March 19th, 2014 The Mobile Trash Can

Atin, Taylor, and I were grouped to build a mobile trashcan for residents in Barrio Blanco while other groups were split to paint murals or to interact with young children. In Barrio Blanco, trash is one of the problem that we saw as a threat to the children, not because there are many large pile of trash ,but because there were many small pieces of trash that can cut the feet of the children who don’t wear shoes. Many of the trash are often little plastic wrappers, plastic bags, and broken pieces of glass. The community of Barrio Blanco is very proud of their community and they don’t throw large trash in the street, but small trash are often discarded on the streets because there are no trashcans on the streets. The main problem is that there are no public trash can that can be emptied by the trash truck because trucks cannot get though the neighborhood. To solve that problem, Atin have designed a mobile trashcan for people to easily bring the cans up the the roads where trash truck can pick up the trash.

With four pieces of woods, wheels, empty oil barrel, and some tools were able to built a mobile trash can with a help of a friendly neighbor who happens to be very skilled in carpentry and one of the Dream member Otto. Taylor who is going to graduate with a Spanish degree helped us to communicate with the friendly neighbor.  Atin our trip leader got the materials with Otto in a local hardware store, and made a detailed design for the trash can. However, we had to make numerous changes in the design because of the poor quality of the wood. However, thanks to our friendly neighbor who helped us drill holes and gave useful tips, we were able to built the trashcan without splintering the wood and it became even more durable. We were amazed that this neighbor actually worked with us for hours and even added his own materials to help strength the wooden platform. In the end, the trashcan was able to move freely on the rockey un-leved streets without tilting or getting stuck. Afterwards, everyone came together with the young children to paint the trash cans with beautiful colors.

-Young-Ju Cho

Jenna’s Day 2

After starting the day running on the beach and watching the sunrise, we had a nice breakfast together. I like that the group has been bonding over our meals. In the morning my group went into the Young Stars Program and it was planets day. We were each paired up with a group of 2 or 3 students and we each read a book about a specific planet followed by asking questions about the planet. Mt group had Jupiter and even with my limited spanish we were able to make a connection. They appreciated that I was trying to communicate. After we made paper mahé planets and it was messy but really fun. We spent a while organizing the closet and found some great posters to hang in the classroom. After lunch my group was in the montessori preschool. The kids were absolutely adorable and really excited to see us. We played circle games and then worked together to make paper flowers with “las manis” (hands). I got to work/play one on one with some of the kids and I think I learned more than they did. Their laughter was the best part though. Finally, we began drawing designs on the trash cans for the new trash system project. While leaving Barrio Blanco I could see that the other group of us had done some great work on the wall mural. After leaving Barrio Blanco for the day we went for a Jungle boat tour and saw some crazy animals. We docked on the bank of the river and had dinner at a cute restaurant there. We drank from coconuts, there was dancing, and a bonfire. One the bus ride back we really bonding by singing and laughing. Before bed we had a great reflection about the meaning of service. I am loving my time here. This is one of the best experiences of my life. I feel so bonded with this group of students and connected with the community I can’t wait to see what the rest of this week brings.

Niko’s Day 2

Today was my first full day being nineteen (yesterday was my birthday) and my second full day in the Dominican Republic! Our day began early (at least by college student standards), with everyone meeting for breakfast at 7:40 am. The breakfast, omelets prepared by the hotel café, was delicious as always.

 

After breakfast, we headed over to Barrio Blanco to continue the work we had started yesterday. We split into two groups: the classroom group and the painting group. I was in the classroom group. We went to the school to assist with the Estrellas Jóvenes (Young Stars) program, in which older children were learning about the planets. We split into six groups, each of which read a book together about one of the planets in the solar system. After reading the book, we asked the children some comprehension questions and then made a papier maché planet using a balloon. The kids (and us) got quite messy during the activity, so after putting our planets on the roof to dry, we washed our hands. Then we each took a sheet of paper, on which we drew a picture of our planet and wrote a fact that we had learned about it. The kids got pretty creative with their drawings; one of mine included aliens with guns on his picture of Mars.

 

The kids then left, and we worked on organizing the school’s supply closet. There was a big jumble of Play-Doh, paint, chalk, and more, so organizing the closet took quite a long time. By the time we were finished, a woman from the community had arrived to with food for us. The painting team came into the school from outside and we all ate together.

 

After lunch, we and the woman from the community cleaned the school together, with us sweeping the floors and her mopping. When we were finished, the children had already started to arrive for the Montessori pre-school program. They were absolutely adorable. We all sat in a circle while the teacher sang dozens of songs about the months, days of the week, parts of the body, and other things. The children all knew the songs by heart, and actually requested certain ones. We then split into groups, and we helped the children make flowers using plastic straws and paper cut-outs of their hands. When we had finished the activity, we returned to the circle.

