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Students travel to Dominican Republic to build schoolhouse

by Anita Smith, communications and marketing last modified Jan 22, 2014 01:36 PM

As many people donned scarves and coats to keep warm in mid-December, several UofL students just headed for warmer weather in the Dominican Republic.

It wasn’t just for warmth and sunshine though. The group of ten participated in Student Affairs’ Alternative Service Break. This winter break the Office of Student Involvement traveled internationally through the Service for Peace Global Peace Makers’ program. Their mission was to build the foundation for a new school house in the rural Dominican Republic town, La Represa.

The volunteers slept on mats in the school house instead of a staying in a nearby hotel. Kathy Meyer, coordinator of Student Leadership in Office of Student Involvement, shared her feelings about the immersive experience when UofL Today caught up with her.

“We had the advantage to stay in the school house and be on the worksite which not only helped with time, but the community would just stop by and interact with us. It was really nice that way,” she said.

Stephanie Dooper, UofL student and volunteer, added “Our efforts would not have been complete if it were not for the locals helping us and showing us the ropes - even the kids were working with us.”

While service was the main purpose for the trip, the participants were able to catch a few rays at the beach and take historical tours of Santo Domingo.  The volunteers tried to connect on various levels with the community before departure and found the La Represa community to be more like home than expected.

“The one thing we realized was baseball plays a large part in their culture. One of the things we did was take donations from the Louisville community. The Louisville Slugger Museum gave one of our student-volunteers five baseball bats to take. Also, our own baseball team donated a couple of used gloves and baseballs,” Meyer said.

“Although there was a language barrier, this trip taught many of us that there are many universal languages: laughter, sincerity and love. We experienced all these things and much more. It reminded us to live in the now and to bring passion into everything we do,” Dooper shared with UofL Today some of the priceless life-lessons she learned on the service trip.

The Office of Student Involvement will host another Alternative Service Break and travel to New Orleans during Spring Break week, March 8 to March 14.  Their service will be focused on wetland renewal projects, environmental sustainability and other green initiatives.

 

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