Over spring break, I went on a service trip to the Dominican Republic with Global Brigades that changed my life forever. When we arrived in the Dominican Republic, I was immediately astounded with how gross everything was. There were dogs everywhere scratching themselves, and everyone was wearing dirty clothes. It was so sad. Our hotel was also in really bad condition. The wifi only worked some of the time and we had to bring our own shampoo and conditioner. I also had to take my phone and iPad with me everywhere because I knew that the cleaning crew would try to steal it. It really put my life in perspective. In just a couple days, I feel like I completely understood what poor people deal with every day.
My favorite part of the trip was when we visited an elementary school. I got to take pictures holding all the kids, which was so cute. Even though some of the kids were crying in the picture, I got my most likes I’ve ever had on an Instagram pic which was such an exciting achievement. I’m so glad that my followers finally know how much I care about poor people!
My group was in charge of giving the school water bottles and pens. It was so rewarding to do such sustainable work. We got to teach the kids how to write their names with the pens. Some of them were so dumb that they didn’t know how, so I had to do it for them. I felt so valuable; I knew that, without me, all of these people would have been unhappy and powerless, and I never realized how good it felt to make a big difference. In that moment with the kids, it was like I was poor too. I think sometimes we get too caught up in our current stresses to care about other people and start to understand them. Since I got to experience poverty, I am so much stronger and better.
On the last night of the trip we had a discussion about the poverty we’d seen and our plans for the future to keep integrating a spirit of service in our lives. My friend, Jake, really summed up the message of the trip and my attitude towards service going forward: “Sometimes, white people are the only solution. Don’t run from it.” I hope I get to go back next year!