Eight Rotaract members took six days from their spring break to travel to the Dominican Republic where they offered their services to volunteer in the community of Cielo, Santo Domingo. Rotaract worked in tandem with a local organization, Mission Emanuel and the Winston-Salem Rotary Club in sending club members to the country for the second time. Lindsay Tharpe, a staff member from Mission Emanuel and Salem alum accompanied the students during their trip.
During the first two days, they helped with a workshop in which they educated young mothers on topics such as breastfeeding. They also donated health supplies including diapers, creams, and syringes.
“We rotated. Some of us would help with the mothers and others of us would watch their kids so the mothers could pay attention,” said sophomore Shannon Salzman, co-chair for the trip.
The co-chairs planned for the group to help Mission Emanuel with the workshops and a construction project. However, as they finished early with those plans during the final days of their trip, the group assisted in refurbishing a house. They repainted walls, worked on plumbing, and exchanged the mattresses.
They visited one of the only schools in the area built by Mission Emanuel, where they spoke with schoolchildren – approximately ages six to thirteen – who were part of a sponsorship program that involved Americans sponsoring Dominican children.
“… the younger kids would sing songs to us and the older kids stood up and said why they appreciated being sponsored,” said Ashley Snow. “They said, ‘Thank you for sponsoring us so we could be able to go to school and have uniforms.’” Snow mentioned that it was one of the most emotional moments of the trip.
During the week, the members visited a leprosarium where they met a bed bound woman. “She was moving because she was in so much pain,” Krystal Gidtrey said. “We sang to her, and she stopped yelling and started smiling,” Snow recalled.
Not only did the members make a difference in Cielo, Santo Domingo, but also they bonded as a group. “Before we got there, we hardly talked to each other. As the days progressed, we began to grow like a group. I felt like we were part of something bigger than ourselves,” Gidtrey said.
“Every day we would talk and pray together and we got closer. When we went to the school, we appreciated what we had, and that made us closer,” said Snow.
The experiences from the trip resonated with the students, and they have taken the lessons they learned back to Salem. “I learned to be more appreciative and trusting…it changed my life…” says Snow.
Mission Emanuel encourages more volunteers to help out in the communities and on mission trips. Rotaract takes a trip to the Dominican Republic every two years and invites interested members to participate.
By Kristen Maikoo