Daemen College Students Return to Dominican Republic During 2011 Intersession
Daemen Students Return to Dominican Republic Village for Fifth Straight Year
February 1, 2011
Contact: Mike Andrei
During the 2011 Intersession, Daemen College students returned to Hato Mayor, a small community in the Dominican Republic, to engage in service learning projects that have enabled Daemen students to improve the lives of village residents.
This was the fifth year Daemen College has partnered with Community Service Alliance (CSA), a Dominican-based service learning organization that pairs school, church, and community groups with diverse projects in many areas of the country. Student members of the Daemen group, which included Daemen Director of Residence Life Sara C. Anderson, were in the Dominican Republic from January 8-22, 2011.
The 14 Daemen students participating in this service learning trip and short-term study abroad fulfilled the requirement for an upper division core course as well as Daemen's service learning requirement.
The group of students included many different academic disciplines and every class year, freshman through senior, noted Anderson. While our students did spend time in the capital city of Santo Domingo, they were focused on providing a range of assistance to residents of a small village, with very basic needs how to generate income, create housing, and improve health care for the community.
The Daemen students spent the first week in Santo Domingo living with host families, allowing them to fully experience life with a typical, middle-class Dominican family. The students were also provided with a tour the Colonial Zone, the original heart of Santo Domingo, the first city established by the Europeans in the New World. Daemen students also enjoyed a traditional dance class, visited a local hospital and a health clinic, and learned to cook a traditional Dominican meal.
Week two was spent in Hato Mayor, a poor community two hours outside of Santo Domingo, where CSA has worked for several years with the women's group in the village. For the last five years, Daemen students returned to work with the same village group each year. During their January 2011 visit the students prepared and presented workshops on home health and sanitation, with a focus on cholera prevention; family planning, and household and small business budgeting. The women's organization is beginning several projects intended to increase their standard of living, and learning to budget is integral to the success of these efforts.
The Daemen students also worked hard on assisting in the completion of a community center for use by the women's group, hauling rocks, mixing cement, finishing walls and window sills, and learning how to tile a floor. The much-needed center is being built solely by volunteers, such as Daemen students. Funding for construction materials was made possible though use of a portion of the program fee.
In addition to learning about the Dominican Republic's culture, history and people, the participating Daemen students learned even more about themselves. By making life-long connections with their host families, the CSA staff, and, especially, the people of Hato Mayor, who graciously opened their hearts and homes during the week in their community, the students experienced a change in their world view and in their concept of who they are as American citizens.
"The Dominican Republic trip not only taught me how other cultures live, and the many differences between our culture and theirs, but it also made me realize certain things about myself. I learned that you can get through nearly any situation by being an open, honest, and flexible person. The trip also made me realize how much I enjoy traveling and seeing new things. This was my first experience out of the country and there will be many more to follow.
If I had the choice to go back, I wouldn't hesitate for an instant" -- Kane Eaton
"The DR trip was truly a life changing experience. I got a firsthand look at an entirely new culture, and I felt like we really made a difference in the lives of the people we interacted with. I learned a lot about myself and how I look at the world. The whole time I thought I was teaching others, but I was the one who learned and grew from the experience" -- Rachel Hezel
"This trip was one of the best decisions I have ever made. With the friends I made on the trip and the relationship I built with my host family and roommate, I was able to create and experience a sense of family that made me feel more than comfortable in a country that was foreign to me. I was amazed by the people of Hato Mayor and learned a valuable lesson in selflessness - these people basically had nothing to give, and yet, they gave us their all" -- Sarah Velarde