Three testimonies from Georgia State Physical Therapy’s service learning trip to the Dominican Republic. Visit the link here to read from more students.
“This experience was one that opened my eyes to many things. We can’t even imagine what parts of this world look like until you see it with your own eyes. This trip has shown me that our lives are about perspective. To us, we had the opportunity to help a community that is full of poverty and lack of resources. But whats amazing is that to them this is a happy, wonderful life. Every individual we interacted with was filled with positivity and were thankful for our work and service. This sunset was breathtaking and one like I’ve never seen before. But more than that it reminded me that you can find beauty in all parts of the world if you look hard enough. I’m infinitely grateful for the time spent in this country and for the education and service we could provide to these wonderful people!”
– Peyton Chambliss – DPT Student, GSU
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Gandhi.
“Not only was this trip eye-opening from start to finish but I truly believe we are leaving as better students, educators, and individuals from the experience and lessons on life this community gave us. We don’t live in a world that is all our own, and we make a life by what we can give back to others; we often underestimate the power of a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, a helping hand or a small act of caring, all of which can turn a life around. We may have been able to make an instant impact on the community in more ways than one this week, but the community helped give me a new perspective on life, opened my heart, and showed me that true happiness is in the unselfish caring of others. I loved being able to interact with the local families, learn from them, listen and talk with them despite the language barrier and see the joy in these kids eyes when we played and laughed after a long day of work. Our time spent here is invaluable and I am forever grateful to HHI and Comunidad Connect for making this trip a reality and to this community for allowing us to be a part of their lives even for a little bit.”
– Ashley Miller -DPT Student, GSU
“This is my favorite picture on the trip because we were in the process of building a community center in the village of Severet and a little girl started helping me fill the buckets with rocks. You could tell she was interested in what we were doing and she wanted to help. She was very shy but I managed to speak to her in broken Spanish and it was an amazing experience to not only participate in the manual labor of building a community center but also to connect with the local people of the village.”
– Helen To -DPT Student, GSU
Comunidad Connect was founded on the belief that by thoughtfully connecting those that care with those in need, powerful, lifelong changes can occur in communities. As we continue to forge relationships with a variety of communities across North and Central America, and now the Caribbean, we have more than just an opportunity to help them make a difference…we have a responsibility to do so.
Over the course of 10+ years working in Nicaragua, Comunidad Connect developed what we call our “Roadmap to Responsible Community Development”. It reflects our guiding principles and is grounded by lessons learned in the field and best practices gleaned from abroad. From first contact with community leaders to evaluative monitoring of ongoing programs, this Roadmap leads our thinking as local partnerships mature and flourish. It drives shared investments of time, energy and resources towards community assets that benefit everyone. This strategy was born from our collective experience in Nicaragua, and we are excited to explore replication in new communities.
Upon visiting communities in the Puerto Plata province of the Dominican Republic, we met people and places isolated from critical products and services, similar to our friends in Los Robles, Nicaragua. Primarily from Haitian descent, the residents of communities like Severet struggle to cover their basic needs. They initially immigrated to work in the regional sugar cane factory that at one time employed tens of thousands annually. When the factory closed five years ago, many Haitians stayed and find themselves today virtually stateless without clear rights to government-funded support programs.
Many local organizations in the Puerto Plata province focus on rural tourism development and increasing access to health and education. Given our program experience in Nicaragua, we can support these existing local institutions and grassroots efforts in a number of ways. And by collaborating with a variety of different organizations locally, we can best engage our diverse network of support stateside.
A few of our academic partners have already become involved as we meet, collaborate with and support community partners in the Dominican Republic. Nursing students from Kennesaw State arrived in May, soon followed by colleagues from KSU’s school of Health Promotion and Education. Then in August, Georgia State sent a group of Physical Therapy students and faculty. Once in country, students led training workshops for local health promoters, conducted home visits and family assessments, and completed home improvement projects. The more we work with local partners in these ways, the more we learn about the latent challenges and priorities of each community and organization as they strive to make a difference.
Meanwhile, our programs in Nicaragua endure with the support of generous donors, invested stakeholders and strong relationships in country. Patients are being seen, young people are engaged in sports, and rural homes are being updated with improved technology like concrete floors, clean cook stoves, and ovens. Local health promoters are active and Comunidad Connect staff is fully engaged.
Thus, our roadmap continues to chart a course for impacting thousands of people across cultures and we are honored to have you on the journey. Here’s to going farther, together!