It may sound cliche to say “I went to the Dominican Republic to work with Orphans and I came back a different person.” However, that is exactly what happened. When presented with the opportunity to travel over 3,000 miles to work with Orphans for a week in the D.R., my heart had no hesitation, but my head ran around the idea of missing work and figuring out the finances to get there. I am forever grateful that my heart won that battle because in return I gained so much more than money could ever buy.
Preparing for a mission trip to the Dominican Republic, I was to collect two 50 pound bags of donations for the orphanage, anything from shoes, to soccer balls, to pencils, to chalk, were accepted. On top of that, you were to pack a carry-on with your own belongings. Our leaders prepared us with a list of what to bring, which was very daunting, from snacks to specific sunscreen and bug spray, all to fit in one carry on and a backpack.
Spending one day at the orphanage, I realized that those preparations for the trip were very unnecessary. I did not need 8 different types of Bandaids or even as many snacks.
It was not what I brought to be prepared for myself or what I brought to donate to the kids in need, they wanted something else. Every orphan or student at the Constanza location just wanted a smile or a hug. They were not looking to see what cool ‘gifts’ you brought, but simply wanted your attention and love. In the midst of a beautiful place with so much hurt, your personal belongings did not matter much at all. A little sunburn and a couple big bites did not even phase me, how can it when the kid next to you doesn’t even own a tooth brush?
This was the biggest lesson that I learned from the children, and yes I learned way more from them than I could ever return to them. But the lesson learned was that love is really the biggest possession that we carry and are capable of sharing on a day to day basis, locally and globally. A smile and a hug is really all it takes. On top of that, most of these kids have overcome huge struggles at such a young age, yet their smiles are some of the brightest that I have ever seen. It was a huge wakeup call and reminder to be happy everyday and not to sweat the small stuff that we are tested with constantly. It is easy to get wrapped up in our busy lives when we are as privileged as we are in our first world countries.
It was easy to feel guilty about all that I had back in the United States, from possessions, to a home, to a bed, to shoes, to parents who love me unconditionally, but it is important to remember that you do not choose the life that you are born into. I learned not to feel guilty about the possessions I own, or spending extra money on the weekend, but to react to others with the resources I have. It is all about what you do with what you have to help others on a big and small scale.
Although I did not spend one day or night with dry eyes in the D.R., my heart is as full as ever. To be rejuvenated with the love of so many that have so little was so impactful that words can not be put onto the experience. As hard as it was to leave the children that touched my life and that I grew very close to, I hope that when all else fails they will remember the warmth of a hug or smile exchanged during my time in Constanza, I know that I will be doing the same.
I am so very happy to be able to reevaluate my ‘budget’ and ‘needs’ to be able to sponsor two young boys who attend the school. This is just a way for me to spread love from thousands of miles away, but also to give back from what I have been lucky enough to have in my life. I saw first hand the magic that sponsoring a child has, not only does the monthly donation pay for doctor appointments and dental work, but the contact from letters and Skyping helps to add and keep joy in their lives.
If you are interested in sponsoring a child, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out the organization’s website: http://www.kidsalive.org/around-the-world/latin-america/dominican-republic/