Dominican Republic #11: Heart & Soul

Trip Leader Nina Otterson, shares a final reflection of her experience with Cambiando Vidas. 

Jose is the soul of Cambiando Vidas. He gives his all and only expects us to give our best. He loves to talk and tells us moving stories about his beloved sixteen year old son, Jose Andre, who joined us for dinners, the genesis of Cambiando Vidas, about his connection with Aiden Day, and about the impact this house we are building will have on Cheecha, Carlos, and five year old Victor’s family. When pressed, he modestly and gently tells us about gathering the community in a candlelight vigil to fight against the big gold companies that threaten to disrupt the precious water supplies to the caldera the village sits in. “Orro, no! Agua, si!” On the bus, Jose tells us to get ready, “Guys! Start picking your stuff!” Or when we try to get past him and say excuse me he sassily replies, “You’re not sorry.” Then he taps a kid on the opposite shoulder, next to me, and giggles loudly when the kid asks me what I want.

When Jose’s brother, Gaio, drives down the road he’s like royalty. All around us we hear “GaioOO!”, “GAiOHH!!” being shouted out. And he nods and smiles as he cruises by. At the worksite, the shouts of “GAiOHH!” continue from inside the house when a worker needs guidance, “GAiOHH!” from the back when someone needs to know how to rebar and cover the septic pit. Then Gaio walks over, finishes the work, and smooths the concrete out. The guys rush to bring him whatever tool he barks out he needs. Jose is the parrot. Gaio is the bear. He is strong and tough and he does all the hard parts himself. I felt comfortable working with Gaio because he only likes to speak when necessary and I don’t know a whole lot of Spanish so I anticipated what he needed. He walked by me the last day and shyly handed me a mango, his favorite food (I managed to ask him this!).

Sheryl is the heart of it all. She doesn’t like to be in the spotlight and declines any speeches, but she is the driving force that got us all down there. She tears up when thinking about Aiden. She is up first calling out “Wakey, wakey, eggs-and-bakey!” and asleep last after she makes sure the bloggers have her computer and know when curfew is. She asked the kids to pick up heart-shaped rocks at the beach and tearily asked them to remember this build whenever they touch it. Gracias.

The Components of Our Build Team:

BLOC = each individual block is small, but together forms a house, one-by-one makes steady progress and the basis of it all = CINDER BLOCK

Blix, Alessia, Tyler

MEZCLA = holds each block to the next, the “glue” if our team, CEMENT

Ella, Ryan

CARRETILLA = carries the heavy load, makes the job lighter for all, WHEELBARROW

Zhexuan, Lauren, Xavier

PICOS = gets it done, breaks down the hard things so that others can work effectively = PICK AXE

Jasmine, Davey, Charlotte

BARRIA = holds the entire house together, forms the connection between the team and the community = REBAR

Maddie, Kevin, Amelia