As I sit on our flight from Puerto Plata to Newark, NJ, I am left feeling like we’ve each changed for the better. This amazing group of people—SHN, CitiHope, and NCSU MSW Students—coming from different perspectives and experiences, came together with the common goal of understanding the challenges of poverty and hunger, while seeking community specific solutions to these challenging human conditions. We laughed, ate great food, cried, and became a fellowship along the way. This was one of those once in a lifetime moments that can never be duplicated even if we all happen to be together again in the Dominican Republic. It was uncomfortable yet magical.
Everyone has shared so much of themselves and their talents in order to achieve the objectives and goals of this experience. We not only worked hard during the field site visits but we also offered comfort to those in our party that were sick or just feeling uncomfortable—a position we can all claim to have at one point of our seven-day journey. We played hot potato with a stomach virus that sent us on frequent trips to the bathroom, used a thermometer to check our fevers, and actually rejoiced at having refreshing coldwater showers. In a strange way, the stomach bug brought us even closer together.
Because of this excursion, we are more prepared to present to Stop Hunger Now’s Board of Directors at the end of March. I am confident that we will provide four cohesive reports that will display what we have learned. Our goal was to gather information and stories from SHN’s lead and on-the-ground partners. I believe we have done just that. Coming to the DR has provided both a better context for understanding hunger in both Haiti and the DR and examples of successful partnership and the transformational impact of SHN’s meals. Furthermore, I have high hopes that the work we have done for this project will make an impact on the lives of the children and families of the Dominican Republic, as well as other SHN partners.
On this final day, I speak for many of us when I say we leave with heartfelt gratitude for this experience of fellowship and Dominican culture. We said farewell to the three course dinners that lasted three hours long and the moving reflection time used to affirm each other’s strengths and process the emotional aspects of our trip. We leave with the stories of triumph of the men, women, and children we met this week. We ended our time in the Dominican Republic by saying “¡Hasta Luego! (Until Next Time)” to our new Dominican friends, Tim and his wonderful family, and our favorite Dominican bus driver, Joel. I only hope that we were as good to the Dominican Republic as it was to us.
Master of Social Work Student 2014
North Carolina State University
President of the Graduate Student Social Work Association
Social Work Intern at the Durham VA Medical Center