Two weeks after returning from the Dominican Republic, my tan has begun to fade, but the memories I have of that week have not. In talking to the others in the group constantly since we have left, it is clear that all of us have been changed immensely after the trip. I think I can safely say for all of us that not a day goes by that we don’t think about what all of the children are doing, or if Francisco and Pilar are healthy and doing well.
Throughout the trip, I was constantly commenting on how surreal the whole experience was. I always had to remind myself that while I was able to get on the bus and travel back to Tata (our group mother at the dorms) and whatever delicious food she made for us, those lovable little faces would still be playing in the sugar cane, sleeping on their dirt floors. The point in our journey when I realized just how ‘real’ the whole situation was, came during our Batey 50 Day celebration on New Year’s Day. As the children got their t-shirts they all gathered in the front of the church, where three clowns were leading all of the children in song and dance. Coming through the church to be greeted by the singing of every single child we played with throughout the week and to see all of them truly enjoy themselves showed that these children are just like those here at home. Each of them wants to be dance, wants to giggle, and wants to be loved. So often, we picture these sad little faces out in these poor villages, forgetting that they really are just children at heart, and are so much more than the poverty they experience. Now back at home, I often find myself singing their silly songs in my head, thinking of them having the time of their lives that day. Of all the amazing things that happened that week, from dancing on our crazy bus to handing over the keys to a new home to a fantastic family, I will always remember that amazing little fiesta, and what it must have meant to those children.