Notes from the Field: 2017 Global Goals Dominican Republic
Global Goals Dominican Republic, a Learning in the World program, took place from June 8 to 18, 2017. Sixteen students participated in the ten-day service learning project at the Mariposa Foundation, an organization that aims “to educate and empower girls to create sustainable solutions to end generational poverty.” During the program students learned about the fundamentals of community outreach initiatives and Dominican culture. They engaged in two types of daily reflective workshops to deepen the educational experience throughout the program: Global Goals Exercises and Service Reflection. Following are “Notes from the Field,” which include an entry written by a student each day and updates by faculty leader Anny Candelario Escobar.
“Both [knowledge and goodness] united form the noblest character and lay the surest foundation of usefulness to mankind.”
On our way! Our adventure begins! At 2:30 a.m., eight travelers gathered at Phillips Academy; some had slept a few hours, while others feared sleeping through their alarms. The van service delivered us to the United Airlines terminal, and we proceeded to go through security. Two-thirds of the group had done TSA Pre-Check (lucky!).
The flight from Logan to Newark went smoothly. In New Jersey, we made our way to the gate and dispersed in search of nutrients. We then boarded the plane to Puerto Plata, where we were greeted by the Caribbean sun and lively musicians. One more student joined and our group was finally complete! We arrived at our hotel in Cabarete, exactly thirteen hours after departing PA. One of our Mariposa guides reviewed hotel expectations and important information about the country. How many venomous spiders and snakes live in the Dominican Republic? We are happy to report that the number is ZERO. For the rest of the afternoon, we swam in the pool, ate an amazing dinner (the best mango and avocado salad EVER!), and played a card game. In the evening, we had a free write in our nifty journals, thinking about what we are expecting/hoping to see tomorrow.
Everyone is in bed. The 10 p.m. curfew was welcomed by many, as it marked the conclusion of our day that began with a 2 a.m. wakeup call. Breakfast is at 8 a.m., followed by our daily morning briefings (where we will talk about the schedule for the day, what to bring with us to the Mariposa Foundation, and make any other necessary announcements). Off to bed!
One profound experience that I had today occurred while our group journeyed through the small town of Cabarete. It was when we were reaching the building seen here, which contradicted a trend that I had experienced throughout my whole life–having an effective, systematic, and extensive hospital within close proximity. This building serves as the sole public health center in all of Cabarete, and it is far smaller than any building on the Phillips Academy Andover campus. Despite the best efforts of its health professionals and workers, it is woefully unprepared for the steady stream of incoming patients–many of whom are afflicted by serious illnesses such as malaria, dengue fever, and the Zika virus– and the line to receive medical care generally stretches out into the street and onto the bleachers of the adjacent baseball field. It differs heavily from, and is eclipsed by, the medical administrations that I have grown up around. This hospital has a long way to go before it can become a truly effective system for the people whom it serves. This is indicative of the medical industry in the Dominican Republic as a whole, where hospitals are few and far between, medical equipment lags behind, and doctors are under no obligation to treat dying patients who cannot pay. Visiting such a hospital has been an elucidative experience for me and has demonstrated just one more of many ways in which the people of developing countries suffer from undeveloped infrastructure. This example especially highlights the importance of empowering and educating girls and women in Dominican society. Empowerment grants them the motivation to change these incomplete systems and make their voices (for prosperity and security) heard. And education is essential to allowing them–and thus the Dominican Republic as a whole–to be more well-informed and to make the choices that will bring change for the better in these systems. Empowerment is the first step on the path to goodness, and education is the first step toward gaining knowledge. And, as Sam Phillips, the founder of Phillips Academy Andover, said, “Both [knowledge and goodness] united form the noblest character and lay the surest foundation of usefulness to mankind.”
