Final Expedition Round-up

This will be my last blog post about my Green & Black’s Community Development Programme expedition in the Dominican Republic with Raleigh International. Here I am summing up the best and the worst of my experience, what I learnt and along with a few of my favourite photos.
Digging and laying the pipes
Women of La Laguna
Family and Cocoa

What Went Well

  • The day of digging when there were a variety of jobs to do. This was on the first Friday and we were digging by the river. There were several different sites we worked on that day as well as switching between digging and pipe-laying
  • Learning about fairtrade and organic cocoa
  • Having a Medic on site. Carolyn was amazing, she took care of everyone, medically and mentally. She was a really good confidante, a constant morale-booster, a considered debater and could even make digging clothes look glam
  • The team meetings and ‘Digger of the Day’ – it was useful to discuss how we were progressing, feeling, thinking and making plans as a team. Plus there was an incentive and reward to be recognised by your peers for doing well
  • Having a Team Leader for the day as it was empowering for the individual and motivating the team
  • Winning ‘Digger of the Day’ – one of my proudest moments. I really found my juju that day and pushed through both the pain and sweat barrier to find stamina I never knew existed
  • Dancing in the evenings with the locals at La Tienda (local shop) to merengue and reggaeton music
  • Sipping super-sweet soda at the end of a hard day’s slog
  • Some of the equipment we were provided with was invaluable – namely the headtorch for using the outdoor toilet at night, the hand sanitizer to prevent me from getting ill, the Compeed for my damaged feet, and the medical kit for all its goodies
  • Learning about the local community, their ways, their culture, their humour, their insight, and their kindness
  • Big cooked lunches – although I had little appetite it was a saving grace for many in the team
  • Mafia – this was one of the best games I have ever played. Brilliant
  • Getting to know the other volunteers. They were some incredibly interesting people on this expedition
  • The debrief photos and name glow activity. On the last evening we sat together to watch a short presentation of the highlights from the trip which reminded us how much we had been through in a short space of time. Following this we spent an hour or so passing around bits of paper and writing positive messages about each person for them to take home.
  • The beach day! We finally had some down-time on the last day where we enjoyed chilling out on the beach, having a bbq lunch and finishing with a night of rum, games and dancing until the early hours of the morning
Last day spent at the beach

What Went Not So Well

  • Flying with Iberia. It was a pretty horrendous experience for all kinds of reasons. But not having the group sat together was a shame too.
  • Not having enough food on the first day. We were up at 4am for our flights, there was no food on the first flight, and very little on the second. When we did arrive in Santo Domingo we were not allowed to all go out to eat and just had sandwiches at the hotel. I was starving! And miserable.
  • Not enough time to explore Santo Domingo. We spent a whole day doing ‘training’ indoors and I would have loved to have seen more of the city.
  • Communication with the locals and Project Managers was not as sharp or timely as necessary. Considering it was such a short expedition I think the PM’s needed to be more assertive with communicating our plans too, as well accepting the local expectations.
  • I think we needed an earlier start, it was getting hot by 9am and between 12 and 2pm in was scorching. I would have preferred to get up at 6am to be on site by 7am while it is cooler.
  • Very long days, we left the house around 7am and got back about 5pm. So there was little time to spend doing other family or community activities, and there was certainly little space for lone time.
  • Pushing the Kraft involvement ruffled some feathers. It was completely unexpected.
  • There was no opportunity for souvenir shopping at the end of the trip – probably sounds arbitrary but I would have liked to buy a keepsake.
  • The group fragmented a bit and some of the group felt alienated from the best-buddying members.
  • The dinner with Conacado was haphazard with little communication with the Conacado members, this made me feel bad. I cannot speak Spanish so I was kind of stuck.
  • Not completing the project – La Laguna are still without clean water (at time of writing).
Homestay and Team

What I Learnt

  • It is ok not to be the strongest person all the time
  • To appreciate the luxury of a flushing toilet
  • Remember how precious water is
  • To savour each mouthful of chocolate, remembering all the hard work that goes into making it
  • Music and dancing bridges cultures and languages
  • Camaraderie is very important to me
  • ‘Being there’ is meaningful
  • Having the opportunity to regularly think and reflect makes me a more productive and happier person
  • Spider bites really hurt
  • Rice and beans can get quite boring
  • I still have some shyness and insecurities to overcome
  • The community of La Laguna are very open, talkative and welcoming
Cocoa Pod

Expedition Posts

  1. I Won!
  2. How to Prepare for Expedition
  3. T Minus 25 Days
  4. The Lowdown on my Expedition
  5. I Am Off
  6. 2 Weeks on Expedition is a Loooooong Time
  7. Cocoa Tour
  8. Homestay in La Laguna
  9. Digging
  10. Spider
  11. Research
  12. Fairtrade and Organic
  13. Social Media is my Community…
  14. Homestay Family
  15. Food
  16. What Went Wrong
  17. The Kraft Issue
  18. Final Expedition Round-Up
Thank you to everyone who supported me on this expedition including Green & Black’s, Raleigh International,  my blogging and online community, my family, friends and boyfriend. It has been a fascinating experience personally, and hopefully the communities of La Laguna, Las Guazarita and Ricon Honda will soon be connected to clean, running water.


  1. An interesting round-up, Elizabeth – I would share it with the rest of the group – they'd be interested to read it! Lucie xx

  2. How amazing and what a wonderful round up. Im going to go back and read all those posts! What an adventure you had:) Have a lovely day, my dear

    Ps: I’m hosting a stunning 3 gold bracelets GIVEAWAY later today! Fun pieces to spice up summer outfits!

  3. A brilliant and entertaining read of the last mentions of your expedition. Quite beautiful all in all, if I must be honest!

    Camaraderie often gets me. Chokes me into tears sometimes. It means a lot, doesn't it.

  4. I've really enjoyed reading about your expedition. I remember you being super-excited about going, and I am so glad you took so much from it.

    I also like this 'ending' to your writing about it. It's a bit like the conclusion of a discursive essay.

    You have so clearly put a lot of time, thought and energy not only into the project, but into getting everything you can from it.

    Your accounts have been very honest, and I am proud of you 🙂

  5. Lucie Thanks, I will post the link on the group facebook page.

    Diana I hope you enjoy reading all about it, it was quite an experience!

    Miss Moopette Thank you very much. Camaraderie makes such a difference, right?

    Lisa-Marie Your kind words and encouragement are a constant source of inspiration to me, thank you.

  6. What an amazing post. I love how honest it is. You havent just summed up the experience. You've lived it and it's there in your writing and photographs. Inspiring stuff…I'm gonna go and write about tote bags now! hohum! : )

  7. Pingback: Blogger Interviews: Elizabeth Sellers, Rosalilium - Blognix

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *