Dominican Republic Service Trip

Dominican Republic Service Trip February 21-28, 2015

Cost for the trip is $950 and includes air, food and lodging

Email soneill@siena.edu for more information

See video from 2011!

Article written by Tessa Biskup about the 2015 trip   Our service trip to the Dominican Republic truly encompassed all aspects of the Franciscan education which we strive to attain through our education at Siena.  While there, we lived with the Hermanas Franciscanas Bernadinas (Franciscan Sisters) who have spent the past 23 years transforming a community of people into a community with vibrant life.  Through the creation of a Kindergarten through 5th grade school, a pharmacy which serves the people at little to no cost, and an adult education program which caters to the tourist industry in order to help the people move up the social ladder, the Sisters have gained unending trust and are so admired by the people of Los Tres Brazos.

Although the people have little – some could not afford shoes or clothes, even the barest of necessities were not guaranteed – the community was so grateful for all that they had.  The experience was humbling to say the least.  We truly learned how to embody DORS values: each trip member had diverse backgrounds which resulted in unique skills and talents.  As we worked together, we accomplished great things.  These ranged from stocking a pharmacy to teaching Bhangra to a gym class of 2nd graders.  Our group remained optimistic in the face of challenges, whether it was a late night completing lesson plans followed by an early morning walk to the convent or the difficult realization of how much of our hearts we had given to the community over the course of the week and the idea that we would soon have to part with them.  Each individual on this trip experienced the realization of the sacredness of human life and the respect which we all must have for one another.

The trip truly engaged our hearts in its personal nature.  The community was completely open to us, members invited us into their houses to teach us about their lives and asked about our own.  We learned stories of people who had lived in the neighborhood their whole lives as well as those of the sisters who moved there in 1992 and the change which they had created in such a short span of time.  The service which we did brought out the best in ourselves but more than that, it truly enabled us to see the best in others.  We all learned the true meaning of servant leadership and were able to use this to create sustainable change rather than to solely address short term issues within the community.  We attempted to create an impact which would live on after we left and as we spent time with the sisters, we felt the longstanding impact which previous groups had made.  The connection which the Sisters and the community have developed lives on from year to year in the love which they have for one another and their remembrance of Siena Students who return on the trip time and time again.  The short trip will live on forever in our hearts as it was a transformative experience which we will never forget.

   

  Article written by Siena senior Kelly Donnelly from the 2008 trip

  Over spring break, a group of ten students went to the Dominican Republic on a service trip with the Bowman Center for Women. Led by Dr. Shannon O’Neill and accompanied by Brother Larry Anderson, the group volunteered with a group of Franciscan Sisters.    Everyone who went on the trip found the whole experience eye-opening, as we had a chance to live and serve in an incredible nation that is so different from our own. The community we served was extremely impoverished. The roads are dirt or in great need of repair. Most of the houses are made of different metals (mostly rusted) that are pieced together, have one or two rooms, and gaping holes in the ceilings and walls. There are piles of trash everywhere. Overall, the people own hardly any material possessions. Yet, amid this poverty they were phenomenally faith-filled and happy. On the first day, when we were at Mass, tons of children came up and hugged us before they even really met us. Throughout the week, we were continually impressed with how much everyone in the community welcomed us, and were willing to give and do for one another, despite the hardships they faced.   We were all amazed with how much the Sisters do for the community. The children only go to school for half a day, so the Sisters run a before-school program for the children who attend school in the afternoon, and an after-school program for those who attend school in the morning. Without this program, most of the children would be left alone on the incredibly unsafe streets without any supervision. The Sisters also run a health clinic that provides needed medical supplies and care for the immediate community and some of the surrounding communities. They run a baseball program for boys, which is an incentive for them to remain in school, as well as giving them a safe activity to participate in. In learning about all of these programs, we were all inspired to see how much the Sisters had truly implemented programs that served the unique needs of the community. Everything was done with practicality in mind, and they made sure that the community’s needs were met in an extremely sensitive manner. Before going to the Dominican Republic, we collected supplies to be used in the medical clinic and by the children. We planned and led activities for the children in the before and after-school programs, helped out with some English classes for older children, and helped in the medical clinic. We were amazed with how incredible the children were! Materially, they had virtually nothing, and yet they were so filled with joy! They were incredibly kind-hearted towards everyone, and grateful for the tiniest things. One of the activities we led was an Easter egg hunt, where each child received a plastic egg filled with some candy. The kids were absolutely ecstatic when they found the eggs - - it is impossible to describe just how excited and grateful the kids were! This gratitude and excitement carried through in all of the activities. The whole Siena group commented on how fortunate we felt to meet all the people we encountered. It was a joy and a privilege to spend time with each of the people we had a chance to serve. Our whole experience was phenomenal, and it is clear that each person who went was inspired by everything and everyone we encountered, and made memories that will last a lifetime.