Tag Archives: Volunteer abroad

Interning in the Dominican Republic: PART 2

Sophia interned at Good Neighbors Dominican Republic this summer, and wrote about her experiences in a two-part blog. Read below for her second entry!

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Hello! Living in the DR has reminded me of how fortunate I am to live in the USA and have constant access to potable water. Here in the DR, tap water is not safe to drink, so people purchase water from jugs that are brought to the house via motorcycle. This service is expensive for those living in extreme poverty and it causes people to struggle to provide their families with safe drinking water (the price for one 5 gallon jug is over $1.50). Good Neighbors Dominican Republic has provided the people living in the urban slum of Los Guandules, Santo Domingo with a water filtration system so that they can refill water bottles at the affordable price of only $1.50 per month instead of per jug ( it’s called “Project Good Water”).

This is the “Project Good Water” reserve osmosis system.

This is the “Project Good Water” reserve osmosis system.

The Community Development Project (CDP) in Los Guandules has a dedicated doctor working for them.  Dr. Rossy Molina Cuevas provides free medical checkups and care for the parents and children enrolled in the program. Dr. Rossy always has a long line of people waiting to see her and she does an incredible job providing the community with quality care despite the limited amount of resources she has at her disposal.

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Los Guandules is located by the Ozama River, but unfortunately the river is considered to be the most polluted river in the Dominican Republic due to decades of industrial runoff.

I also had the opportunity to work at the summer camp in Los Guandules as a yoga instructor. Over 250 children attended the camp and it was truly an amazing experience (hundreds more children will be back for the second half of the camp). The children are truly talented, sweet, and enjoyed the yoga class. I got more hugs than I thought were possible and the outpouring of love was heartwarming. I’ll never forget their smiles and gratitude.

Yoga time!

Namaste! Yoga time!

The staff and summer camp volunteers are a group of dedicated individuals and I was lucky to get the opportunity to work with them.  The final day of the camp a couple of us got dressed as clowns and the kids went nuts!

That's me in the front and center clowning around!

That’s me in the front row clowning around!

I never thought I’d ever be a clown, but that’s the amazing thing about volunteering abroad – you never know where it will take you or who you will become!

Thank you SO much for spending part of your summer with Good Neighbors Dominican Republic, Sophia! We know they loved having you as much as you loved being there! Are YOU interested in volunteering? Visit our website for more info! 

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Interning in the Dominican Republic: PART 1

Sophia interned at Good Neighbors Dominican Republic this summer, and wrote about her experiences in a two-part blog. Read below for her first entry! 

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Hello! My name is Sophia Jones and I am studying international public health in the University of Arizona’s Masters in Development Practice (MDP) program.  As part of my programs requirements, each student is given the opportunity to select an NGO to work with over the summer in order to experience working in development. When I first read about Good Neighbors online and saw how their development programs are oriented towards youth, I immediately knew it would be a good fit, because I have always been passionate about helping children.

Good Neighbors International (GNI) first came to the Caribbean island of La Hispaniola after the earthquake in Port-au-Prince in 2010, when millions of people became displaced and were in desperate need of emergency relief. The complete destruction of Haiti’s infrastructure made it impossible to reach the survivors without first crossing through the Dominican Republic (DR). After spending time in the DR, GNI saw that beyond the fancy 5-star resorts and white sand beaches, many children and their families lived in extreme poverty (about 20% of the population). The GNI crew decided that these people could use their assistance and began their mission to open GNDom.

The head office of GNDom is located in the capital of Santo Domingo, a bustling tropical city, and where I live.  I have been assigned to work as an assistant to the Sexual and Reproductive Health Program Coordinator, who is in charge of opening a clinic. This job has been keeping me busy, as there are a lot of logistics that must be accounted for before the grand opening in September. In addition to these duties I have been assisting other departments and getting to know GNDom by visiting the areas they work in.

Currently, the office has been busy collecting almost 4,000 annual letters that children use to thank and update their sponsors. Some of the children live in remote locations so far away that the staff must ride on horseback to find their homes nestled deep in forested mountains. All of the sponsored boys and girls live in areas where GNDom has performed impact assessments. These studies are carried out in order to determine areas where their work can benefit the most children and these are called Community Development Projects (CDP). GNDom has opened a CDP each year and because of this rapid expansion their network has allowed them to provide support to people living across the country. During my short time here I have visited all but one of the CDPs and was very impressed by the various projects and activities GNDom has been able to implement.

