Members of Alternative Spring Break forged new territories — literally — during winter break with the completion of the organization’s first international trip.
The group of 11 students and ASB Venture Out Coordinator Bryan Goers departed Jan. 7 for the Dominican Republic. The choice of location was finalized after weighing student input and deciding which volunteer organization to work through.
“We had it down between two countries, either the Dominican Republic or Nicaragua,” Goers said. “Originally we looked at Haiti, but (it) is on a travel warning list from the State Department, so we didn’t feel completely comfortable going on to work there. Ultimately, it was the students' decision.”
At about $1,000 per student, outside donations and personal funds, were necessary to make the trip possible. It was funded through a grant given to ASB, fundraising letters, caroling and church donations.
“The bulk was actually the individuals themselves paying for it,” Goers said.
With the assistance of volunteer organization Outreach 360, the group spent the eight days splitting their time between volunteering at a medical clinic in Jaibon and teaching children at a school in the nearby town of Laguna Salada.
One of senior Cole Donelson’s tasks included translating Spanish to English and vice versa for patients and medical personnel in the clinic.
“I had to tell the doctors what the patient said and then tell the patient the diagnosis,” Donelson said. “Anytime I had to tell a patient, ‘You really have to take this medicine or your diabetes is going to kill you,’ or, ‘You have to stop eating this type of food because blood pressure is really dangerous,’ that type of stuff was really difficult.”
Others focused their time creating lesson plans to teach their pupils English and Spanish.
“We taught some third graders and fourth graders in the morning, then we switched to a different school and taught preschoolers and kindergartners,” Goers said. “In terms of preschoolers, we didn’t teach them English, we just taught them Spanish, which was kind of a cool little twist.”
Donelson, a three-time ASB veteran, said the experience was well worth the cost.
“I felt like I was able to make the most impact in the community because we were working directly with school children and people who visited the clinic,” Donelson said. “I felt like you could really make a difference on this trip and see it right in front of you. Also, the education we experienced was really impactful.”
The culture and history of the location gave students a different experience, senior Lucas Moore said.
“They have much more simple lives, not as distracted,” Moore said. “The children didn’t have iPhones or Xboxes. They’re really different kids. They climb trees and run around and bang on drums. I liked it a lot. It was different.”
The success of the first crossing of international lines holds promise for additional trips in the future, Goers said.
“I think we are going to work really hard to try and send another trip next year back with the same organization,” he said. “Our goal will be to send more students and to try and bring a medical team down with some medical students and possibly Spanish students as well. We just want to expand.”