AMHERST, N.Y. – Daemen College students supported work on essential public health services and led a special instructional program on sports injury prevention in young athletes as part of an international service learning trip to impoverished communities in the Dominican Republic.
Considered one of the most unique service learning opportunities at Daemen, the international experience featured hands-on community projects and other efforts to aid residents in some of the poorest regions in the country.
“Our Dominican Republic trip integrates service learning and an enriching experiential experience that creates a distinctive educational opportunity that also has a lasting impact on the lives of many Dominicans in need,” said Dr. Lynn Matthews, assistant professor of athletic training, who accompanied students on the international trip. “It is very rewarding to see the positive affect this trip has on our students as they interact with local residents and engage in service learning projects that promote the health and well-being of these communities.”
The group of 12 Daemen students involved in this year’s two-week service learning trip, which took place during the college’s winter break, first traveled to Santo Domingo, where students immersed themselves in the daily culture while staying with local Dominican families.
During the first week, Daemen students learned about Dominican history, language, culture, and the nation’s health care system in workshops and other activities, including touring area hospitals. The Daemen group also visited and saw first-hand life in the poor community of Batey Lecheria, which is home to approximately 2,500 Haitian immigrant sugarcane workers.
In the second week of the service learning trip, Daemen students traveled to the rural community of Palmillas, located in the province of Hato Mayor del Rey. While there, students helped install water filtration systems in several homes in an effort to deliver clean, safe drinking water, and participated in other hands-on projects to promote safer sanitation and improve hygiene for local residents.
“Traveling to the Dominican Republic helped me to truly understand what it means to be a global citizen and to gain a better understanding and recognize other perspectives,” said Jericho Adams of Newfane, a health promotion/Spanish major. “It was amazing to be able to use aspects of my major on projects that changed the lives of others and to know that my presence there really had an impact.”
This marks the 11th year Daemen has journeyed to the Dominican Republic for this international service learning experience. The college partners with Community Service Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to leading community development and international education through partnerships that will help improve local communities.
The Daemen team, which was comprised of several students from the college’s exceptional health science programs, also instructed seminars on HIV/AIDS education, vector-borne illnesses, and family planning. Beyond this, the student group assisted with the installation of a concrete driveway for a community center in Palmillas.
In a separate project, athletic training majors Kaitlyn Gustafson, a Binghamton native, and Midori Powell of Kensington, Md., had the rare opportunity to present a three-day baseball injury prevention seminar to area coaches and physical education teachers, including several former professional baseball players originally from the region. In addition to lectures, a laboratory component provided hands-on instruction on exercises and demonstrated proper form to address different injuries.
Gustafson will graduate in May and has already accepted an athletic training position at the University of Maryland. She credits her participation in the seminar with giving her real-life experience that will boost her success in a professional role.
“Instructing the seminar allowed me to share the knowledge and skills that I have developed in the athletic training program, giving me a new confidence in my abilities that will benefit me as a future professional,” said Gustafson.
“It was an eye-opening experience in the Dominican Republic, and allowed me to become a better person and to gain life experience that will help me grow personally and professionally,” she added. “I will never forget how grateful the residents were and their generosity toward us even though they have so little.”
Other Daemen students who participated in this year’s Dominican Republic service learning trip were Kelsey Eggleston of Angola, Ashley Giambra of Grand Island, Shania Livecchi of West Seneca, Patrick Murphy of Camillus, Peyton Notebaert of Ontario, N.Y., Matthew Rindfleisch of Orchard Park, Mackenzie Robbins of Rome, Jessica Schrader of Jamestown, and Jennifer Wetherbee of Lyndonville.