University of Texas Longhorns living la vida Dominicana

On July 12th, the community of Angostura, Dominican Republic welcomed us with open arms. We arrived with the one goal, which was to finish building a court. We worked extremely hard for 4 days with the locals. Everyone was involved and you could tell that the members of the community really wanted this. They prepared the court to be ready for us to pour the concrete in a third of the time according to our Courts For Kids guide, Marlennis.

It required an immense amount of communication and teamwork. We learned what worked for us each day and were able to slightly alter our strategies as time went on to help the process move more efficiently. Picking up and carrying the heavy weighted buckets filled with rocks, sand and water took a toll on our bodies. So, we created an assembly line to work smarter and not harder, allowing our bodies to endure through the 90-degree weather. There were older men that helped us shovel rocks. There were even small children trying to get in on the action. When they were not able to for safety reasons, they played games in the field and provided us with entertainment during our brief rest periods. 

At the end of our workday, we would take time to get to know individuals in the community or familiarize ourselves with the norms of Angostura through meaningful conversation. We played every night with the kids. Doing so made us all feel young again and reminded us of the simplicity of fun. We played basketball, volleyball, kickball, and 4-square. The ingenuity of the kids using wooden sticks as baseball bats, rocks as balls, a sort of hemp rope as a jump rope was fun to watch. They were happy and content, making no excuses as to why they could not play. It opened our eyes to remind us to be grateful for what we have and to be okay with what we do not have. We were even invited to play in the local softball game to prepare their team for a weekend tournament. There was an immediate connection built with the locals, which was apparent with all the tears that were shed when we had to leave.

We had opportunities to experience and explore a wide variety of the sites in the DR beyond the community. We visited “Chocolala”, a chocolate factory that has been run by women for over 40 years. Zip lining through the forest and riding natural water slides into water in between large canyon walls at “Monumento Natural Saltos de la Damajagua” was an adventure. Swimming in the warm ocean water at “Fricolandia” was refreshing after week of hard work. 

On July 20th, we left with noteworthy achievements and fresh perspectives. Coming from America, we are exposed to the fast-paced lifestyle, materialistic views, and the competitive dynamic. All those things that seemed to matter to us before we arrived, slowly started to disappear as we listened and watched how things operated in the community. Our team was comprised of student-athletes from different sport team, yet we bonded to build a new team. It is evident this cultural immersion experience allowed us to bond with the Angostura community and grow personally within ourselves in many ways. 

What an incredible and rewarding experience! 

Written by Teni Akindoju (Soccer) & Gabby Kearney (Track & Field) – UT Austin

Quotes from Community Members:

This was unique experience for me, from the beginning being motivating the community and trying to encourage them to get this done has been amazing. I feel very fortunate to have been working for this project, as a community leader, this experience has filled me with joy and happiness to accomplish this dream for our people and specially for our kids. ~Anderlin Familia 

Our community of Angostura feel so much joy to have received this UT group, and being able to finish the court. We pray god that this organization can keep doing some good work in community like ours that needed this court so much. ~Rafelito

Quotes from UT Participants

The community taught me how to slow down and be more with the people around me. They reminded me how good a simple life is, most of that is a choice in my life, I get to choose what gets my energy . I learned that in the smallest corners of the world there is sparkle. ~Sidney Nobles 

I learned from the community to be patient even when thing aren’t going to plan. I’m a very scheduled person more when things or people get off I’m easily annoyed. By the Dominican concept of time they have helped me relax more. ~Grace Edgar 

The community taught me how to be creative and resourceful. They made games with different items around the community, like sticks, rocks and a lasso to create games. Justin even made a bridal for his donkey out of plastic that started as a single strip. The trip has taught me to find joy in the simple things and having a purpose can give you unimaginable amounts of energy. ~Gabby K

I learned that it’s a normal to have human interaction and that we don’t need to constantly avoid each other . Seeing the large groups of people show up to contribute just further demonstrated that people can accomplish something special just by talking, treating each other with respect, and acting as equal. I also learned that the simplest of activities can be fun even when you aren’t a child anymore. ~Tyler P

I learned from the community that it is so valuable to know your neighbors. The community as a whole is a family and a unit that works together. I have never seen anything like this in the U.S. The community cares so much about each other and each person goes out for their way to help one another. ~Janie Boyle

I learned that I genuinely enjoy helping others even more than I initially thought and I can now say that this is the only way to live. I also learned that consumerism mindset that can get in all of our heads is just an illusion , I was more satisfied with life this week that I have been in some many years. ~Alex Loving 

What I learned about the world is that sometimes taking our time and enjoy the little moments is better than the distraction and constant running around we do. ~Darin C