Here’s an update on our team’s day in the Dominican Republic… As a recap, our Baylor medical team is split into four smaller groups, and each group has traveled to a different location each day this week.
Today, my team of four (Brandon, Hayley, Merari, and myself) went to the Community Transformation Center (CTC) outside of the town of Azua, where One More Child is working on a long term project of building 100 houses for the community. In addition, One More Child has built a multi-purpose community center where people can learn life skills or gain knowledge about subjects like nutrition and wellness. This community center also doubles as a church on Sunday. There is also a health clinic for the community, where I will spend the day tomorrow.
Our group worked on painting one of the homes in the community today. We played music, sang, and bonded over common experiences. I felt that the whole experience was therapeutic. We were just putting down the primer, but eventually the house will get a coat of colored paint as well. Each house is very luxurious compared to the typical dirt floor, one roomed home in rural Azua. I was impressed looking into a mostly finished house and seeing three rooms with doors, a cupboard, a light, a sink, a shower and a toilet. Sometimes when mission trips come and work on homes, they are not constructed that well and will only last short term, but these homes are built to last and are even hurricane resistant. The love and hard work already poured into Azua are evident and I wish we could stay longer to continue the work.
After working on the house, we went to the community center to play with the kids and give a lesson on nutrition. The night before, we met in our group to discuss our project and decided to play “Simon Says”, do a skit, and color paper plates with examples of healthy food.
In the morning, we had 40 children, and in the afternoon we had around 20-30 more. They loved the craft and all of the songs and games Merari had planned. They also love Americanos. The minute we stepped into the room, we were surrounded. There were no boundaries. Kids were climbing on us and playing with our hair, but what I noticed most was the contact all of these children craved. If they could hold our hand or lay on top of us– they would!
Cesar explained that many of these children grew up too soon. They would be parents to their siblings at age 6 and have their own children as early as 13. I felt like a mother for a day. I realized that more important than our lesson on nutrition was having open arms for everyone who came to listen. In return, the children were eager to help us learn and didn’t seem to mind that our Spanish wasn’t that great. They would help me find the word that I was looking for and were incredibly patient with the language barrier.
At the end of the day, I ended up with a stack of colored paper plates from our craft. I was surprised because I expected most of them would keep the plates, but instead they wanted to give them back as a gift. One girl, Nicole, who stayed with me the whole afternoon, wrote my name on the plate and her name underneath before handing it to me and leaving with the rest of the group. I don’t know if I’ll see her again, but I’ll definitely keep that plate.
Today was certainly a change of pace from the past couple of days I have spent in the hospitals. I found that I really enjoyed today because I got to paint houses and play with my group and just have fun. The environment was very carefree. I loved my experience at the hospital, but I am incredibly grateful for my time working with the community today. It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is our last day here, but that is all the more reason to make the most of it. Be sure to look for another update soon!