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To Build a Home
Auden Salazar

Left: Daniel Soto-Parra '24 and James Cross '24 dig the foundation of a home in the Dominican Republic

What distinguishes a house from a home? This profound question resonated with eight Prep students and two teachers during their service trip to the Dominican Republic this summer. 

After a hiatus due to the pandemic, this was Prep’s first service trip since 2019, providing students with an invaluable opportunity for personal growth, cultural understanding and social responsibility. As the group embarked on the construction of a house, their understanding of what truly makes a home and community underwent a profound transformation. 

ARRIVAL AND IMMERSION

Initially, students struggled to adapt to the hot and humid environment. However, they soon found themselves immersed in a supportive community and vibrant culture, overcoming challenges such as language barriers, heat and unfamiliar insects. Their work began with laying the foundation of a house built for the beneficiaries of Education Across Borders, the service-learning organization leading the trip. As the students eagerly tackled physical labor, adjusted to unfamiliar conditions and bridged cultural differences, they discovered that these challenges were the most impactful aspects of their journey. 

PERSONAL GROWTH, EMPATHY, AND IMPACT

Daniel Soto-Parra ’24 expressed how transformative the trip was, urging reflection on the cultural differences and the community present in the villages they supported. These encounters with the local community formed lasting and impactful relationships, with some students maintaining contact even after returning home. By the trip’s end, the students had successfully laid the foundation of a house, a testament to their dedication and teamwork. Both Ms. Delaney Palmer (a Prep Spanish teacher) and Daniel expressed that their work on the house was not critical. The community they supported had the capabilities, but it was this exchange of culture, prayer and ideas that was the true purpose of the trip--to ignite a fire for service within the hearts of the students, and to allow these communities to share their joy and way of life. Moreover, they gained insight into the plight of coffee farmers, witnessing their resilience and ability to find happiness in challenging circumstances. 

RETURN AND REFLECTION

The service trip was a transformative journey that challenged the students’ preconceptions of life in the Dominican Republic. Students walked away from this profound experience with a better understanding of the power of their actions and their responsibility to affect change, and the power of community despite the lack of material goods. The experience underscored the significance of service trips in shaping young minds and fostering global citizenship. These young individuals emerged from the trip with a shared commitment to creating a better world, driven by empathy, understanding and a profound desire to uplift others. 

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