It’s day two of being at the center! After enjoying a whirlwind first full day, today only added to our exciting experience here. We spent a lot of time bonding with the Mariposa girls and got to know a lot of them even better, which is a solid step forward as we continue to work together over the coming days. We arrived at the Mariposa Center in the morning and spent time playing games with the girls. Split into three groups, we worked together in small group-based games, and it got really competitive (in a friendly way, of course) very quickly. We then split into two groups–Andover kids and Mariposa girls–and began a research project that we’ll continue working on this week: finding and compiling inspiring quotes from influential women. We worked to vet these quotes and determine whether they aligned with the Mariposa Foundation’s mission. This activity was very insightful, because it allowed all of us to think about the importance of hearing and appreciating underrepresented voices. Then, during and after lunch, we got a real chance to bond with the girls. We ate together and conversed (through occasionally broken translations). For almost an hour, the girls also taught us a variety of fun concentration games, which we quickly learned, yet we struggled to match the girls’ work in precision and speed. Even though they were small games, it was fun to see everyone at the center trying out their skills. After that, we all drove to our hotel to have a pool party for about an hour or two. They had a lot of energy and really enjoyed playing in the pool–as did we. Then, when the girls left to go home, we continued playing in the pool; specifically, a competitive game of Taps. Shortly after, we left the hotel and went to eat at a great Italian diner on the beautiful beachfront. We were invited by the Mariposa Foundation’s Executive Director Patricia and also ate alongside guests from the United World College. We spent a lot of time admiring the view and the food, taking in the full evening experience. After that, we returned to the hotel and had a chance to wind down and prepare for the next day.
Day three in the Dominican Republic has been amazing. We did not volunteer and play with the girls at the Mariposa Foundation Center today, because the girls do not attend activities and programs on Sunday. Instead, we enjoyed a delicious buffet breakfast at the Cabarete Coffee Company and went on a tour of the cocoa and coffee farms that supply the coffee shop with their inventory. We were led on a tour by Patricia. During breakfast, she explained details about, and the importance of the cocoa industry and her own connection to the business. I thought it was interesting how the Dominican Republic is the largest exporter of organic cocoa in the world, since the country is not fairly large in terms of surface area. Patricia mentioned how her husband’s family owns cocoa farms in “el campo” (the countryside), and how everyone helps to bring in the harvest. I believe this is a great example of how family, and taking responsibility in order to ensure the welfare of a community, is a significant value of the Dominican people.
The cocoa farm was somewhat far from the part of Cabarete where we are staying–the drive to get to the tour site was about an hour. The scenery during the drive was exceptional, as one could view the Atlantic Ocean on the left and, on the right, small plots of land, used for sustenance farming, with cattle roaming freely. There were not too many people out, which is understandable given that the temperature was in the mid-eighties with the sun directly overhead. Upon arrival, Patricia’s husband, Freddy, led us on a tour of the cocoa farms. The terrain was rough and rolling and covered with a dense layer of underbrush, loose leaves, and rich soil. It had rained recently and the ground was slippery, so we had to be cautious when hiking up and down hills. During the tour, we were able to see how many cacao pods, green bananas, and plantains are grown, and also taste them. As we walked around discussing the details of the various plants, we were given samples of those plants so we could taste them. I was pleasantly surprised at how fresh organic produced tasted compared to produce bought at a grocery store.
It was surprising to learn about the temperamental nature of the growth of cacao trees; this led me to rethink my view of chocolate and chocolate products as being commodities that require a more labor intensive production process than I had previously thought. For example, if, during the planting process, one of the planted seeds gets damaged by an animal or human, it will most likely not produce a cacao plant. Cacao plants only last about 80 to 100 years, and not every pod that sprouts produced seeds. Once the viable pods are harvested, the seeds are dried, roasted, peeled, and ground into paste that is then packed into a ball. I think our group now has a thorough understanding of the cost of the production of everyday treats such as chocolate, in terms of human labor.
