Dominican Republic Reflections

By Jiayi Li ’20
 
We hope you had a fun and fruitful spring break! We definitely did.
 
From March 15–24, our international outreach team of 20 grades 11 and 12 students immersed ourselves in the Dominican Republic community of Monte Cristi. Through teaching, learning about the culture, and connecting with each other and the local people, we learned so much in a short period of time.
 
There was much preparation and anticipation for the journey. When we first stepped into the Outreach360 classroom, we were greeted with energy and love from the kids. They were so happy to see us and so eager to learn. Although a lot of them did not understand much English, they worked diligently in the classroom. They never ceased to smile, and their happiness was contagious. After completing a simple task, such as spelling a word, they would ask for a “high five.” We will never look at “high fives” the same way again—they need to be given more often! When we left on the last day, it was bittersweet. The kids knew we were leaving and gave all of us countless hugs; even a few tears were shed. Although sad, it is through hugs and tears that we know they appreciated our efforts. The love goes both ways, and was reciprocated.
 
When we walked through the streets, the local people unashamedly stared at us, yet we enjoyed observing them even more. They seemed exceptionally happy, and many of the locals would smile at us as we walked by. Although we were foreigners, we felt so welcome. Because we wore the Outreach360 shirts, they invited us into their community. This goes to show the impact the organization has had in Monte Cristi.
 
Outreach360 has 10 principles that their volunteers implement into their teaching. These include: Acknowledge yourself; It’s Not About You; Communicate Love; Poco Poco (little by little); and Jump Right In. Throughout the week, we learned the value of these principles and how they can be applied to many areas of life. One principle that especially resonated was “Communicate Love.” There was a language barrier that often made communication difficult between the children and us. It is important to remember that there is one language we all share: love. Through a smile and an encouraging tone, we were able to communicate our intentions to the children, and we would always receive a smile in return.
 
When asked about their favourite part of the trip, Melissa Li ’20 loved “seeing her students happy and change over the week.” Sam Bruce ’20 enjoyed “seeing how happy the kids were regardless of how little they had. Plus, the hot sauce!”
 
This trip will always have a special place in our hearts, and many of us want to go back one day.
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