Dominican Republic Volunteer Trip
March 19th, 2018
Last month, student volunteers from Western University joined Good Neighbors Canada team for a trip to the Dominican Republic. Here, we have worked together with the Good Neighbors Dominican Republic staffs and volunteers to deliver goods, host an educational workshop regarding Zika Virus, and visited some schools where our sponsored children attend. Here's the testimonial from one of the volunteers, Michael Lee.
Good Neighbors isn’t your typical non-profit, overseas organization. As aspiring healthcare professionals, it is the dream of many university students to be able to spend their Spring Break going abroad and experiencing invaluable things. While many organizations do provide students an opportunity to witness professionals in their field and potentially help them, they often neglect to draw the “bigger picture.” My name is Michael Lee, and as a student who had the lucky opportunity to go to the Dominican Republic this year, I write this testimonial with a humbled and excited heart.
Good Neighbors is about self-sustainability. By providing the necessary education and tools needed, the goal is for a community to autonomously govern all aspects of life, including healthcare, education, safety, and food. The organization, therefore, can encompass a wide demographic of student volunteers. Personally, my experience in the Dominican Republic broadened my scope on healthcare because I was able to indulge in both the educational and hands-on aspects. We distributed mosquito nets (to prevent the spread of Zika virus), medicine, household necessities and even set up beds, but our reach did not stop at the physical level. We established educational workshops in local schools to teach students and their families about epidemic diseases and how to prevent them.
Good Neighbors also provided us with the unique opportunity of planning our own trip, something that a typical overseas organization will not offer. We were tasked with fundraising, planning events, and reaching out to businesses to make the trip happen. With Good Neighbors always ready to help behind the scenes, my friend Eugene and I could bring about our skill-sets and creativity to establish a solid foundation for our trip. Embarking on the trip after a road of failures and successes, I was both relieved and excited to make the next trip an even better one. To the sponsors and families who generously wished the best for our trip, I would like to say a profuse “thank you”.
Most importantly, the experience with Good Neighbors struck me with a more lasting impact in the sense of awakening than accomplishment. The time and effort we spent to temporarily assist a single household granted me more sadness than happiness. Watching the villagers staring at our moving van with interest gave me more humility than uneasiness. The absence of floor tiles and roofing in houses overwhelmed me with more hopelessness than excitement to fix them. There were so many aspects of these people’s livesat had to be improved that I simply thought our project was impossible.
It took me the entire trip to realize that, upon seeing how consistently happy the people were, change is not something discrete, but a continuum. The tools that we distributed may help a household for a month, and the educational workshops we gave may impact the current generation of students. If the governing body does not step up to acknowledge the change that needs to be made, it will be virtually impossible to establish autonomy in a few trips by foreign volunteers. However, our impact is also not solely physical, but rather, holistic. The students and families in Dominican Republic, albeit grateful to receive household necessities, were happier at the fact that students from overseas have visited them. They recognized that, as members of a global community, we were essentially neighbours helping one another. I believe that in the moment the people of Dominican Republic acknowledged our presence, they also started a reason to embark on this joint mission of gradual change. Even if villages are at the farthest of mountains and the worst of slums, with ignited hearts they are now willing to be helped and to help themselves. Perhaps the spectrum of change may not span to the grade of convenience that e, as Canadians, get to enjoy, but it will eventually strike the level of happiness that our own society tends to take for granted.
Good Neighbors Canada Volunteer Trip
Good Neighbors, as an international NGO, works at 36 different countries, cooperating with other international headquarters. We will be working for other international communities as well. Stay tuned for the next volunteer trip opportunity to Guatemala!