Aid & Development Day
The roosters began to crow at the break of dawn. The sun had already risen and golden light had began petering in through the windows, when the students had begun to stir. Some of us woke up well before the wake up time to prepare for the day and bask in the morning sun while enjoying a good book.
Breakfast Began at 8:00AM and we were surprised to discover a familiar meal awaiting us, Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches as well as Ham and Cheese sandwiches provided a refreshing break from the overload of delicious new and exciting Dominican Republic specialties.
The theme of he day was discovery, our mission was to get to know as much about our surroundings and the needs and actions of our community as possible so that we can provide the best and most sustainable action project that can be the most beneficial to the community in the long run. After breakfast we discussed how action without vision can actually do more harm than good, as in giving money to beggars perpetuates the system of begging rather than create a sustainable and lasting solution.
Representitives from the CONAMUCA organization came to speak with us about their actions towards making the community a safer and more inclusive domain. They are a group of activists standing up for the rights of women and the impoverished in the province of San Cristobal, we learned they reach out to other communities and provide a beacon of hope to the oppressed even if they lacked the funding to do so. These women are determined to improve their country no matter what and are an unlikely voice for a rural area.
After asking the CONAMUCA speakers as many questions as we could we joined them for lunch and spoke with even more. After lunch a few locals gave us a walking tour of the community, Pablito and Ramona. Pablito lead us down the narrow street with towering jungle trees and vibrant jungle flowers encompassing both sides creating a wall of lush verdant leaves. The houses we passed were all just as colorful, if not more so, as the flowers. Azure blue painted wooden planks were miraculously stuck together to form shacks and small houses with windows and doors lined with a hot pink shade.
Other houses were a lime green with lemon yellow lining, and we even saw one that was painted red and white stripes much like that of a candy cane. We passed a basket ball half court that was in the middle of the road, an intersection no less, and kids sat on a log under the shade of a mango tree. Two young boys were bouncing up and down on tires like trampolines and the girl was playing with a large metal gear flipping it up and down, as we approached the boys sat their tires up and prodded them with short wooden sticks with plastic spade like pieces fastened to the ends. One boy began to roll the tire down the street and was able to guide it with the the stick, the other boy did the same with his tire and it was clear they were playing a quite creative game.
I asked Pablito what the game was called and he said it didn’t have a name but back in the old days they used to use sticks rather than with the plastic bits on the end and the tires would always fall over. It seemed as these boys had perfected their tools, guiding the tires effortlessly as they ran down a steep slope with a wild puppy on their heels.
A group of older teenagers were later using the basketball hoop and told us it was one of their only forms of entertainment. They would come out to play basket ball everyday except some Sundays for at least five hours. Their other main source of entertainment was far from as relatable however, after passing through an arch way we came upon a large pink cylindrical building that reminded me at first of a bird cage, ironically I found out later it was. A cobalt cast iron gate blocked the entrance and chain linked fences surrounded the whole of the second floor, after ascending the stairs we were met with an ominous sight, dozens of blue metal chairs were arched around a pit in the center that covered in feathers and blood stains. This is where they would have cock fights, where they would strap metal talons to roosters and force them to fight to the death. I closed my eyes to have a moment of silence for all the mistreated birds.
After the walk we hopped in the bus to go straight to the elementary school where we would be teaching english to any local who wanted to learn for the next two weeks. Unfortunately we got to experience the reality of “Dominican Time” first hand, where it is culturally acceptable to come late or in this case come a whole day late. Not a single person who signed up online came, instead we got about two dozen of the locals who had seen the posters and had made the effort to come, though the classes were small and the curriculum we had prepared didn’t quite match the learning levels of the students we sure had an interesting stumble of a first day of teaching where we learned how to adapt our plans for whatever might happen in the future.
The students were in a wide range of age groups ranging from the youngest of children to the oldest of grandparents, the classrooms were small and cramped with metal shutters on the windows. Our hope is that the next time more students take the time and effort to come and have us teach them and hopefully we can come up with more fun and engaging ways to teach them, since no one came to the advanced class I was left to wander without a classroom so I went and observed the dynamic teaching styles of each of my fellow Glimpsers, they were all coming up with unique strategies and games to help the students learn.
After nearly three hours of writing, rewriting and executing lesson plans we returned home to have dinner and a nightly meeting where I passed the torch of leader of the day to my next fellow Glimpsers who will lead the adventure day which I am very excited for. It was a little difficult to be the first student leader of the day, I felt the weight and responsibility of leadership on my shoulders having to keep the group together, ready and on time, and also getting their attention which was a little more difficult. Today I learned that it’s a little harder to be a real leader than I might have thought and I didn’t have the leisure of hanging out with group all the time, I had to be on top of everything and be ready for whatever task the adults had for me. I learned that I can’t prepare myself for everything and I often found myself thinking of later activities when I probably should have been focusing more on the task at hand. I did my best treading along the ropes of being the first student leader and all though I may have stumbled a little I kept getting back up and taking charge again. Next time I get the chance to lead a group I will surely use what I have learned to day to make myself a better leader and a better member of whatever community I find myself in next.