did my own laundry in a machine, I knew they were interested.  From that point forward, I listened to their stories and told them mine.  I taught them English and they taught me Spanish.  We became best friends in one week because we listened to each other’s stories.

IMG_0074_2Even sitting back home, I think it is not only important for us to think about the stories we heard in the Dominican Republic- but learn from other people here.  Ask questions.  Listen.  You can learn anything by being interested in other people.  Everyone has a story to tell… and that story can change your life forever.

 

Rebecca Streeter

Quinnipiac University ’16

 

 

No book could have taught me these lessons

During our class meetings with Professor Powers in the spring, he kept telling us how life changing this trip would be for us. I never doubted him, but I totally underestimated how amazing this trip would really be for me. 

The entire week i worked in Batey 50 doing some of the most physically demanding work of my entire life and I enjoyed every second of it. After seeing the extreme poverty that the people of Batey 50 live in, helping in anyway felt amazing. Many times we focus on the horrors and hardships of the bateys, but there is so much more to each batey than that. I saw little kids willingly do free work in hopes that one day they can have a better life. This is something we would never see in America. I made connections with families without being able to speak a word of Spanish. Somehow, we were able to communicate and I was amazed by how happy, trustworthy, thankful and hopeful these people were had nothing. I’ll admit back in America I took a lot of things for granted and materialized unimportant items. After, meeting the people of Batey 50 I was humbled. I am grateful for the life I have and there is so much give after this experience. The people of Batey 50, who have nothing, taught me priceless life lessons I will never forget. 

The people of Batey 50 weren’t the only ones to teach me things, my fellow classmates and other members of the mission trip also taught me so much. I am willing to admit that I am not the most outgoing person in the world and not one to be best friends with people right away, but as soon as I got to the airport to leave for Santo Domingo I felt completely comfortable around every single person there. The people I went on this trip with were they most selfless, caring and kind people I have ever met. I heard their stories of home and at the batey and learned a lot. Also, these people pushed me out of my comfort zone. Whether it be trying new foods or forcing me to be more outgoing I learned a bit about myself on this trip. I am forever grateful for everyone I met on this trip and glad I can call them my friends and even in some cases best friends. 

My advice to anyone who has an opportunity to go on any mission trip is to go and keep an open mind. It will be the experience of a life time. You will learn priceless life lessons while having the time of your life. I am already looking into possible options of coming back for this trip next year. There is still so much to be done and so much to learn. 

 

Matt Delphine

Quit Complaining

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It is nearly impossible to try to explain the extreme poverty that I witnessed on this trip. However, it is even more impossible to explain the people that I encountered and the amazing relationships I formed with these people. Despite how very little they have, these individuals are always happy and smiling. Spending time with these incredible families has taught me so much. They are all people I will forever look up to and respect simply because they have such positive attitudes that inspire me. They have given me  a different outlook on life and have taught me to never take anything that I have for granted. Throughout the trip, I had many different encounters with children, and each of these encounters was special in its own way. Holding these children, dancing with them, holding their hands, and seeing them smile truly brightened my day and my life, and they will always have a place in my heart. Although we were the ones helping them and working to improve their lives, there is so much that I have learned from them and they have impacted my life in ways that I can’t put into words.

The happiness and selflessness of the families and individuals that I met truly astounded me. They all have this tremendous sense of hope and faith that is so inspiring. Even though they are at such a low point in their lives and they have no idea if anything is really going to ever get better, they remain happy and they have so much hope that things will get better for them in the future. These people are living in conditions that are unimaginable to the majority of people and they have close to nothing, yet they are some of the happiest people that I have ever met. Not only does this show how great and selfless these extremely poor people are, but it also shows how selfish and spoiled we can be. Why are so many Americans unhappy and grumpy so often in their lives?? Is there something that this unhappiness stems from that makes this negativity acceptable? In most cases, the answer to this question is no. I believe that a lot of people need a reality check. In the United States, I encounter so many unhappy people who have so much to be thankful for. It seems unfair and rather ridiculous that people like us are so negative for no given reason. Or at least for no reason that is truly worth complaining about. If the people I met at Batey 50 and Joe Hartman school are happy, there is no reason that we shouldn’t be happy. It is obvious that we need to learn to appreciate life and all that we have.

