Earlier this year, Director of Community Development, Yarisleidy Cortez, led a small group of students from the University of Virginia in the Dominican Republic. For two weeks, the group lived and worked in the community of Arroyo de Leche (Stream of milk) building and testing bio-sand water filters. As the students settled into the experience, the tight-knit community embraced them with open arms. Below is a powerful reflection from Yarisleidy about the bonds created between the students, the community and the children.
Although the culture and language may be different, the needs in rural communities are the same: clean water, food security, education, health, etc. We all want to help, share the experience and our knowledge and turn it into a project of impact.
But deeper than that, there comes the emotional, cultural connection that occurs in through cultural exchange without shyness or limitations. Even more so, by staying with a family in the community, these bonds are only strengthened. And guess who catches you in the midst of this exciting adventure, living in a community that does not speak your own language or practices your customs? Children! Yes, they are the best ambassadors of your community. They teach you to speak the language or lexicon, to play, to climb mountains, to ride horses without saddles, to walk without surrendering, and show you that you don’t need a telephone with Wi-Fi every hour to live! They connect you with their families and the community. And when you are saying goodbye, they will not want to let you go. That is the moment you think about returning or keeping in touch in some way because there are some children who will remember you in between the laughter, love and so many photos.