Some of the most rewarding travel experiences thus far in my life have been the repeat trips to the Dominican Republic. For two years, at six-month intervals, I flew out to Pennsylvania to join a church volunteer group to travel to Rancho Arriba, a small village tucked into a valley of one of the south-central mountain ranges. The first stop in Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the New World, the Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. The island nation is an interesting blend of cultures & ethnicities and is an easily accessible destination for North American tourists who are looking for some fun in the sun. Fortunately for me, the nature of my travels allowed me to see much more of the topography & character of the country than many visitors get to experience. Each new trip brought a greater understanding of the people, Spanish vocabulary (of which I had almost no prior knowledge), and ethos. Every day spent in the Dominican Republic was a unique exploration of colors, sounds, smells, textures, flavors, and beautiful human interactions. Additionally, the semi-regularity of the trips presented the wonderful opportunity to establish solid friendships with the Dominicans who consistently led the construction projects, provided leadership in the community, and coordinated accommodations for each return group. I view my time in the Dominican Republic as a humbling privilege as well as an insight into the human capability to achieve incredible physical & spiritual results due to a unified mission, servant leadership, unprecedented generosity, and an utmost reliance on God to continually provide. The Dominican Republic will forever hold an important place in my heart & mind and I hope to return soon!
Bartering at the market. Mangos, yucca, sugar cane, empanadas & sancocho. Trinitaria trees. Chocolate. Green mountains. Coffee fields. Playing with & loving on adorable children. Brilliant clarity of the Caribbean Sea. Colorfully painted buildings.
The ultimate purpose of all of the biannual 10-day trips was to construct a Child Development Center (CDC) that would provide pre-school and day care services to children on the ground level and dually create a sanctuary for worship and residence for local orphans on the second level. In the mid-2000s, Fairview Village Church of the Nazarene, of Eagleville, Pennsylvania, committed financial and human labor resources to carry out the vision through a multi-stage plan. In March 2016, the final team completed construction on the second floor, allowing the CDC to make final preparations to move children in to the orphanage. Through the combination of donations of time and money from Fairview and the passionate leadership, work ethics, and visions of the people in the Dominican Republic, the CDC has hosted vision, dental, and medical clinics (even while undergoing construction); providing invaluable services to meet basic human needs in the surrounding region. The CDC is already an established symbol of hope and encouragement to Rancho Arriba and I expectantly look forward to seeing how it continues to positively impact the community.
Beauties of Santo Domingo. Clockwise from top left: A stunning doorway. Statue of Christopher Columbus. Shady alleyway in the Old Town. The first cathedral in the Americas.