After 16+ hours of travel from Portland, a group of 18 Central Catholic students and 3 chaperones arrived in the Dominican Republic early in the morning of July 24th. We stopped at a hotel near the airport to catch a few hours of sleep before heading off to our final, court building destination – the community of Los Guineos. Los Guineos is a small village of about 300 people on Laguna Limon; it’s located about 11 miles east of Miches (if you haven’t heard about this area of the country, you will. Within the next few years, it’s poised to be another hotspot of Dominican tourism, hopefully of the inclusive and sustainable kind).
When the bus pulled up to the elementary school in Los Guineos, our home for the next week, the games and community interaction began almost immediately. The balls brought by Cental Catholic were pumped up and right away started to get kicked, volleyed and bounced around! Despite the language barrier, laughter, smiles and competition filled the air.
A few hours later, when the materials starting arriving, we got to work – there was a lot of land prep to be done before we could even start laying cement. Carrying buckets of sand, gravel and fill from the front of the school to the construction site was a routine that continued for a few days. Between truck loads, at meal times and after work, we took time out to play games, build friendships and explore the community.
Despite not having a cement mixer, but with a lot of volunteer labor from the community, we finished the land prep and the laying the court floor in 4 days! As Hunter put it, “it was extremely satisfying seeing all of our hard work pay off.” While we waiting for the welder to finish up the basketball column and backboard, we were able to enjoy some of the natural beauty in the area – we went to the top of Montaña Redonda, spent a few hours at Playa Esmeralda, and kayaked and boated to Playa Limon.
On our last day in Los Guineos, we put in the basketball columns and cemented the volleyball tubes in tires. While we waited for the backboard to dry in place, we hung out on the court – talking, laughing, hitting around a volleyball. Once the sun went down and the stars came out, the dance party began! Community members taught the Central Catholic group how to dance bachata and merangue and the group from Portland showed off some of their own dance moves. Before heading out on Thursday morning, we signed the backboard and sunk a few baskets on the new court!
“The most difficult part about going home is having to say goodbye to the kids in the town. We all created close relationships and the idea that I would never see my friends again broke my heart. I don’t want to leave the locals and their community because they made us feel so close to them.” – Fiona Lindsey
“I learned that I don’t need many things to live. For one week I lived out of one suitcase. I didn’t have the luxuries I live with at home and I found out that I don’t need them to survive.” – Eilise Shannon
“I learned a lot, especially from the kids. They taught me that there is always a way to have fun. Whether it had to do with hand games or games with random objects, they always seem to turn it into a game. They taught me to value what I have in the US.” – Marina Ramirez Egan
“This trip truly taught me that the things I have at home that I thought were normal are all actually a huge luxury here, simple things like drinkable water to flushing toilet paper. It has not only given me a new perspective but also taught me that the things I thought were “necessary” to life are really not at all.” – Natalie Hansen
“I think these trips are so important and everyone should try and help one another even if you don’t speak the same language. The world is so big but it can become small if we chose to help and connect with one another. A group from Portland, Oregon and Los Guineos, Dominican Republic became inseparable in a matter of a week. I truly believe that could happen with anyone if they let it.” – Kendall Kriska
“All in all this is seriously the most amazing experience I have ever had and probably will ever have. I am so incredibly grateful to have gotten this opportunity, our group was amazing … I absolutely loved it and will remember it for the rest of my life. “ – Alexandra Hallman
“The most difficult part of going home was leaving the community because of the close connections that I made with the locals. I will miss their presence and they affected me in a way that makes me want to see what they can accomplish and what they do with their lives. I also will miss living in a community that is so close and looks out for each other in a way unique to them and one that I can’t experience at home.” – Kai Henderson
“Watching the kids interact and play around daily brought me so much happiness. I specifically remember walking down to the lagoon one day and Leodi and Norberto climbing trees, chasing cows and doing flips down the road. They just live so fully in every moment and do not have a strict schedule or anything to worry about. Being a part of the Los Guineos community for the past week has really taught me how important it is to not rush through life and really embrace every moment. It has also taught me how simply we can really live. Throughout this entire experience, the biggest thing I learned about the world was how people come from a variety of different backgrounds, cultures and ways of life but despite all that, humans have a special connection.” –Ashley Laber
“I felt like the trip changed me because I feel more confident in my Spanish and also in myself. It felt really empowering to just be working hard for the entire trip. I felt stronger and happier at the end of the trip and I felt more worldly. I was definitely impacted by this trip in a good way.” – Sydney Spencer