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
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.