During our visit in the Dominican Republic we worked with the Foundation Mahatma Ghandi. Mahatama Ghandi is a community volunteer Organization. The organization is called Mahatma Gandhi because they follow Mahatma Gandhi’s principles of self empowerment, leadership, justice, equality and peace. We spent three days in a community around Las Terranas painting houses, building playgrounds and integrating with the locals.
On our first day we spent hours fighting bedbugs, making sure that our sea chests were empty and all our clothes labelled before being mixed up with other people’s clothes in the laundry. When we finally got off the boat it was raining, and I was really tired. I felt like just going to bed, but I made the effort to move my feet towards the big bus waiting for us just outside the port. I fell asleep on the bus and suddenly the bus came to a halt: we had arrived! We got dropped off at a restaurant where food was all prepared for us.
Students rushed to grab plates. We could not take our eyes off all the food in the big buffet. After eating a lovely meal, Jose the founder of Mahatma Gandhi gave us a speech about the work we would be doing the next couple of days in the different communities. After his speech we set off on a hike to a waterfall, which is the second most visited tourist destination in Dominican Republic. After some time, we could hear the water spray. When we saw the waterfall we were astonished by how big and beautiful it was.
Some students went for a swim in the cool pool of emerald green water at the bottom of the waterfall. When we were done taking pictures and swimming, we hiked to a view point where we had a picture perfect view of the waterfall with green lush mountain tops all around and the sun setting in the horizon. The view was beautiful!
We now had to hike down and it was getting dark! On the way, we met many obstacles such as muddy paths and rivers that we had to cross blind as bats, something was bound to happen. Some boys took the initiative to carry people across the river. I got a piggy back ride across the river and as I thought it was all good, we were told to wait because Emma had fallen on the way and had sprained her ankle. Cody ran to get help and somehow he managed to find a horse. We were all waiting in the dark, hungry and concerned, when suddenly Emma appeared behind us riding the horse. We all cheered when she came riding into the crowd!
After all that excitement we went to have pizza at the beach in Las Terrenas. We were all hungry so we were happy to have a whole pizza of our choice. I had the vegetarian pizza and it was really good. After pizza, we met our hosts for our home stays and then we headed out in small groups to the different villages. My group went to the village Barbacoa, and we were about 7 girls and Ms. Siobhan.
The next day in the morning we had breakfast at a local little place called Picapollo Comedor. We had bananas, papaya, toast with ham and cheese, and juice. After breakfast, we set off to paint peoples’ houses. When painting, the locals helped out as well so we got the job done very fast. When we were done painting we had lunch at Picapollo Comedor and then Maria Victoria (the person who was in charge of us) took us to the beach. The beach was beautiful, with crystal clear water shimmering in the sun and a long coastline with fine sand. It was nice to swim, especially after sweating so much that it felt like I had just taken a bucket shower! After swimming, Maria Victoria gave us snacks to eat and the founder/president of the organization drove us back.
When we got back, we changed out of our soaking wet swim suits and then we went for dinner. After dinner, Siobhan invited us for ice cream at a little local place. The lady at the shop gave us several big scoops of her pink strawberry ice cream in large cups. While eating our big cups of pink ice cream we went to the basketball court where we played basketball with some boys from the village. We were not very good compared to them but we still gave it our best shot, and it was so much of fun! I could not stop laughing! People were watching us and cheered every time one of us scored or when one of the boys did a really good move. It is definitely one of the most memorable experiences from our stay in the community. I enjoyed just hanging out with the local kids which were around our age.
On the last day, we had breakfast at Picapollo Comedor, the little local place where we had been eating every day, and then we went to the basketball court to help build a play ground. We painted together with the local kids. When we were done painting we had different colours of paint all over us. We helped each other to get clean with paint thinner but some of it we just couldn’t get rid of. When we were done with the playground, we went to our rooms to relax before going back to the playground for a dinner-party to celebrate the work that had been done.
A lot of people from Class Afloat joined us and all the kids we had worked with came as well. We had some traditional food; we ate rice, soup, potato and fish. For drinks we had coconuts which we opened after drinking them to eat the meat as a desert; it was all super tasty. After eating we danced some bachata and it was a lot of fun. I tried to move my hips like you are supposed to, but I was nowhere close to being as good as the locals. I felt like a robot.
I spent the rest of the night talking to the kids using sign language that I made up and saying some Spanish words in between simple English sentences. I used a lot of sí, no and no lo sé. I wish I knew a bit more Spanish.
I think it is cool that the kids built their own playground and it is impressive how the whole community came together. All the kids came as well to make this project happen. However, a lot of the time I found myself looking at people doing work while eating a lollipop. I wanted to be helpful but they did the jobs so much better and in the end it is their playground, not mine. However, I did get a lot out of spending time in a community and getting to know the people there, and I really enjoyed playing basketball with the boys and dancing bachata with my friends and the little kids.
The next morning we said goodbye to all the kind welcoming people that we had met during our stay in the village and then we headed off to town where we meet the others. Together we had a big traditional lunch and then we had some shore leave where some went to the beach whilst others went to go get ice cream. I had really good hazelnut and cherry ice cream. It was nice to end the trip with a good cold ice cream next to the beach.