 

At that moment, I felt a little girl somersault into my lap. She insisted on remaining there, taking off my glasses and trying to put them on herself even though they were much too big. When the teacher told her to go find an activity to do, she didn’t move. I asked if she wanted to do an activity, and she said she wanted to go with me. I got up with her and she picked out a little shoe-shine kit. There was no shoe polish, but I helped her put on the little green apron from the kit. She then happily brushed away at the shoe for probably ten minutes using the two brushes in the kit.

 

When she was satisfied that her imaginary shining of the shoe was complete, the girl took the brush and moved it up to my head. I sat in shock as she ran the shoe shine brush through my hair over and over, repeating, “I’m brushing her hair. She looks pretty,” as if it were some sort of chant. Whenever anyone walked by, she would point proudly at me and exclaim “Look how pretty she is!” even if the passerby didn’t happen to speak Spanish.

 

I suppose that I should have been a little upset that she was brushing my hair with a brush that had just been touching the bottom of a shoe (and let’s be honest, who knows what else), but it honestly didn’t bother me in the slightest. As the little girl rain the brush in the same stroke over and over with the questionable brush, I felt a feeling that I had never experienced before. I think it was that “warm and fuzzy feeling” that people are always talking about; I just felt incredibly happy. Sometimes I have trouble connecting with children, but this girl had taken charge and claimed me as her own. In those twenty or so minutes that she was brushing my hair, I felt unexpectedly, intensely happy. It was pure bliss; I had never experienced anything like it before.

 

The moment was eventually interrupted and the girl began to fight with a classmate over toys. I tried to stop them and tell them to share, but it was difficult because I wasn’t sure what to say. Soon after that, I was told that I had to leave to draw on trash cans, and the girl tried to stop me from leaving. She clung to me and begged, “Don’t go!” I felt horrible, but I left.

 

My group went to the tanks that would be used as trash cans for the community, and we began to draw designs on them to be painted later. Soon the day was over, and we met by the mural. The painting group had made great progress on the walls; a much larger portion of the difficult wall was white, and people were already painting murals on the easy wall. It looked amazing, and I felt so proud of my companions that had worked in the hot sun all day to make it beautiful.

 

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Then we returned to our hotel. We had a couple free hours, which my roommate Young-Ju and I used to shower and relax in our room, and then we met for a “jungle tour” and dinner.

 

The jungle tour was much too touristy for my taste. It was essentially a zoo, where we were given the opportunity to hold a tarantula and an iguana and touch a snake, and watch the zookeepers provoke a cayman so we could see how it reacted. Personally, I was a little concerned about how the animals were treated, and it seemed like something rich tourists do to prove that they went to the jungle. I think some people in our group enjoyed it, though, and I can definitely see why they would be excited to see animals they hadn’t seen before.

 

We then went on a boat ride to a little outdoor restaurant, where we enjoyed Dominican food and some dancing. We then took the boat back to our bus and returned to our hotel. When we got to the hotel, we had our daily reflection. As always, it was incredibly thought-provoking thanks to our wonderful trip leaders Atin and Karen. Because we all had so many ideas, though, we ended up discussing our ideas and views on issues together until midnight. We were all tired and had to wake up early the next morning, which is why I ended up writing this blog post the next day. As soon as reflection was over, I went to my room and immediately fell asleep.

 

 

Faven’s Day 3

This experience has been so wonderful that blogging about one day doesn’t seem like it is enough, but I’ll give it my best shot.  So today I woke up feeling pretty sick and I was not looking forward to getting out of bed. However, I got myself together and went down to breakfast as usual and drank tea. I still was not feeling that great but I made my way over to Barrio Blanco. After we arrived ,we broke into two groups, the mural group and the Young Star group. Today, I had the opportunity to be in the Young Star group which consisted of the older kids. The teacher split the volunteers up into groups and had 3-4 children per volunteer. The children were instructed to make cardboard spiders and caterpillars/butterflies. As a volunteer, we were told to make our own spider and help the children with whatever they needed. I had 3 children at my table and even though I spoke to them in broken Spanish, I felt a sense of importance and appreciation from the kids I was working with. One of the children, Caroline, asked me to draw hearts on her caterpillar and kept raving about how wonderful our caterpillar was. She also didn’t sit down at the circle with the other kids until she finished helping me clean up. One of the other children at my table was very quiet and was carefully painting a very aesthetically pleasing cardboard caterpillar. Everybody kept complementing him and saying how great his work was but he just smiled and continued. I do not have art skills at the slightest and I made this pathetic excuse of a spider and I commented about how ugly it was to him and he assured me that it wasn’t ugly. I thought that was such a sweet thing to say because most young kids will tell it like it is, and the fact that he didn’t think my horrendous spider wasn’t ugly was endearing. Although I felt pretty awful throughout the morning, these kids brightened my day. Unfortunately, after lunch I wasn’t feeling well enough to go outside and help continue painting so I took a breather in the classroom. During this time, Marsha from DREAM kindly brought me a gatorade which was an energy booster. Anyways, while I was resting my head, this little girl came up to me and began talking to me and although I spoke in completely incorrect verb tenses she seemed to be really enjoying my company and asked me to play games with her. Later on in the day we went on a beautiful hike that brought us to a cave that had a swimming area. I wish I could properly articulate how beautiful and magical this cave was but I would not do it justice. The day ended with us going to a beach front dinner and as always, a wonderful reflection. At this point in the trip, it really feels like we have all gotten so much closer and I feel like I am able to see how great all of these people are. Everyday I keep realizing two things: how lucky/blessed that I am to have this opportunity and also how many awesome people there are in this world. I have always been a huge promoter of diversity and being exposed to different types of people, but it is a very hard thing to practice. It’s so amazing to see that people who would not have come together otherwise are able to mesh and connect on a different level just because of having a common experience. Image