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The sponsored children in Los Guandules (an urban slum outside of Santo Domingo) writing to their sponsors.

Despite the rapid economic growth experienced in tourist areas, over half of the DR does not have access to improved sanitation. The arrival of cholera makes this troubling, considering that the bacteria can never truly be eradicated (it is a natural part of aquatic environments). The CDP in Las Javillas (Hato Major) is attempting to prevent cholera and other water-borne illnesses by installing latrines throughout the community.

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This little boy proudly stands in front of his family’s new latrine

One of the sponsored girls in Chinguelo, a community of rural organic coffee farmers showed me the pigs her family received through the GNDom micro-credit program. This has diversified her parent’s income and will allow them to provide her and her two sisters with a better life. Thanks to GNDom, she has received electricity for the first time and with prescription reading glasses.

My first month here has been filled with new adventures! I look forward to visiting the rest of the CDPs and creating fun projects for the hundreds of children that will participate in GNDoms annual summer camp that will begin soon. Stay tuned for my next blog!

 

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The Paraguay Chronicles: A Reflection

In the last entry of our series, The Paraguay Chronicles,  Aaron reflects on his time volunteering in Paraguay. Huge thanks to the entire Azusa Pacific University volunteer group for using their summer to #DoGoodToday! 

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Written by Aaron Jocson

One thing to take away from practicing and participating in waste management is the act of discipline. Taking care of the environment, of the neighborhood around you, takes time and effort.

Before the trip, I had always recycled and disposed of trash properly, but I never really “cared” about why I was doing it. I never wondered what it would fully look like if I didn’t have complete concern for my own environment. And that’s important, because when someone cares for their own environment it shows they care about the people around them, their own health and the health of others.

This experience taught me of the privilege that I live with; that I have everything I need at the tip of my fingertips and everything around me is taken care of accordingly. I also have the means and the resources that allow me to live in a healthy environment, one that is clean and can be easily cleaned. So now being back home, I need to be more conscious about why we do the things we do, because it takes a certain mindset to believe and act on an issue, rather than just standing idly by and conforming.

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John and Kendyl bonding with some of the kids at Fe y Alegria.

I went into this volunteer trip completely ‘blind’ since I didn’t do much research before the trip. However, I learned so much from the projects and people we worked with. Though it was just a short few weeks of working, I tried to make the most of my time there, and the experience was a joyful and worthwhile one.  The relationships I formed, the people I met, and the kids whose joy are forever imprinted on me are what made this trip for me. Yes, we did such small tasks, but I think even anything, no matter the size, is better than nothing at all.

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Kendyl and Lise having fun on our last day.

So, if someone has the heart and guts  to want to go do something, even if it may seem so small, I say go for it. Volunteer abroad and have a clear mind of where you’re coming from and where you’re headed. Realize and accept differences of culture, assimilate into the culture to the best of your ability without allowing your own to hinder you.

I left my own country for such a short time to experience something totally different. Now I am glad to say that the experience was very much worth it.

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The Paraguay Chronicles: Painting, Cleaning and Teaching Kids

Our second to last entry of the The Paraguay Chronicles is here! Read below to learn what Sabrina has to say about painting and cleaning with the local school children. 

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From left to right: Anna-Kate, Emily, Kendyl, and Sabrina

Written by Sabrina Odlum

We just spent the last two weeks working at the local school in Aregua, helping to beautify the school and help promote the importance of proper waste management. Good Neighbors provided large waste bins marked with what products should be placed in each one. Each bin was a different color with a matching label and picture, making it easy for kids of all ages to find the right bin for their garbage.

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Our team educated the teachers, students and parents in a meeting that explained the importance of using the new trash and recycling bins correctly. We got the kids involved in the project by talking with them as we worked at their school and letting them help out with our projects. They got very excited about learning how to take care of their school and community! We picked up trash around the school, built a compost pile, painted their existing play equipment, built a table for games out of recycled materials, painted the 6th grade classroom, painted classroom doors and windows, and painted a mural. All of our work sparked the students’ interest and they always wanted to know what we were doing and if they could help. I hope that after we leave, they will continue to take care of their space.

