Since I had previously traveled abroad, I had minimum concerns about my trip to the Dominican Republic. I was not worried about what and how to pack, or even the Zika Virus. I have to be honest though my trip started off crazy. My teacher missed her flight from Birmingham, so the four students including myself meet for the first time in person, in Miami. I was not scared at all since three of us had traveled the world before. We were met by a woman name Maranda who worked at the Mariposa DR Foundation, the nonprofit we would be working at. We flew into Puerto Plata airport and traveled to our hotel, the Humingbird Hotel in Carberete.
The Dominican Republic looks so much like Costa Rica and Brazil. I was taken away by its beauty. The first couple of days (Friday-Monday), we went to the beaches, we on a neighborhood tour, boat tour, cave and meet a lot of great people. The neighborhood of Carberete houses the girls who are a part of the Mariposa DR Foundation.
The Mariposa DR Foundation is a nonprofit founded in 2009 by Patrcia Throndike Suriel. “The mission is to educate and empower girls to create sustainable solutions to end generational poverty. Their mission is inspired by the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. These goals include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing the child mortality rate, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability, and developing a global partnership for development. Achieving these goals is dependent upon the education and empowerment of women and young girls (Mariposadrfoundation.org).”
Before the first day of camp, I had an internal problem. I did not know how I was going to relate to the girls. I thought to myself the only thing I had in common with them was that I was black and even then a lot of Dominicans do not consider themselves black. I did not have confidents about me working at Mariposa until the night before. I meet some more guys that were going to be volunteering at Mariposa and I also had a talk with my professor. I told my professor how my mother is my biggest role model in my life, and how she taught me some valuable life lessons. This helped connect how empowering young girls will help empower other people.
My confident was boosted even higher on the first day when I learned that Mariposa was teaching the girls how to play tennis. Tennis is my favorite sports, so I immediately volunteered to help with tennis. For the next two weeks I became the head tennis instructor and really had a blast. It was amazing how fast the girls learned.
The biggest problem I had during the whole trip was the language barrier. It was very hard the first couple of the days to communicate with the girls since they spoke minimal English. To fix this problem I started using the app Dulingo for two to four hours a night to learn Spanish. Towards the end of the first week I could have basic conversations with the girls and could run drills and use tennis terms in Spanish.
At the end of the first week on Friday we went to the Dominican/Haitian boarder. There is a border crossing every Monday and Friday. This was a very unique experience. Before the trip I read about how Dominican Police will harass Haitian women and such, so I was expecting this to happen. Just like the readings this stuff really happened. It was so many people crossing the border to go to markets in the Dominican Republic. It’s amazing how Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the same island but do not like each other. Dominicans do not consider themselves black all though they are from African descent. It was interesting to learn that Haiti has been recognized by the African Union as an African nation. Hopefully these two countries can become friendlier towards each other. All in all I had a great time.