At the end of every school year, Whitby seventh and eighth graders travel to the Dominican Republic to perform community service, immerse themselves in the Spanish language, and explore a new environment. This year the students helped out at the Mariposa DR Foundation and have been documenting their experience. The following posts are written by various students who were on the trip. (Click here to read part 1, featuring Days 1-3.)
Day 4 — A Little Dominican R&R!
By Bruce, Grade 8
Today was our day of relaxation. After sleeping in later than usual, we departed for our adventure! Before hopping onto the boat that would take us to La Boca (where the river meets the ocean), we walked around an almost zoo-like facility which contained a variety of animals ranging from both native and non-native species from tarantulas to snakes to even fully grown crocodiles. Once we arrived at La Boca we settled onto an island where we got to enjoy virgin piña coladas, a swim in the river, and the opportunity to learn about local fishing and give it a try. Finally, after our long day of hard work we returned to the hotel where we got to relax before eating dinner and concluded our evening with taking a walk on the beach.
Day 5 — Appreciation and Empowerment
By Quinn, Grade 7
Today one of the seventh grade groups went out to a community in the Dominican Republic called El Play. Before we arrived there our tour guide asked us why we think it's called El Play. Of course the seventh graders did not know because we have never been to this community before. We started looking around when we exited the bus and finally figured out the reason for its name. When we looked around we saw there was a baseball field in the middle of the community and they had a team where men and boys would practice while scouts watch them play to see if they can make professional baseball teams. The scouts give the men and boys opportunities, which allows them to provide money for their families.
After we started walking around, we saw houses made out of wood and metal. The houses could have had up to 16 people living in them, which for us would feel like 16 people living in a space the size of our bedroom. When we saw the houses we realized that there wasn't much space between them because you needed more room to build more houses for more people. We also learned that if you wanted to expand your room for your house or add more privacy in your space you would have to pay extra money. Because that community — and the Dominican Republic in general — is not very wealthy, they do not have the money to alter their houses.
When we started looking more in depth to the houses of the community, we saw that there were many stray dogs and a lot of the people owned chickens. I also realized that most of the dogs were provided food and water by the people that lived in the community.
After we left the community we went on the bus and visited the K-12 private school that some of the older Mariposa Foundation girls go to. Because the school is private, this gives the kids that go there more opportunities to later go to a better school and live a better life.
After visiting the school, I realized how fortunate I am to have the life that I have and how lucky I am to eat the food that I eat and be as healthy as I am.
By Sophia, Grade 8
Today was another fantastic day in the Dominican Republic. Sun shining, breeze blowing — it really is one of the most beautiful places I have been. The day started as usual with the delicious breakfast provided by Villa Taina. Monday, the beginning of a new week, means back to the Mariposa Foundation to spend quality time with the young girls.
Something I absolutely LOVE about this foundation, is the sense of community. As soon as we walked through the gates, we were bombarded with hugs and high fives. Then, each morning we played a group game. It's a great ice breaker that all Mariposa girls and volunteers alike can enjoy. Today, after splitting off into small groups, my group began with an "educational activity." We basically played Telephone to help the girls practice their English. We rotated groups and did other activities like art, sports, and also spent some time for us to simply get to know the girls.
Due to the half day school system, all girls between the ages of 7 and 11 leave around our lunch time. We spent the afternoon watching videos to learn more about the values and mission of the Mariposa Foundation. I also loved having a window into the lives of the Mariposa girls through the four short videos we watched. Each one was about a different activity that the girls were involved with. It was so empowering to hear the girls talking about feminism, equality, and standing up for themselves in the face of adversity. The Mariposa Foundation not only inspires girls in the DR to make a change in their communities, it also inspires the volunteers to bring change even further.
Day 6 — Bidding Farewell to Mariposa
By Nicky, Grade 8
This was the last day of community service with the Mariposa girls. It started more or less like the rest, beginning at 7 a.m. I had breakfast, talked to friends, and we all got ready for the day. When we were with the Mariposa girls in the morning, we played kickball and did arts and crafts. It was fun! In kickball, my team won 5-3, though we had an extra inning. After that, people more or less dispersed. I talked to a lot of the Mariposa girls and did a bit of dancing, if you can call it that (I am not a good dancer).
At noon, the Mariposa girls left. It was pretty emotional for some people. After that, we had lunch, did some final reflections with the Mariposa team, headed back to the hotel, and continued on with our days. I went to the gym and swam. Finally, we went to dinner, which was pretty good, came back, and now I'm writing this reflection. Overall, this has been a good experience, but I can't help but feel like we could've done more. Nonetheless, it's amazing to see just how smart, creative, and energetic people can be even when they have what so many would consider to be so little.
By Luis Rivera, Upper School Spanish Teacher
Today has been a great day, albeit emotional. We said our goodbyes to the Mariposa girls as it was our final day of volunteering. As the girls left, one of our students pulled aside one of the girls and told her in Spanish that she needed to do well and behave in school because it would help her get a good job and have a good life. These small moments along the week have made this experience all worthwhile and truly enjoyable. Our students have engaged, questioned, shown compassion, and most importantly have shown love to the Mariposa girls.
At dinner we had some time for a photo shoot in which I took advantage of the lighting to take some great photos (in my opinion). After dinner, Alyssa (our excellent Mariposa help) shared her story of how she got to the Marposa Foundation. A great analogy that Patricia Suriel (the Mariposa leader) used with the students today was a comparison with the story of Aladdin. She said that each of us was Princess Jasmine and it was our decision how we wanted to live as a prince/princess — whether we wanted to stay up in the high castle or if we wanted to come down to the village and meet the people there. It should be our duty to not only help others but to hold tight to their stories and continuing paying forward our service.
Tomorrow we will spend the day at the 27 waterfalls and I know there is high energy in regards to this trip. I am constantly amazed by said energy, their flexibility, and overall companionship of our students. Excited to spend the day relaxing and enjoying the company of our students!