Davey Mazur ’24 and Jazmine Irizarry ’23, reflect on the strong impact their time in the Dominican Republic has had on them.
Pouring the cement floor marked our final day of construction on the house. Jose made the point that even if something were to happen to all of us tomorrow there would still be a livable house for this family that we built to weather all kinds of storms. After our work was done for the day and the house was officially livable, we took a quick drive to a house overlooking the town and relaxed in the hammocks and ate exotic fruit and cooled off in the pool. The view was amazing until upon closer examination you saw back to the worksite, baking in the sun, with community members toiling away finishing our job. The wealth displayed at this villa, with carefully cultivated orchards and a level concrete basketball court soured compared to the collaboration to create something functional in the valley below us. When we had finished up in our paradoxical paradise we drove past the worksite where I was ashamed to show up, still wet from the inground pool, and be seen by the members of the community that were laboring while I was swimming. Instead we were greeted with smiles and waves; our newfound family welcomed us back and were happy to see us even though in passing, even though we were clean while they were still mezcla splattered, even though we had left when they were working.
On the first day upon arriving to the Dominican Republic, Jose posed the question; “Has anyone been to the DR before?” I was the only one to raise my hand. He then asked me what part I visited. I replied with “Punta Cana.” “Well, you’re going to see the real people of the Dominican Republic this week.” He said.
Tall green mountains separated the skyline and foreground in the distance as we traveled on the bus back to the hotel from the worksite. As I gazed upon the rice farms with different animals on the land, the bus started to slow down. When I looked ahead to see what was slowing us down, it was a big herd of cows. There were adult cows and baby cows walking slowly in the middle of the road with no Ranchero in sight. Jose hopped out of the bus to move them out of the way by making noises at them. After a few minutes of him doing this, a horse was in sight coming down the road. As the horse galloped closer, I saw that the Ranchero was a young boy who looked about six or seven, sitting on the horse’s saddle with a whip in hand. Seeing the young boy reminded me that children at such a young age here in the DR, have to get jobs at a young age to help provide for their families. I thought about the other workers on the site like Jefri, who had been working with Cambiando Vidas since he was 12. I thought about how Victor’s mom said that he would soon have to get a job and he’s only five years old right now. Jose was right to say the least. It’s not all nice resorts with large swimming pools and unlimited food like in Punta Cana. The DR has real people, with real stories, facing harsh realities.