Hello friends and family!

The last few days have been pretty intensive as we have adjusted to our new surroundings, begun to get to know each other, and pushed our own boundaries through the discussion of important topics and reflections about our personal views.  Today’s theme was Global Business. The students are doing so well. It’s amazing to watch them develop stronger voices and the confidence to interact with their world.

There are four leaders that supervise the group, and in the initial phase of our time in Bonao, it’s our responsibility as leaders to act as role models before the students take on the task of “Leader of the Day.” Today it was my turn to act as “Leader of the Day.”So, I woke everyone up at 7am and made sure they were dressed and ready for breakfast at 8am. The students got a great night’s rest and so they were bright eyed and bushy tailed this morning. We launched into our Global Business theme with a seminar that explored both sides of the natural resource debate through discussion of mining and whether it’s good for society by way of job and wealth creation, or whether it’s harmful due to exploitation of the land that people live on. We enjoyed a heated debate where many different students spoke up to share their views and learn from each other about ways to become a responsible citizen. Through the course of the day, we tested our assumptions through hands on experience, first by visiting a copper mine, and then by visiting a community action anti mining group to learn about how individuals put their lives at risk to defend their water rights, which might otherwise be compromised should a mine be built. It became clear through the course of the day how complex this issue is, and student were able to relate to both sides of the debate and learn that the most important attitude is one of curiosity whereby one looks to gather information and understand all angles of an issue before forming their own opinion.

At our nightly meeting tonight, we reviewed our experience and perspective shifts. Many of the students were impacted by the meeting with the leader of the anti mining group, an 80 something year old man who told stories about marching for civil rights and risking his life for the protection of his land. However, many students were shy in asking questions even though they really felt compelled to learn more from him. So, we explored as a group possible ways for everyone to gather courage to ask more questions and take advantage of these precious learning moments. The students have decided to encourage each other and promise each other that they will ask questions if the others do, and that this will allow them to feel support as they strengthen their own voices and their practice of inquiry. We have also decided to allow for more reflection time, so that students can gather their thoughts and prepare their impressions before being asked to stand up and speak on the spot. These are leadership lessons learned in real life situations and seem to be be really inspiring the students to examine their thoughts, actions, and interactions. The group is really starting to gel as a result of all these inquiries and reflections.

After receiving feedback from the entire group on how I performed as the leader of the day, I passed the torch onto our first student leader of the day, Kaiyell. Kaiyell is very bright, organized, and diligent and we thought he would be a great first role model for his peers. He has really risen to the occasion, finding his voice and leading with authority, and the other students seem to like and respect him. We are excited to see how each individual student develops and exercises their own leadership style as they take on this role over the course of the next few weeks.

Tomorrow is a fun day and we will be heading to a National Park to hike and visit a waterfall. We are all looking forward to some free time and to taking a dip. The Dominican Republic is HOT!

We have lots of pictures to share and will be uploading them soon!