BRIDGES the Dominican Republic: January 2009

Participant Reflections

This trip was very challenging, but it’s a great experience. The love and respect the community of La Cuchilla gives you is delightful.  The trip helps you meet new people and experience a new shine of light.   I got so much from this trip.
--Michelle Soto

Going to La Cuchilla for my second time was everything I expected and more.  Not only did the group of students work well together, but the people of La Cuchilla are incredible. They welcomed us all with open hearts and arms. They accept you as one of their own from the moment they see you.  Seeing the kids at school and the families in the community creates this warm feeling of love which keeps you wanting to return and spend more time in the area.  The sense of unity throughout the community builds hope of a better future.  Instead of focusing on the materialistic things which most people in the community lack, the families focus on the important non-materialistic features of life such as family, friends, and love. The BRIDGES service trip to La Cuchilla instills opportunities of love, hope, and change.  I am very grateful to have been a part of this amazing mind-altering experience.
--Anna Kulacz

Service in the mountains of La Cuchilla and Jagua opened my eyes to the love and humbleness of these people.  The children are full of life and eager to learn.  I learned that money is not the root of happiness and greed is present in everyone’s life.  I had a wonderful, worthwhile experience.
  --Laura Arias


Before we left for the trip, I was really nervous and I wasn’t as excited as some of the other people.  Even at the retreat house, I was nervous about going up to La Cuchilla.  But once we got up the mountains and met our family, I immediately felt relieved.  All my doubts about the trip were gone after I spent some time with my family and after the first day at school with the kids.  It is so much fun to be with them doing crafts because they all love it so much.  I do wish that I spoke and understood more Spanish so that I didn’t have to rely on my translator as much.  Even though she was good, I just would have liked to have been able to speak to my family directly.  In the two weeks, I got so attached to my family and the community that it was hard to leave.  I will be coming back though, so that made it easier to handle.  The people up there are so grateful for everything and it is such an amazing experience.  I can’t wait to come back and be with my family again.
--Erika Conlon

Going on the BRIDGES trip was a blessing for me.  I expected to help the community, but I was caught off guard when the community ended up changing me. They showed me that family always comes first and by adding me into the family they loved me as if I was one of the family. The kids in the community showed me just how much I really want to be a teacher, just by seeing their faces change from frustration, when they didn’t get something, to excitement when they finally got it.
--Amanda Bean

This trip has truly been amazing.  The people are so warm and welcoming.  What they lack in material wealth, they make up with the love and sense of family.  The children are just so precious and I couldn’t imagine the trip without them.  I thought the language barrier would be difficult, but it made no difference.  The trip has changed me only for the better and I plan to come back to help and be helped in return.  
--Jessica King

When I first got to Dominican Republic, I was very nervous about meeting my family and being in another country.  But once I met my family those feeling went away and I loved my family right away.  They welcomed me into their family like I was one of their own.  I am so grateful that I was able to come on this trip.  I really think I made a difference in these peoples’ lives. The one negative thing about this trip was that I don’t speak Spanish.  When I come back next year, I hope to have learned.  This was such a great experience that I will remember forever.
  --Ann Prusinowki

I am forever grateful for taken part in this beautiful experience.  The emotion and changes that will happen internally are indescribable.  One’s point of view of the world will change dramatically after visiting and helping the community of La Cuchilla.  The community is truly sent from above and will do everything in their power to ensure your happiness, peace, ease and comfort.  The best way I know something is by taking action and experiencing it for yourself.  If you are thinking about coming, just go for it.  You will be so pleased and surprised. You will gain a family, strength, inner peace, and unlock certain mysteries of your being.  Best of luck and hope you will be up the mountains soon.
--Katie Mirro

This was my second time coming on this trip and the people of La Cuchilla still manage to impact my life and heart!  It felt so good to see my family and friends.  Once I got there it was like I never left.  It was funny because I went there wanting to give everything, even the shirt on my back if I needed to.  I was always surprising people that I was close to with gifts here and there.  I was really surprised when a 5 year old little girl that u fell in love with at the school walked 15 minutes up the mountain to visit me after school when I was sick and gave me a gift. I felt like crying because I didn’t realize how much of an impact that I made on certain people. It was an honor and a pleasure to go back for a second time.  I never thought I would become so attach to people that I barely knew, but I did!  They will always have a spot in my heart!
--Melanie French

The first time I came on this trip it was amazing, and I got so much out of it.  The second time around it was even better.  Just feeling the love from the community was refreshing.  Being in La Cuchilla for a second time put me in such a better mind-state; to cherish what I have and to mature even more.
--Carlos Garcia

