Orphanage Outreach: A Trip to the Dominican Republic

In less than three days, my plane will arrive in Santiago, Dominican Republic, after a 24 hour trip through Medford, Oregon, Salt Lake City, Utah, and New York City. The travel plans seem more daunting than spending 7 days at an orphanage with no hot water.

The orphanage tells us to ready ourselves mentally. It’s like camping for a week. Don’t attach yourself to one child. Go with the flow. If there is a flood, pick up a shovel. Don’t forget your flashlight — and don’t forget extra bug repellent.

I am not the first person to travel to this orphanage. I can learn to “go with the flow.” I’m 38 years old and I am certain I have gone with the flow once or twice in my life.

I am excited to experience something that I hope is the antithesis of our American culture. My expectations, right or wrong, tell me the children are friendly, eager to play and willing to learn. They will be excited to play games and make art projects with me, even though I’m a strange American woman.

The cultural barrier will teach me more than them. I will learn what its like to grow up not being burdened with the need to succeed through a six figure salary and the acquisition of a BMW and Versace sunglasses. I will meet people who haven’t put their life savings and all their hopes and dreams into losing propositions. I will meet people whose outlook in life isn’t altered by pure financial capitalism and greed. At least this is what I would prefer to find.

When I went to Guanajuato, Mexico, last year I visited a place were people lived day to day. They weren’t in a hurry to get somewhere and do something. They just wanted and needed to earn enough money to buy their supper. The small town, geographically speaking, was inhabited by more than 125,000 people. Guanajuato is Ashland, Oregon‘s, sister city. The two towns are about the same size, but Ashland only has 20,000 residents.

Even though one may say Guanajuato is over populated, it isn’t. It feels good to have neighbors and see people living life. It makes a person feel less lonely. People sit and talk together and enjoy each other’s company. It is a community void of individuals sitting alone in their living rooms playing video games and watching Glee.

I am excited to visit a new place and be useful to strangers. I have a feeling that it will be more rewarding being of use to a stranger than to someone I know. But if that were true, more people would help strangers all the time. Wouldn’t they?


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