I am excited to say I have found a great use for my newly established blog. On January 3rd I will be travelling to the Dominican Republic to volunteer for three weeks. I will be working with Cambiando Vidas (Changing Lives) a U.S. based non-profit organization, “dedicated to the idea that every person should have access to the basics of life – food, clothing, shelter, education, and the chance to exercise his or her skills and ambitions”.
I first learned of this organization through my roommate Lauren Tilly, who spent last summer as an intern for Cambiando Vidas in the Dominican Republic. She spoke so highly of her experience there that I decided to look into the opportunity to continue her hard work from the summer. After e-mailing with Jose Abreu, head of Cambiando Vidas in the Dominican, and Rebecca Tate, the U.S. liaison for volunteer teams, I decided it would not only be a feasible, but rewarding and challenging experience that would certainly help round out my last year in college.
For three weeks I will be living with a host family (the same one Lauren stayed with during the summer) and working with the Cambiando Vidas team to set up their new pre-school in Las Charcas, a small town outside of San Juan. The town has never had a pre-school but will hopefully be able to enroll students in the new school at the end of January. Coming from a background of excellent pre-school, elementary, high school and now college education it is hard for me to believe that people would not even have the opportunity to start learning at the time of their peak development. I am excited to help set up the school with furniture and supplies, and hopefully help register and meet some of the children who will attend the school, all the while attempting (and I stress the word ‘attempt’) using my 7 years of Spanish language classes to communicate and converse with new friends.
In addition to preparing the school, I will have the opportunity to help with a house build in Las Charcas. Cambiando Vidas tries to host a house build once a month for a family in need. The most important thing I have found that the organization does is that they are not a charity, they simply own the house until the homeowner can pay off their mortgage. This encourages not only a better quality of life for the family, but also the responsibility and work ethic that comes with home ownership. For the January build, a group of students from Connecticut College will be coming down for the week to help and I will get to join them in seeing the project from start to finish.
Overall I am full of both excitement and nervousness for my trip that is only two short weeks away! I am sure to meet many challenges but I hope that they will be challenges that will teach me new lessons and give me a more worldly view to take with me as a I graduate in May.
I hope to post a few more entries before I leave and then provide at least weekly updates while I am in the Dominican Republic. I will have access to e-mail while I am there and would love to hear from you (firstname.lastname@example.org). I have also provided the link to the Cambiando Vidas web site below if you would like more information.
Overall I hope that this can give you all a little glimpse of my experience and maybe encourage you all to help ‘cambiando vidas’, or change lives, everyday in your own way.
Hasta luego (until later),