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Saturday, December 18, 2010

UNION Volunteers: Recollections from the Dominican Republic

The memories of past HOPE International Development Agency volunteers do the best job of conveying the experience of volunteering. From time to time over the coming months, we’ll share a few of these experiences.

Below, Dominican Republic 2009’s Keith Esch recounts two of his favourite experiences in Ocoa, the mountainous district where our volunteers have worked alongside poor farming families for over 25 years.

“Everyday, after a long, hard, hot, days work, we’d file back to the two-room school house in which we lived. One by one we’d shower the dirt, cement or paint off our bodies and proceed to devour that night’s dinner. Hard work in that hot heat will put a fierce hunger in you, so when I used the verb devour in the last sentence, I meant it. Seriously, I almost used the verb inhale instead.

At that point in the evening, it would be about 7:00 pm. Our stomachs were satisfied and our minds were satisfied in knowing we did something meaningful and helpful that day. Like clockwork every night, the kids from the neighboring area would come over to the school. We had tennis balls, a soccer ball, a basketball, a guitar, construction paper and markers and we’d all play until dusk. Arroyo Blanco normally only got a couple hours of electricity in a normal day, so when the light bulbs suddenly came on each night, there was always a little excitement in the air. We’d listen to Bachata music, and relaxed by reading or journaling. We’d turn in early each night, content to wake up and do it again the next day. Time went slower there."

Keith shares more of his experience...

"I love riding in the flatbeds of trucks. I absolutely love it. Even in North America, if there is a truck and a low risk of passing a police officer, you don't even need to ask where I'm going to sit. So you can imagine the sheer joy I felt upon arriving in the Dominican Republic, a country where riding in the back of trucks is an openly accepted part of life. A few of us were fortunate enough to ride in the back of the truck on the very first day. Over many hours, we drove from the airport, through the capital of Santo Domingo, into the breathtakingly beautiful interior. The panoramic view’s intensity was magnified by the wind and the sun and I remember feeling pure joy as we raced down the paved -then unpaved- roads. We road in the flatbeds of trucks numerous times throughout our six week stint, but the magical feeling of watching some of the world’s most gorgeous landscapes rush past never got old. It felt like we were flying, only if flying could be done from the comfort of a flatbed of a truck.”

If volunteering overseas is something you or someone you know have ever considered doing, check out the options for 2011.

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