People in the United States are so much more spoiled than they realize, and we need to learn to show our appreciation for everything that we have, no matter how big or how small. The individuals and groups of people that I had the privilege of meeting in the Dominican Republic  are so selfless, and their happiness and selflessness should serve as an example for everyone in this world. Throughout my experience, I witnessed young children sharing with their families. Even though these people are starving and barely clothed, they are always looking out for their families. There were many instances where someone would offer a child something like a snack or a sticker, and this child would take one and offer the rest to their siblings or their mother. This is such a kind, simple gesture that shouldn’t be overlooked. These people have so very little, yet they are always thinking of others before themselves. Another example is the way in which all the children tried to help us work at Batey 50. No matter how much we resisted and insisted on them sitting down and relaxing, these kids were unstoppable. They would take shovels and wheelbarrows from our hands, and sometimes it was extremely difficult to stop them and tell them no. Just seeing how much they wanted to help and how tough they were was pretty amazing. I remember being in the schoolyard raking under the extremely hot sun, and this young boy came up to me and started taking the rake out of my hands. I refused to give it to him, but just the kindness of his gesture was enough to make me smile.

Although I see myself as an extremely happy person who is very grateful for all that she has, I believe that everyone, including myself, can learn a significant lesson about gratitude after getting to know these incredible people at the Dominican Republic. I am so thankful for everything that I have, and I know that I am extremely lucky to have all that I have. However, I can definitely express my gratitude even more. Furthermore, when I find myself complaining about something, I will immediately think about the children and families I met on this trip and reevaluate what it is I’m complaining about. There is no reason for us to complain about the most stupid and tiny things when people who are starving and don’t have homes are able to find something to smile about every single day. I just hope that I have made half as much of a difference in one of their lives as they have made in mine.

-Lindsey Hanes

“The things you take for granted someone else is praying for”

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Reading books,watching videos, and seeing pictures of the poverty found in the Dominican Republic and around the world did nothing to prepare me for this trip. Meeting the people and experiencing how they live everyday is the only way to fully understand how much change needs to be made in the world. I knew I was going to the Dominican Republic to help people by giving clothing, food, and build houses but I was not prepared for the people to give me anything in return. I wasn’t given anything physical (besides a drawing) but I was given a new outlook on life.

After being with the kids at Kilometer 6 for most of the week I became friends with some of the happiest children and the hardest working teenagers I have ever met. Miguel, pictured above, and his friends help the construction workers at Joe Hartman School (a school most of them don’t even attend) everyday in hopes of making some money. Most days they walk away empty handed but they come back everyday and work as hard as they possibly can in hopes that they will be able save enough money to leave Kilometer 6. Seeing these 13 and 14 year old boys work so hard it was easy to forget that they are children and it is heartbreaking to see their childhood being spent working to get out of the unfortunate situation they were born into.

My favorite memories of the week were the ones where I was able to witness (and join) the boys and other children playing and having fun. Whether it was during a water balloon fight, lunch break, drawing,   or when we brought them to the beach (most had never been to a beach before) their faces lit up and it was obvious they were thankful for every second of worry free fun. Seeing the pure joy on their faces during these times has taught me to be grateful for everything I have and never take for granted all the opportunities I am given just for being born where I was.

Carly Rose

Health Science Major/Psychology Minor

Quinnipiac Class of 2016

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The Boy With A Contagious Smile

They say that every penny counts when it comes to donating to a cause to make something better, but as John Powers explained to us, it is the experience makes the “good deed” so much more meaningful. Interacting and meeting the people that are less fortunate than myself has truly impacted my life. Every few relationships you make, there is always one that you will remember forever. For me, it will be my relationship with Julian, the boy with a contagious smile. From the moment we met, it was nothing but laughter and happiness…some tears were inevitable.