We started our day at the Cabarete Cafe and ate some delicious breakfast! We had a Dominican delicacy with plantains, called mangu, that was similar in texture and taste to mashed potatoes. In addition, we ate the usual mango and pineapple cubes, along with toast and sunny side-up eggs. We then made our way to the Mariposa center and spent about three hours stenciling quotes from famous female activists and leaders (that were selected from a plethora of quotes that we gathered from hours of research the night before) onto the walls. Every day, these quotes are meant to empower the Mariposa girls when they walk inside and see them colorfully painted on the walls (in both Spanish and English). We are almost halfway finished stenciling and painting a total of four quotes, including ones from Edwidge Danticat, Julia Alvarez, Isabelle Allende, and Michelle Obama. After having an amazing lunch, we went back to our hotel, where we met with the 7th graders and discussed female activists (who they are, what they do, who they help, and what we can learn from them). Specifically, we discussed three: Mama Tingó, Sofia Pierre, and Maya Angelou. After dinner (and lots of playing TAPS in the pool), the ten of us ended our day getting to know each other even more, by sharing the maps of our lives (that we created in ten minutes) and also participating in a karaoke contest.
Today after a wonderful and fulfilling breakfast at our favorite place, Cabarete Coffee, we departed to the Mariposa foundation to work on the female empowerment quotes we were painting on the beams across from the classrooms. Today we worked on the quotes from Julia Alvarez, Edwidge Danticat, and Isabel Allende by finishing the stenciling process and beginning the painting. For lunch we had arroz con pollo, which is rice with chicken, a traditional Dominican meal–and it was delicious! After lunch we went back to painting for an hour and a half before returning to the hotel to work with the eighth-grade girls.
Back at the hummingbird we split the girls up into four groups with two volunteers per group and did the same activity we did yesterday with the seventh graders where we asked the girls about who they think an activist is, who she helps, and what she does and what we can learn from these female activists. This was a great opportunity for us volunteers to practice our Spanish with the girls and take the lead in discussions. After that we then rapped about Mama Tíngo and watched a video on Sonia Pierre, two very important women’s rights activists whom we then discussed.
When the girls left, we promptly made our way to the beach and walked through some souvenir shops where some of us bought little trinkets to remember our time here. Ms. Candelario also kindly treated us to ice cream, where, for the first time, some of us tried a flavor called Dulce de Leche which is another traditional Dominican treat that has a strong Caramel flavor; we really enjoyed it. Back on the beach, some of us enjoyed the warm waves and sand while Amiri had his hair braided by a beach vendor, and he and Angelreana both bought bracelets from a different vendor. Overall, it was a great day with the girls from the foundation, each other, and the community of the Dominican Republic!
We started off the day at Cabarete Coffee for breakfast. We had waffles with fruit and passion fruit juice. Then, we went to the Mariposa Foundation to continue painting the quotes on the walls. After eating lunch, we toured three different schools in Cabarete. The first school, Punta Cabarete, is the oldest school in Cabarete. It is a one room school for kindergarten through fifth grade. The second school is the newest public school in Cabarete, which opened only six months ago. This school has been promised by the government for the past three years, but has not been opened until now. Both the first and second schools were empty, because public school is often cancelled due to the heat. The last school, Coral, is a private school that many of the Mariposa girls attend on scholarships. We toured the school and asked the principal questions about how she teaches good values and morals in her everyday curriculum. The third school was full of very energetic students who were on breaks between their exams.
After visiting these schools, we relaxed at the hotel for an hour and a half. We then drove to the beach entrance and split up into smaller groups to explore the tourist shops. We bought (and bartered) bags, anklets, bracelets, mugs, and more. After about 45 minutes of shopping, we went to dinner at a Mongolian stir fry buffet. The food was amazing and the tables were right on the beach. Jenni, Britney, Ms. Candelario, and I all got our hair braided on the beach. To finish off our day, we had a lot of fun blasting music and dancing in Alvaro’s van.
