By Lesly Luna
Photo courtesy of Chris Erickson
During the week of spring break, a group of ten Salem women attended a service trip to the Dominican Republic on behalf of the Rotaract Club. The majority of the work done took place in a small village by the name of Cielo located not too far from the capital of Santo Domingo. Throughout the trip, students collaborated with Winston Salem-based Mission Emanuel, who established a community center that provides a medical facility with a physical therapy clinic, water filtration plant, playgrounds, women’s ministry, sponsorships for school children and as of recent, a wheelchair factory and dental clinic.
In this experience of a lifetime, a recurring reminder was the importance of serving and actively living in the moment. The group’s leaders Katie Hilderbrand and Ashley Snow spent a week volunteering in Cielo back in 2014 and their visit was spent both reconnecting with the community as well as “witnessing our fellow sisters blossom throughout the week.”
As a collective, along with other American groups who also spent the week with the Mission, the group total surpassed a hundred. During the trip, I personally appreciated how the residents of Cielo welcomed every unfamiliar person with open arms. If a group of a hundred foreigners visited the US, I’m not sure if we would be as welcoming. Senior Monique Ahmad appreciated that irreplicable hospitality that “led to us building relationships that will last a lifetime.”
Every person who attended the trip had a unique and unforgettable experience. For some of the attendees, it was their first experience outside of the country. Some of the activities included singing the alma mater to patients in one of the last leprosariums in the world, the painting of a ramp in the health center, and laying concrete on a neighboring couple’s new home which was dedicated later in the week.
On the visit, first-year Gabby Hatch remarked that “our stay was just a small cameo appearance into the lives of those who tread on without us.” As a group, just as we committed to not be stagnant visitors, we also committed to remembering all of the interactions and experiences we had and bring them with us back home. The Rotaract Club looks forward to the planning of the next service trip March 2018.