Dominican Republic Volunteer Trip – Eugene’s Story
March 28, 2018
Here's the rest of story from the Dominican Republic, from Eugene, our student volunteer!
Hi, my name is Eugene Choi, and I was one of the volunteers who served with Good Neighbors Canada in the Dominican Republic Reading Week Trip.
As for me, it was my first time ever to travel overseas and as surely as I had thought, it was a completely eye-opening experience, just not in ways I had imagined.
Growing up in Canada, the only foreign country I had visited was the United States and so it may be expected, as I had, that I would be surprised by the surroundings and the living conditions of those we went to help. Surprisingly, those aspects were the least surprising. It was all exactly as anyone would imagine, nothing more, nothing less, exactly as you see in the pictures in the brochures, in the videos of charity fundraisers. Families living under makeshift roofs of porous corrugated steel, cooking scraps of food with scraps of firewood, sleeping on mattresses and sheets that have lost their colours, walking sometimes barefoot on the muddy floors; I am sure you know just as well as I do.
In fact, if there was anything slightly surprising, it was that on the other side of the spectrum, many Dominicans, even students we visited, lived relatively “normal” lives with smartphones and Wi-Fi, some in rural towns, others in bustling, metropolitan cities. All in all, they lived just as happily, if not happier, as us, not without of course, the similar stresses and struggles of life as we face.
However, there was one profound lesson I had learned, one I had not expected. As grateful as they were for the gifts we gave, and as invaluable as it was to them, it was not the physical things but our mere presence and sense of shared neighbourhood that they most appreciated. It was painfully obvious that our truckloads of provisions could only sustain their lives temporarily, that it would take truckloads of cash to elevate the living conditions of even one family to that of ours.
However, I realized that even so, our work was not futile because what mattered is that even if their own government had neglected them and their society had cast them out to the slums and mountains, we, the volunteers and donors from Canada, recognize their existence and understand their needs - that we think of them as our neighbours.
To those who contribute to Good Neighbors Canada and made this trip possible for us, on behalf of myself and those who received our gifts, I would like to say thank you. I am greatly humbled by your generosity and I hope that the next time I volunteer overseas, I would have since spent my student life in Canada more diligently in remembrance of this humility.