Ashley’s First Day

I began my day at Barrio Blanco. As I was walking through the entrance of this small community, I expected the average small neighborhood: a little dirty, maybe dilapidated, and rude people. However, to my surprise, it was nothing like what I expected it to be. The neighborhood was way more than a little dirty and dilapidated; the neighborhood looked completely ruined. I was walking on top of trash and broken shards of glass. The neighborhood smelled like it has not been cleaned in decades. I was appalled and quite frightened by what I saw. Children wearing no shoes were running around through this trash and possibly stepping on those sharp pieces of glass. This could not continue in this neighborhood. However, one thing that stood out to me the most were the people who lived in these conditions. The people were so welcoming to me as they waved an exciting hello to me and had smiles painted across their faces. I couldn’t help but to wave back with the same excitement. The people were telling us how grateful they were and how blessed they were to have us there to help their community. The tour that we went on was a serious impact to me. I was given the opportunity to see how people truly lived and how the community rebuilt itself with the help of someone by the name of Ron, who seemed to be some god to me at first. His name was literally in everyone’s mouth as they were talking about the many donations and the help he gave to them. I was especially happy when the people were so motivated and looking forward to the progress they will make in rebuilding their community in the future. I was also proud of my team when we all finished our hard task to paint the entire wall white. Overall, I really enjoyed my first day at Barrio Blanco and was glad to be shown this side of Dominican Republic. I can not wait to help this community further and make a true impact on the people that they will NEVER forget!!!! I Love You Dominican Republic!!!!!!

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My first day at Barrio Blanco Community

My day started out visiting the community Barrio Blanco near our hotel. The people of the community were so welcoming with loud music and huge, perfect smiles. Everyone seemed so happy to see new faces. Angela, one of the main ladies, gave us a  tour of the community. We saw many houses that were developed and still developing. It was enlightening to see the dedication these people have to better their community and want the best for everyone.

Our #dreamteam separated into two groups; one group painted the walls where the murals are supposed to be while the other hang out with students at the Montessori school. We then gathered around and picked up trash around the community. That was when I met a little girl named Daniela. She approached me with huge smile and held my hand as if she just met a new friend. She invited me to come to her house and refused to let go not knowing who I am, where I come from etc… This taught so much about this community and how people here treat you the same and warmly welcome you regardless of where you come from. This community is one huge family and I am glad witness and be part of.

This being my first day, I am so happy and delighted to work for this community and I’m excited for what it is in store for next few days…

Sincerely,

Helen

 

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Meet ASBer: Niko Schultz!

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My name is Niko Schultz, and I’m a freshman at the University of Maryland. I’m majoring in math and minoring in Spanish and Japanese. I’m a freshman representative for the Japanese American Student Association at UMD. I’m also the Planning, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Lead for the Peru project of our Engineers Without Borders chapter. I tutor students at UMD in Spanish and other subjects, and I’m on the planning committee for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. I live in the Japanese cluster in the Language House, an immersion living-learning program at UMD. I’m very passionate about international travel; besides the United States, so far I’ve been to Canada, Japan, Italy, France, Brazil, Germany, Denmark, Peru, China, and Chile. I’m excited to go to the Dominican Republic because I’ll be able to practice my Spanish and learn about the culture, history, and people of country I currently don’t know much about. I hope to visit more foreign countries in the future, especially Spanish-speaking countries. The education aspect of this trip also really interests me because I come from a family of teachers and I’ve always wanted to be a teacher in some way.