Monday, April 13, 2015

Seize the Day!

As I sit here on the guagua on the way to Puerto Plata with the adrenaline rush from running to catch one guagua to the next slowly wearing away, I feel like I can finally sit back and enjoy the week off. It is currently Semana Santa, or Holy Week, which is the week leading up to Easter in Christianity. As volunteers and teachers at the Hogar de Niño, we also have that week off from school. So of course with all of the free time we have, it is the perfect time to explore this beautiful country! We have decided to head to north to visit the cities of Puerto Plata and Cabarete, as well as explore the island of Samaná. With the closest of those paces being four hours from La Romana, the guagua ride as you can imagine, gave me plenty of time think about what a busy month we have had and to really soak it all in. We had Kris, Father Jim and the HOPE group come volunteer at the school during their Spring break, our loved ones from the states visiting, and have started planning aTalent show at the Hogar. All of those things along with the normal hustle and bustle of our schedules have made the past few weeks jam-packed with laughs, moments of frustration and success, as well as memories that will last a lifetime. 

Workng with the students on the HOPE group this year was an unforgettable experience. From the day the arrived at the school, until their very last day at the Hogar, their hardwork and dedication to their mural, in the classroom, and in their relationships with the kids has made me proud to say that they are from my alma mater, Stonehill College. As a teacher that has been at the school since August working with the kids and knowing the ins-and-outs of the Hogar, watching Thomas, Yun, Zach, Marissa, Jamie, Brianna, Meagan, Julie, Ravi, Tom, Kris, and Father Jim interact with the kids and take all of the challenges head on was truly admirable. I can admit than there were plenty of times I could have stepped in when a deaf student wanted to know someone's age or one of my students wanted to know where someone was from, and the communication was just not working. I know that I could have easily stepped in and told them what he student was saying and coud have competely prevented miscommunication and frustration beween the two. But instead, I wanted to see if it was all possible. If one of the volunteers and a student could communicate and understand eachother even though they were from different backgrounds and using different languages. As an outsider looking into the conversations, it was both amazing and entertaining to see the interaction between the two and how the language barrier seemed to be unimportant. They were both able to get the general points across with hand gestures and facial expressions just fine, proving that it indeed was possible!

The students at the Hogar are accustomed to volunteers coming into the school and helping in their classes and extracurricular programs. I truly believe the week that the HOPE volunteers spent with the kids has made an impact on the students at the Hogar. They have seen them change a blank space in their school into a beautiful area for them to enjoy. There were numerous relationships made and I can only imagine the memories that will be remembered. Just the other day, I was very suprised when one of my 4-year-old Kinder students asked when my friends were coming back to teach them English! I know for me, as well as the other volunteers, having the HOPE group volunteering and working with us side-by-side, reaffirmed everything the Stonehill Service Corps stands for. We always know that Stonehill College as a community is behind us supporting us here in the Dominican Republic with all of the work we are doing at the Hogar. But there was something special with having Kris Silva, Father Jim, and the HOPE group there right alongside with us that made it so much more rewarding. 

With our lifestyle here being one beautiful day after the next, along with the Monday through Friday, 8 to 4 schedule of school, it is tough for one not to fall into routine and invariability of the schedule. Hearing from our visitors this past month about the gradual change of seasons that is happening back home, along with the occasional snow storm every week that makes things interesting, I am always reminded that no matter how repetitive each day or week may be, each should be treated like a gift. No day is like the previous one and it should be appreciated and lived as if they are different. The HOPE group was a refreshing breath of fresh air because their energy, motivation and kind words reminded me of why I love the Hogar so much and how satisfying my decision to do service was for me and what I want to accomplish in my life. I recieved a palanca, which is a note that each person in the HOPE group writes at the end of their service trip for someone, that really touched my heart from one of the volunteers that I keep on my wall to see every morning when I wake up. The volunteer wrote we as group have inspired him and helped him to define his first HOPE experience; and for that he is forever grateful. To think that I have made an impact on someones experience at the school doing what I love warms my heart and my commitment here worth it.