Buenos días from Soraya and Analynn. We were the leaders of the day for day 9, one of the most intense days on the trip. We started off by waking everyone up at 7 AM. Then we played human knot, which correlated to our day due to the fact that we needed to work together to get through a challenge. We chose this game because we knew the day was going to be tough and we needed to rely on each other.

After breakfast, at 8 AM, we headed over to the city dump. We got to meet people who work and live there, and understand their circumstances. We learned a lot about their personal stories and the hardships they deal with in their day-to-day lives. We also learned that due to toxins in the air, many young kids are affected in terms of growth and mental health. We ended our time with them with kite-flying.

On the bus ride back, we had to think about what we saw and how we can bring it back with us. Unlike other bus rides, this one was silent.

When we returned to the hotel we had a group reflection time. This was the time where we could share the emotions we were feeling in a safe space, without judgment. We talked about how poverty in the DR and in the US are similar and different. Most of us learned to appreciate the things we have instead of wanting more. We also decided as a group that this day would be one that we would take with us back to the states and for the rest of our lives, due to the impact it had on all of us.

After lunch, we had our second mental warmup preparing us for CECAINI, a school established for children who have ties at the dump. The school tries to push the kids to receive an education even if it’s not priority in their parents’ eyes. We split into three groups: one to paint a mural, one to play with the younger kids, and one to play sports. This gave us an opportunity to interact with the kids on a different level than we had before.

Afterwards, we went to English tutoring. We prepped for the talent show, which you will hear about on a different day. English tutoring became a lot easier because now we’re used to teaching and preparing. Now we understand how to explain certain topics, plan for our next classes, and help students understand English language better. On our boards, we always have our agendas, vocabulary, and the objectives for the day. We then walked back to the hotel and enjoyed a nice, big dinner:  cheesy mashed potatoes, vegetables, and sausage.

Finally, we had our nightly meeting where we reviewed the day and gave big love to those who deserved it. We then got to pass the torch to our next leader of the day, and witness his amazing talent of music composition!

Overall, we learned to appreciate the things that we have because not everyone is as fortunate. We should be grateful to have a roof over our heads, and three square meals a day with a family to love us, and people to care about us.