“Watch your thoughts, they become words; watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become character; watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.” – Frank Outlaw
Sunday started out with vegetable eggs and toast for breakfast at eight. We then headed out to the basketball court in El Chorro to begin our first day of our CAP project. We decided to renovate the basketball court because the people in the community expressed a desire for a better, safer court for the children to play. This was extremely important to the community because it was a place for the children and teens to stay out of trouble and express their energy in a positive way. The basketball court also allowed entertainment for the older community members.
Right off the bus, we were greeted by two of the women we met while living in the community with hugs and kisses. Our group had deeply connected to our families, so it was a treat to see some of them again. They were so welcoming and happy to see us, which warmed our hearts and solidified our determination to do our CAP project. We knew that we had to do a good job for these wonderful people.
After getting reacquainted with the community members who so generously donated their time to help us, we jumped into our work. When we arrived, they had already started mixing the cement, so we grabbed their shovels and added our muscles to the mix. Stirring cement is way more difficult than one would imagine; the community volunteers made the job look so easy. We stabbed and scooped the materials into a smoothie-like consistency of water, sand, and dry cement, then transported the mixture to predesignated locations on the court.
Many of our group members received cuts and blisters while working with the cement. Some couldn’t even work too much due to these injuries. Despite these wounds, we were persistent in completing the task. While some of us worked on the construction of the court, others painted the benches in the pattern of the Dominican flag. The paint dried quickly due to the heat and by lunchtime, which was around one o’clock, we had completed most of the court.
After taking a quick lunch break, we returned to our work. The second half of the day consisted of finishing off the court with the cement and starting a mural on the wall opposite the basketball hoop. Unfortunately, we ran out of blue paint for the base coat of the mural so we had to call it a day. While we were painting we realized that most of the paint was splattering off the wall and onto us so we decided we would come back on Tuesday with more blue paint. Our plan for the mural is to paint a tree with the hand prints of the local children and us as the leaves to symbolize the growing community of El Chorro.
When we returned to the hostel, we all took short, cold showers to get all of the cement and blue paint off. The showers weren’t short for convenience’s sake; our showers were short because the water was freezing cold. After cleaning ourselves off, we all reconvened in the comedor to begin our Program Seminar, which consisted of writing letters of thanks to our donors who helped make this trip possible. We continued with our day with a typical night of cena and a Nightly Meeting, in which we reflected on our hard work.
We were so proud of our group for their hard work and determination to make this project the best it can possibly be. Each one of us gave a 100% effort to the CAP project.
We learned about the hard work, organization, and endurance it takes to lay cement in the heat of the sun. The community volunteers who work construction professionally had already mapped out and developed the plans for the layout of the court when we arrived. We were surprised by how detailed the process was. The volunteers had put up boundaries for the cement with nails and string, which were guides for the height and boundaries of the cement. When they placed the first piles of cement in the first section of the court, they put the cement right next to the string and leveled it accordingly. They then removed the string and used the little piles of cement as guides for the rest of the court. After laying the cement, we wet the cement with a sponge to soften the top so we could smooth and flatten the surface. Athena and Alex were working on flattening the cement for most of the day; the volunteers asked if they could stay in Constanza to work with them because they were so good and efficient.
The level of precision and detail we witnessed in the cement laying process impressed us, and the community volunteers who helped and guided us inspired us the most that day. Their endurance and work ethic amazed and greatly helped us in accomplishing our work for the day, and they inspired us to work harder than if we were doing it on our own.
For us, being El Lider Del Dia allowed us to take on a new kind of leadership role. We are not used to leading a group of our peers, and today we added to our resume “leader.” We did our best to accomplish the tasks of El Lider Del Dia, which included waking everyone up, making sure everyone was at meals, reminding everyone to stay hydrated and sunscreened up, thanking our drivers and cooks, and leading the Nightly Meeting. It was more than we expected, but I believe we executed the job well. We learned that we are stronger than we originally thought; we learned that leading a group of teenagers is a difficult task and hope we weren’t too bad for our teachers to manage. But most of all, we learned that we are capable of accomplishing more together than apart.