Julian was the first boy I met in Batey 50, but I was definitely not the first American girl he has ever met. Although Julian is nearly 2 years old and we do not speak the same language, actions spoke louder than words for the six days I was with him. His constant happiness showed me to worry less about the little things and worry more about what truly mattered, like happiness. His free spirit to run around with no clothes on showed me to not worry about what other people think about me and do what makes me happy. His smile could light up a room, like it did to every American on Batey 50 each and every day. Although we never had one conversation, our actions created the relationship. Our actions created joy and laughter and tears when it came time to say goodbye. With no words, I was able to interact with someone who has changed my outlook on life completely.

All these simple lessons I learned from my experience are priceless. Each and every relationship built whether it be at Quinnipiac, around the country, or around the world in a place like Batey 50, is priceless. We cannot learn through a textbook or documentary the happiness spread throughout poverty stricken places like Batey 50. We can only learn by experience, and with that experience we can come back to the states and share our experiences and lessons taught by people like Julian, the boy with the contagious smile.

Alexa Cucciarre

Management Major

Quinnipiac Class of 2017

QU301DR Mission Trip

My last day at Batey 50 with precious Esperanza.

My last day at Batey 50 with precious Esperanza.

 

I truly didn’t expect this week to have as much of an impact on me as it did. When i first arrived at Batey 50, I was taken back. The day before I had met children at the Joe Hartman School and had thought I already passed my culture shock. But as I walked down the bus steps, in front of me stood a group of smiling faces (most shoe-less with torn clothing), I realized my culture shock was not over. What shocked me the most about Batey 50 was the great deal of trust instilled in each and every person. Not only trust in one another, but in God who they believe will always provide. The people of Batey 50 also trusted us Americans. Right away, babies were handed off by their mothers and given to the arms of us strangers. Right away, us strangers walked around their land, went into their houses, and sat for their church service. The great deal of trust can be felt over the entire Batey, which made me feel very welcomed.

Looking back, I can honestly say this was the best week of my life. I met some pretty amazing people who I am thrilled to have shared this experience with. The impact I was able to make on the people of Batey 50 was incredible, but the impact they made on me was unforgettable. The people of Batey 50 appreciate every little thing they have, rather than being discouraged about the things they don’t. This is a lesson that has changed me. Us as Americans are given so much material items and opportunity, that when we don’t have something, we tend to dwell on that rather than appreciating everything we do have. We have a lot to be thankful for. I hope to carry that message with me back to the states and to no longer take anything for granted.

I would recommend this trip to everyone because it is truly is life-changing!

Tiffany Chuckta

Quinnipiac University Class of 2015

Nursing Major

 

First day meeting the children of the Joe Hartman School.

First day meeting the children of the Joe Hartman School.

 

This little one's name is Yoaldia.

This little one’s name is Yoaldia.

ESPERANZA “HOPE”

“La esperanza es desear que algo suceda, la fe es creer que va suceder, y la valentia es hacer que suceda”.

“Hope is wishing for something to happen, faith is believing it will happen, and courage is to make it happen.”

My trip to Dominican Republic is truly an experience that cannot be explained completely by pictures and words. It is very simple to look at pictures and feel sorry for these people, but it is a completely different feeling actually being there in person. In only a week, my perspective on life changed drastically. The people that I have met in Batey 50 and the Joe Hartman School live in the poorest conditions. Their houses are made out scrap and metal. Although, these people live in pure nothingness they are one of the happiest people I have ever met. Instead of complaining about what they don’t have they give thanks to god for what they do have.

This old man has lived in the Batey for 42 years, has been blind for 10 years, lives by himself, and has no family. This broke my heart entirely because I could never imagine living in that condition or picturing my own grandparents living like that. Although, he does not have a lot he was very happy. He told me he gives thanks to god for being alive and for god to bless my family and I.

The kids at the Batey are simply extraordinary and have the biggest hearts. I asked the kids what they want to be when they grow up and all of them had dreams of becoming lawyers, policemen, and doctors. One kid in particular said he wanted to grow up to be an American. His dream is to get out of the Batey eventually and to come to America to be able to provide more for his family. That respond specifically brought tears to my eyes because his tone of voice was extremely passionate about it

With that being said, these kids especially look out for their family when it comes to sharing. If you give a starving child food they will share it with their whole family. This really amazes me because first entering the Batey I did not expect to see that. These kids have truly expressed how grateful they are for all we have done for them, but what they don’t know is how much they have given us. Their smiles, laughter, and kindness has been the greatest gift for me and is worth more than any materialistic item.