My overall experience has been phenomenal.  My foreshadow of the trip has been met but a great and more developed version was breeched.  I did exactly what I said I would do, which was to walk away with the knowledge of knowing that I have impacted so many lives, and leaving tears on faces from people who have grown to love me and have offered a tremendous amount of hospitality for two weeks of my stay.  Now I can only continue to please these wonderful people who I have met and make sure that I can give help and happiness to better someone else’s life.
--Gerald Washington

Being able to go on this trip for a second time was amazing. I waited a year to go back and visit my family and friends.  I was overwhelmed with all the love they gave.  I was surprised that most of the people remembered me.  It also made me glad to know that I had an impact on them the first time.  I felt right at home as soon as we got there.  My mom was waiting for me outside and as soon as we got there, her love was just overflowing.  I was so happy to be back and be able to play with the kids and do fun activities with them at the school.  It was like I never left.  The comfort, the joy and the happiness that I felt during this trip was like the last time, if not more.  I was able to get a lot closer to my mom and the rest of the kids.  We had a lot of heart to heart moments that will stay with me forever.  This only made leaving La Cuchilla harder for the both of us.  I got to know everybody in the community a little better also. They all wanted me to come back, which hopefully I will be able to do.
This trip has taught me so much about life and myself.  It was a great way for me to take a step back and reevaluate my life; look at what I’ve done so far and what I plan on doing in the future.  It’s a great way for one to get out of their comfort zone a little bit and take a chance for the better of oneself.  It’s a life changing experience that I was able to re-experience this time again.  I have learned to love more, to give more and more importantly to appreciate the little things I have, just like the people in La Cuchilla.  It’s amazing to see people who have so little, be so happy and still have enough love and happiness to share with others.
I would strongly encourage anyone who wants to participate on this trip to take a chance and just go for it.  You will come back a different person.  I don’t think that one can go on this trip and not fall in love for the people in La Cuchilla. 
--Patricia Pauyo

Having the opportunity to be a part of this trip is an experience I am glad I took.  At first I wasn’t sure what to expect, but once I saw the family welcome me with open arms, I knew I would be fine.  I not only saw new things and made new friendships; I gain a new family from this experience.
--Catalina Amarillo

When I woke up this morning and walked into the small  kitchen in the corner of the house and saw everyone who had come to see me off, I realized that I was not only leaving La Cuchilla but I was leaving a whole new family.  People talk about the tragedies of third world countries through statistics and text books, but I have lived it.  I allowed myself to fall in love with the people who live it every day.  I know their names and I know their faces.  But in meeting these people who live it every day, I didn’t see poverty, I saw true beauty.  They have a true and compassionate love that I have never before experienced and I will be thankful every day of my life to have been made a small part of it.  The people in La Cuchilla will be forever in my heart and mind as a reminder of the way life should be lived.
--Ashley Cummings


Here is a list of some of the things we were able to accomplish as a direct result of your generosity:
 1.  Collected, transported, and distributed 1,500 pounds of new clothing, bedding, medicines, vitamins, and books, to various rural communities.
2.  Cemented the area from the La Cuchilla school to the outhouse; constructed two cement speed bumps in front of the school, to slow down motorcycles; painted the school’s iron gate; built a tall cement light post in front of the chapel.
3.  Painted the doors/gate and decorative lettering in the Jagua school.
4.  Painted the inside of the La Cuchilla chapel, adorned it with 4 murals, and painted its iron gate; enclosed the chapel’s tabernacle with a decorative protective iron grate so that the chapel can be kept open;  provided materials to construct a permanent cement altar; repaired its 20 benches.
5.  Provided materials to lay 600 additional feet of reinforced cement on the steep dirt access road from Dojima up to La Cuchilla.
6.  Purchased 200 cinderblocks to complete one house, and gutters and barrels to collect rainwater for 2 homes with no running water.
7.  Installed two additional rural homes with inverters to provide continuous electricity during the daily blackouts.
8.  Provided funds for 2 rural families to upgrade their motorcycles; provided one family with a new washing machine.
9.  Provided $700 of food a month for the 30 students, from various rural communities, who live in La Casa Madre Maria in Juncalito from Monday through Friday, so that they can continue their studies.
10.  Provided special medical assistance for 3 rural people.
11.  Paid the tuition for 3 college students, assisted 2 additional college students with transportation money, and provided uniforms and school supplies for a dozen rural students.
12.  Together with key school officials from La Cuchilla/Jagua/Janico, had a very positive meeting with the regional Director of Education in Santiago to secure approval of a “TV Centro” high school for La Cuchilla, to serve students from four rural communities; provided the Director with a letter of intent to build the high school building, once the project is officially approved.