My study abroad trip to the Dominican Republic was life-changing for me. I have so many memories that I will forever cherish.
The first 4 days we translated for optometry doctors and students. We went to 5 different communities, and communicated with people of all kinds. One community in particular was very challenging because the majority of the people were Haitians and mainly spoke Creole. It was extremely difficult to communicate with them. At times, I felt very anxious because I could not help to the fullest. The most rewarding feeling was when the patients came out with glasses and a huge smile in their faces. I had never received so many hugs and blessings in my life.
All the Dominicans were very welcoming and loving. They would always offer us whatever they had even if it was their last. This was one of the many lessons I learned. We sometimes said we were kind and humble, yet we tended to look at ourselves first. We were selfish even if we didn’t admit it. The people there had very little yet they would give it all to us. IU teamed up with 7 Elements. 7 Elements taught the qualities of sustainability and human security. We talked a lot about toxic charity. That was something that I never thought about. I never thought that charity could ever be bad. But indeed it could. When we gave things to people in need money of food, money or clothes, it made us feel good because we thought we did something beneficial to them. However, all we did was create a sense of dependency. People got used to receiving free stuff so they would never push themselves for a better life. There would be no reason to work when people would come and give free stuff. Instead, 7 Elements will give them items like solar panels so they could continue to have electricity. The community would be shown how to preserve clean running water, as well as a garden where they could grow their crops and eat from it for months and even whole seasons if they took good care of it. They will have workshops where women learned how to sew their clothes. These were all basic and self-sustaining things so that the community could survive on their own.
The next couple days we did a mixture of fun things as well as hardworking days. We would do something touristy, like, go to a beach, the city, or see several different museums. The other days we would do work, like build bottled houses, paint houses, and make floors for schools. We learned how to work even on hot sunny days. Doing menial work outdoors was not easy and I now understood the hard work my people did in this country, in the fields as well as while building houses. This trip taught me so much about so many different things. It was great how we got to fully emerge in the Dominican culture. I would not trade these experiences for anything. This program has given me so many plans for the future, and so many ideas on how to make this world a better place.