After yet another delicious breakfast (this time, Cabarete Coffee added quinoa to our usual eggs, bread, and fresh fruit), we arrived at the Mariposa center ready to continue stenciling in and painting our quotes. Today, many of us, including myself, focused on beautifying the center with a variety of colors and decorative pictures, which accompanied the quotes. I especially enjoyed and valued our work today because of the immense support our group had for one another—whether that be criticism or compliments. I am in awe of how beautiful the quotes look on the walls; and I hope that, for a long time, they will reiterate to the girls that they, and every woman in the world, have the potential to create change.
After lunch, we began discussing with the seventh graders the books on various activists that we will be working on for the remainder of our time here in Cabarete. We then had a mini dance party and said goodbye to the girls, maybe for the last time. I personally brought this wistfulness and solemnity of saying goodbye back to The Hummingbird, and vocalized my feelings during our group reflection, which occurred after a bowl of chambre (stew with rice, beans, and root vegetables) and plate(s) of mango.
Even after all of my experiences with this friendly and wonderful group of Andover students, everyone at the Mariposa Foundation, and the citizens of Cabarete, I still don’t know what I am going to take back to the U.S., my small town in Missouri, and in the fall, Andover. I am constantly reflecting upon how my experiences with every single person will impact my life and the lives of the girls at the Mariposa Foundation in the future. I am still thinking, and will continue to do so long after this trip.
Today was our last day working at the foundation and spending time with the girls. In the morning we spent time finishing our work painting quotes on the walls. When we finished, taking a step back to look at our work, we were left with a sense of accomplishment knowing that we were leaving a permanent mark behind. We were also touched by the fact that many of the young girls were stopping to read the quotes and to ask questions about them. This let us know that we were really leaving a lasting impression on these girls and that we were also inspiring them to follow in the steps of the women whose quotes were painted on the walls. I would be very interested to see the conversations that these quotes provoke long after we have left. I’m sure many of the girls will go on and look up some of these famous people, such as Julia Alvarez or Edwidge Danticat, after seeing their names.
During the second half of our day, we traveled back to our hotel to finish up a lesson on Maya Angelou with the girls. We listened to her recite her poem “Still I Rise” and, afterward, the girls were asked to share their favorite parts of the poem. It was very interesting to see their reactions as Maya read her poem and then to hear their interpretations of it. Once the lesson was over, we were able to spend time with the girls. This ended up turning into a small little dance party. The girls taught us two dance styles: Merengue and Bachata. They also taught us a dance of their own. At the end, it was sad that we had to say goodbye to them because we had developed friendships, and it was easy to see that they were sad we were leaving too. After that, we went to our last dinner with our Mariposa leaders and reflected upon our experiences working at the foundation. During this trip, we developed relationships with people we may not have ever thought we’d come into contact with and learned things about them and about ourselves and we are sad we only have a day left before we head home.
The Global Goals: Dominican Republic Program made it back to the US! Here is a final reflection from Emilyn Sosa, program co-Leader: “Goodbyes are inherently bitter sweet and so in anticipation of our last full day in Cabarete, I’ve had all the feels. I am not ready to leave knowing that there is so much more to be done. A poignant lesson I’ve learned during our time with las mariposas is that it’s never enough to do service work for the sake of saying you did it. Rather, do the work to build bridges, everlasting relationships so that the work will continue to get done, with or without you. I’m proud that our students were able to take risks and open up to this experience because whether they feel it now, or not, they are leaving las mariposas with something priceless, knowledge about women activists they can continue to learn about and look up to as they grow into young women leaders in their own communities. After spending a week learning from one another, regardless of language barriers and educational disparities, our students and las mariposas, alike, will take this experience with them wherever they go in life. Yet, the reality is that these young girls are used to seeing service groups come and go and it will always be a tougher farewell for them. So, it’s crucial that we build beyond these 10 days. I’m looking forward to seeing how our students will apply what they’ve learned here and continue to grow in their own activism. Besides, I can truly say it wasn’t quite a goodbye but more of a “see you later!” #tanglitw #tanginstitute #philipsacademy #pa_ggdr