March 6-10 2017, I was blessed with an unforgettable experience. As a part of James Madison University’s Alternative Break Program, I was exposed to a beautiful and dynamic Dominican Republic culture. For my last spring break in college, I was afforded the privilege to travel abroad and do what I love best, which is serving others and making an impact in the community. 11 amazing women and I made cement and concrete, nailed and hammered, sawed wood, and laid brick to build a home for a beautiful family to call their own. From the words of the Village Mountain Mission Founder, we ultimately answered a family’s prayer.
What was my experience like? Food, drink, music, dancing, language, lifestyles and traditions were a part of my everyday experience there. We conquered the task of sleeping in hammocks in an outside shelter, living with tarantulas, hiking the waterfall, taking cold showers, and being in the presence of loud cows, wandering bears and running horses. My highlights were building a family bond with the JMU group, speaking/practicing Spanish with community members, drinking the most amazing tea I have ever had, riding motorcycles to the Christopher Columbus museum, almost completing the infrastructure of the family’s home, and leaving the new homeowners in high spirits.
What did I gain from this experience? On this break, I gained new friends, engaged in diversity and social justice discussions, and shared cultural experiences. As program participants, we were exposed to diversity and cultural competency during a retreat before the break, and had various discussions and interactions the week of the service program. It was vital, mind opening, provided a unique perspective about various cultures, and helped others to become less judgmental and more aware of societal issues others faced daily. The group discussed the importance of taking the knowledge with us beyond the week, and sharing our experience with others.
The village showed me what it was like to genuinely come together as a community for a greater purpose. When the children were not in school or adults were not at work, they were with us at the worksite. Early on I picked up on the fact that whitewashing was a worldwide issue. Because there were all types of skin complexions, mainly darker melanin, I pondered the thought of skin color discrepancies within the school system and community at-large. Some of us made it our obligation to inform the little girls of all complexions, of their beauty.
Go forth with your dream and change the world. I was once told to never let money stop me from achieving what I want. With the Tearte Scholarship, JMU’s ABP, and other sponsors, I could live out my dreams of serving passionately beyond the U.S. borders. Through, hard work, determination, focus, and persistence, I gained supporters who were willing to see my dreams come true, and help me help others. You can do the same!
I look forward to sharing my experience with others I come across, so that others may be inspired to make their dreams of impacting the global community, come true. Like you! Nonetheless, be the change you want to see in the world, but first let it begin with you. Adjust your mindset and know that you too can travel, study different cultures, and impact change all in one, locally, nationally, and internationally. It can be life changing and one of the best experiences of your life, as it was for me. Now is the time to turn those dreams into reality. Go and walk your talk!