It is a common misconception that one when travels to a third world country for an allotted amount of time whether it be a day, week, month, year, they are making a difference in said country. Where they are wrong is the people who live there are not asking for change, or anything for that matter, but it is when one shows appreciation of another’s culture and way of life that help, not change, is implemented.
This summer I took a trip to Sabaneta, Dominican Republic, where my best friends and I ran a day camp with the assistance of our trips head counselor and planner, Nicole Fleischner. A summer program funded, and planned by associates and program officials of The Dream Project, a non-profit organization, that provides education programs for dominicans ages ranging from as young as two years old, to adults as well.
“Nearly half of all students in the Dominican Republic do not move past the eighth grade. The young stars program complements and strengthens the education received in public schools, providing extra hours and individualized attention to students in reading, math and other subjects.” (The Dream Project, Dominicandream.org)
While the Dream Project has many programs running year round the one that I had the honor of taking part in their summer camp program. This camp takes place at the local school in Sabaneta which is attended by most of the campers throughout the year. Research shows that low-income students lose more than 2 months of reading gains over the summer. The camp covers ESL, arts and crafts, sports, and reading; all presented in a fun way.
I went into the camp with high hopes to interact and talk to the children whom attended, but it wasn’t till I arrived the first day that I learned that they spoke little to no English, and my Spanish is what you would call, elementary. But before I had a second to become even the slightest disappointed they were already taking me places and showing me things in their town that they were proud to say was theirs. Their endless optimism, their smiles, and the way they were eager to learn made me incredibly grateful and made me realize some of the things I take for granted.
What the trip has taught me is you do not need to speak to make a connection between two people, you just need the willingness to try and understand.
If you would like to donate to the Dream Project organization click the link below: