S-Trip! Destination: Dominican Adventure, Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
This past June and July, we had the pleasure of visiting Nueva York Chiquito, a small town just outside of Rio San Juan, that is home to approximately 3,000 people. For the past 15 years, Francisca has been living here, running her empanada business and raising her children and grandchildren in the community. Unfortunately, Francisca’s house floods every time it rains as it was constructed very low to the ground which makes living conditions quite difficult. In March, S-Trip! travelers contributed by working on the foundation of her new home. The community of Nueva York Chiquito is so united that neighbours and friends were all pitching in to help Francisca finish her new home after the students left; but while the community gave her a hand, it was not enough to even nearly complete her home.
Thankfully, with help from our partners at CLOUD Projects, Juan, the pastor and community leader, was able to select Francisca as this summer's recipient of a new home. Close to 400 S-Trip! students from across Canada decided to volunteer on one day of their grad trip to help Francisca and her family. Students loved the opportunity to build the house, which included filling the foundation with dirt, mixing cement, filling cement beams, and plastering the walls. Students also took a tour of the community while cleaning up the streets by collecting garbage, and they also got to play sports and make crafts with some of the local children who were on summer holidays, which was the favourite part of the day for many students.
It was wonderful to see S-Trip! students take a break from the resort life and come to get to know a whole new community. Hearing whispers as they worked of “I am so glad we got up this morning to come here” or “this is my favourite part of the trip” really put a smile on my face. I became a proud friend to every single volunteer who supported Francisca and the community of Nueva York Chiquito. Each one of them stepped outside of their comfort zone by picking up heavy buckets of cement, making bead bracelets with the kids, attempting a few words at Spanish or even simply taking their first trip off of the resort.
As Taylor Meadows, 17, from Dover Bay Secondary said, “It was the most amazing experience I could ever have asked for. If you want to be part of the real culture and community, this is the best way to do it. The volunteer experience was definitely a high point of my trip”.
By the end of the program, the house was finished and Francisca was able to get her fresh start in her new house. The volunteer program is not only a great way to give back to the communities that we are visiting but also to give students a new dialogue and understanding of the world. Learn more about this program at thenwc.com.
Written by Hana Arneil and Sara Nicastro, the on-site Volunteer Coordinators for Puerto Plata (Bahia).