SCARLET PEÑA
Psychology Major, Sociology Minor ’16

For weeks up until the trip I found myself getting nervous about what I would see. Everyone would always tell me how I am going to go into culture shock once I got there and how uncomfortable I would feel without all my luxuries I have at home. For the first day or two I was there, I will admit that I was having a hard time taking it all in. But after I could wrap my mind around everything, it turned into the best experience of my life.

Throughout the whole week, every day got better and better. I was able to build relationships with not only the people living in the batey but also with those that i was traveling, working and living with every day. Over the week I met some of the sweetest most selfless people I have ever met in my life. Here in the states, we are so absorbed in our physical material that we own. We are more concerned with being better than everyone else and attaining as much as we possibly can throughout our life time. This week opened my eyes to show how not everyone is like this. The people in the bateys were more concerned for the people in the communiuty than themselves. One afternoon, I gave a family a stack of 5 shirts, one for every member, the wife asked me if I had an extra shirt for her neighbor, as his shirt had holes all in it. I told her that I unfortunatly did not. Her husband looked at his wife and said that he will give his neighbor his shirt, as he needed it more. These people barly have anything, yet they are willing to give one of their only item up, to someone who needs it more. This extreme selflessness was truly shocking and beautiful.

I saw more events of sharing this week than I have in my whole life. Starving children would offer me their food before they even took a bite. Children gave me mangos when it was all they had to eat. I would give a girl stickers and she would rather share with her siblings than to keep them all to herself. Our culture needs to learn from these people. Although they have fewer assets and poor living conditions, they have friendships, companions and morals that we should all live by.

After I gave my nine year old friend darey my sneakers he began to cry

After I gave my nine year old friend darey my sneakers he began to cry

I will never forget anyone that I met on this trip, nor the things that I saw and experienced. No picture or story can give the full experience of working in a batey but I can only hope that these pictures and stories will encourage someone to make the leap of faith to take a trip down to the Dominican Republic to experience it for themselves.

First day at Joe Hartmen School. I am sponsoring the girl on the left so she can continue to go through schooling

First day at Joe Hartmen School. I am sponsoring the girl on the left so she can continue to go through schooling

“It’s better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times”

For the semester preparing for this trip, I never knew how 7 days in the DR could impact me and hold such a dear spot in my heart. I smelled the certain smells and I saw kids wearing clothes that American children would consider trash. I got to meet these beautiful people who taught me life lessons that no textbook, movie, or photo could even begin to show me. Anybody could look at these pictures and feel sorry for these people and the situations; I could go around to people and preach to them of the horrors I saw and how they made me feel, but it isn’t until they hold a malnourished baby or hand a hungry person a plate of food that they can truly feel the impact of their service on these helpless people. 

Most people could ask me how much my trip costed me and ask me why I didn’t just donate that money to them – for it could have been used to buy supplies to build the school or to pay for a month’s worth of food but in reality I along with the rest of my group needed to see it for ourselves and for what these people gave me, it was a small price to pay. 

Above, are pictures of people who I met Zuri and Yolanda. These two both impacted me because of how happy they were and how easily they let me into their life. I watched them act as children with the little that they had and show me acts of kindness that most kids their age don’t understand yet. I saw somebody give Yolanda a cookie and without question she split it in half to share with her brother and mother. As I sit home in America with all of my first world luxuries I can’t help but think of what these girls are doing right now… probably playing in the dirt and entertaining themselves. I am more than twice their age and I have so much to learn from them – They live such a simple life but are yet so hopeful and grateful for what they have. They know how to make the best of the situations and to believe that there is hope in the future. 

Overall, this trip opened my eyes to the world and the people of Batey 50 hold a special place in my heart. It was a breath of fresh air from the petty problems of the first world and reminded me that there are good people in this world and with the right mind set, we can all be positive and hopeful. If these people are happy with they have, I should be too. 

Gabrielle Yosuico