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Emily and a local student painting tires.

My favorite part of the project came at the end of the week when we painted a mural. It is a painting of a sunny day with a bright blue sky. Colorful flowers are growing, birds are flying and a large tree is growing and bearing ripe fruit. Across the sky the words “Cherish the Earth” are written in Spanish. The mural is on a wall at the very front of the school and it’s the first thing people see as they walk up. I hope it will be a reminder to the students, parents and teachers that the earth needs to be protected and shown respect everyday in all of our actions.

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The APU group in front of our mural!

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#GuatSquad & Ladrillos: My Week in Guatemala

Last month, we sent a group of high school volunteers to Guatemala to support Project Cookstoves,  an initiative that builds new, energy-efficient cookstoves for families and allows us to promote education, health, and environmental protection! Read below for Joy’s account on this amazing, eye-opening trip. 

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By Joy Gursky

A couple weeks ago, I found myself in Guatemala City with a group of twelve other volunteers from different high schools scattered throughout the United States. Waiting for our ride to the hotel from the airport, all of us were exhausted and hoping we had made the right decision in deciding to travel to a foreign country with a group of people we had never met before. We were strangers with one common goal: we wanted to improve the lives of the less fortunate, and we were going to accomplish this by building energy-efficient cookstoves for families in rural Guatemalan villages with Good Neighbors. So, after resting in the hotel, we were off to our first volunteer site. The drive to Patzicía was long (a few hours!), and we were all excited, nervous, and unsure of what to expect.

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Building stoves is, as one might imagine, very difficult work, and there are many preliminary steps. First, all the bricks (or “ladrillos” as they’re called in Spanish) need to be soaked in water for at least a minute to ensure that they don’t just break apart when you lay them down. Dirt, water, and cement need to be mixed separately to put in between the bricks and ensure everything sticks together and the smoke and flames won’t escape. The terrain where the stove will reside needs to be evened out; in some cases the stoves were built in the kitchen, but in others they were built outside under some sort of pavilion.

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Once all these steps have been taken, it is finally time to start laying down the bricks: cinder blocks at the bottom, and the traditional red bricks at the top. After laying them down, the chimney (a cylindrical, hollow, and very, very heavy block made out of cement) needs to be installed. Thankfully, since our team was so large, we were each able to work on the different steps simultaneously to make sure that everything was completed on time.

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Constructing the stoves wasn’t the most fun part of the trip, though. The best part was getting to know the native Guatemalans and the rest of the high school group (we eventually very cleverly named ourselves the “#GuatSquad). The families in the homes we visited didn’t speak any English, but on that first day, all of us so desperately wanted to interact with them that we were willing to walk right up to them and introduce ourselves in the bits and pieces of Spanish that we had learned  forgotten in school years before… even if our American accents were awful. Nevertheless, we tried our best, and by the end of each day we had learned the names of the family, their ages, and where they had been born – all while working together to build the cookstoves. And by the end of the trip, we were having basic conversations with local families and children.

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One thing that I’ve taken away from our journey is that at home, we really have it easy. In the U.S, we’re fortunate to have microwaves and ovens that heat up our food, pipes that deliver hot water straight into our sinks and bathtubs, and heaters installed into our homes to keep us warm in the winter. For many people in the U.S, it’s difficult to even comprehend not having any of that, since it’s literally in every home; but for people in developing countries it’s a reality. Many Guatemalans who don’t live in the city rely on fire for everything from heating their bath water to cooking their food. This dependency doesn’t come without consequences. Smoke inhaled by families who use fire as a means to survive regularly leads to several health risks including emphysema, cardiovascular disease, and lung cancer–and claims 4 million lives each year, according to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

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If you’re considering volunteering abroad but are having qualms about doing so, my advice to you would be to just do it. Volunteering in a foreign country is a life-changing experience, and your perspective on just about everything will be altered forever. Take some time to read up on the country and culture you’re visiting before you leave. Bring your own hygienic products because you never know when you’ll need them. And most importantly, have fun!       

Thanks for joining our summer volunteer  trip to Guatemala, Joy! Learn more about our Project Cookstoves here, and how to volunteer with us here

 

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