The Dominican Republic will bring you unique ways to serve those around you and really make a difference. Look how this ILP group served in a cute nursing home and brought happiness to the people living there!
Volunteering with ILP gives you an amazing way to serve the kids you teach, but your service doesn't have to stop there! There is always more you can do as you are living abroad.
Volunteer abroad in The DR and fall in love —
Here's all you need to know about the DR humanitarian program
We talked with Janessa F., a volunteer in The Dominican Republic, about how her and her group were able to reach out and serve the community around them! Here's what she had to say:
How Did You Find Out About This Opportunity?
"Coming home from school one Friday the house was sort of buzzing with excitement. Amarilis, the local coordinator, had called and said she had a fun service opportunity for that evening. Amarilis has countless opportunities to serve — you can serve as much as you are willing.
"We were told to wear good walking shoes and be ready to go around 5:30. All the girls met over at Amarilis’s home to load up with backpacks of goods donated by the Starfish Foundation. We walked for about 40 minutes across town up this hill to a tiny little home.”
What Was The Nursing Home Like?
“Outside were about 10 men. Some were in working wheel chairs, others were in older ones that didn’t function but provided a seat outside with a nice view. A lot of them looked like statues - staring off as though nobody had stopped to talk to them for decades…
"Inside the home there were 2-4 tiny metal cots in each mustard yellow painted room with nothing than a sheet on the beds. Some of the more 'wealthy' residents had a five gallon bucket with a spare shirt or a picture of their family. Those who were still inside were bed ridden and very sick. The home was so quiet - you could hear the leaky faucet dripping from the bathroom. There wasn't anything extra in the home- no spare furniture or pictures on the wall."
What Did You Do While At The Nursing Home?
“We sat and talked to each man as we passed out little packages of Oreo cookies, we walked around passing out bed sheets, adult diapers, and a couple snacks — we also sang songs. When we began to sing you could just see their faces light up - even though they didn’t speak the same language.
"Back outside girls began to turn on music that would have been popular back when these gentlemen were young. It’s amazing to see what music does to people and how it sparks their memories. Some men began to put their hands up as if to dance. The girls immediately saw an opportunity and began to dance with these sweet souls.”
How Did Serving Their Effect You And Your Group?
"After about an hour we left and walked home. It was pretty quiet for awhile - each person taking their own time to reflect about what they saw and felt. In America we fuss over how new or plush our pillows and mattresses are or how many options am I going to have at each meal? It’s such a contrast considering there they have one old hole-filled sheet, a small cup of food, live their lives on a lumpy, decades old mattress and they never complain about what they have knowing there is someone who has much less.
"We didn’t bring much in terms of physical objects to those humble men that day; and I don’t think volunteers need to feel that in order to go somewhere you have to bring gifts or supplies with you. Giving the gift of time and conversation to someone who feels as though they’ve been forgotten is a gift enough. Looking at their faces from the time we arrived and the time we left- their smiles said something much more valuable than any new sheet or cracker was shared that perfect Friday night."
How Can I Find Opportunities Like This While Abroad?
If you want to make an even bigger difference while serving abroad keep your eyes open for ways to serve everyday. Get out and explore your city, talk to locals and like this ILP group, talk to you Local Coordinator who will know the needs of the community better than you. There are a lot of ways you can serve; Here's a few more ideas.
Interested in spending a semester abroad and serving?
We're big fans and definitely think you should, whether that means volunteering in the Dominican Republic or one of ILP's other countries, we know you'll love your semester!
Click the button below to learn more about ILP and the amazing places you can volunteer in!