"We go to put ourselves in places of the world's suffering, to live in solidarity and grow in understanding together"
... this was our prayer the night before we left for a week of service in the Dominican Republic, and God truly answered our prayer. However, we were not met with suffering, but by a tight-knit community full of joy, and quickly learned of the richness of life the people of Los Cafes possess.
After a two-hour drive from Santiago, we settled in to our living quarters for the week, and got oriented with our site. Over dinner, we were introduced to our main challenge for the week: to live in the moment. Whenever we asked what was next, or what time something was going to happen, the response was always "live in the moment". Though it was a challenge for some, our group welcomed the freedom in simply trusting our Blue Mission leaders, and embraced our time together on this unique experience.
Our work started the next morning, as we walked a fraction of the pipes up to the water source--about 2 miles further up the mountain. We quickly learned how daunting of a task it was for the community to get their water on a daily basis, and how beneficial this new water system would be for Los Cafes. Once near the source, we began building the main water tank, and over the next few days we all had the opportunity to complete its construction while also helping to dig road-side ditches and connecting pipes. Throughout our week, we worked side-by-side with members of the community to complete the task. They were incredibly motivated to be a part of the process, and took great pride in seeing it through to the end. The work was tedious, but many hands made it light work, and progress was made faster than we could imagine.
On Wednesday, we took a break from the manual labor, and hosted a day for children and women in the community. Our team put on skits and games for the children in the morning, and sat through a presentation set up to empower the women in the afternoon. It was a joy to get to know them all on a different level, and experience solidarity in this way.
By Thursday, the main line was complete, and we were able to celebrate that evening with a water party. While it was fun to watch the children enjoy the water, it was the faces of the community elders that brought tears to our eyes-- seeing joy in its purest form as they praised God for this new blessing. On Friday, we were able to see the houses get connected to the main line, and the joy continued.
Our group fell easily into life living in community with one another--bonding over card games and dominos, taking responsibility for chores, and "training" our neighbor's puppy. The dynamic of our group made life in the "Campo" a true pleasure, and added a special lightness to our time serving together. Watching the youth and young adults broaden their worldview, and experience solidarity in this way, is something that brings life to us as Marist Educators, and it was a true honor walking alongside them in this experience. Their simple "yes" made a world of difference to the people of Los Cafes, and we join them in a life changed for the better.
Ms. Miriam Eisenmenger
Director of School Counseling
Marist High School - Bayonne