A service trip to the Dominican Republic
In July 2021, seven young adults, including myself, began a journey called “The Hearth Experience.” The objective was to experience service, community and vocational discernment, all centered on the practice of fraternal love.
Even though some of us did not know much about the Focolare, while others were committed members, we quickly were able to create a loving environment. The differences—we came from different backgrounds and parts of the country—didn’t matter that much.
Six months prior to the trip, we began to meet virtually to prepare for this journey of growing closer to God and each other. In these meetings we had several guest speakers, who provided insights on different topics such as service and our spiritual gifts.
Then, on January 1 we embarked on our journey to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. While there, we went to the school called Café con Leche (Coffee with milk) for a few days to share our skills and talents with the students.
This school is very special, because it started when one woman saw the need of a school in a neighborhood where children didn’t have access to public education. She started gathering some volunteers and advocating for funding, and now it is a school where 600 children get their education!
After a couple of years, the government even built a high school close by so that the students can continue after 8th grade. The atmosphere in the school is special, because the education and the relationships among students and teachers are based on mutual love.
Some of the activities we had prepared for them included: Taekwondo, volleyball, various arts and crafts, and line dancing. I taught the children papel picado, which is folding tissue paper and cutting it into different shapes, and the children were very happy when they unfolded the picture and saw the beautiful surprise picture that they made. We also worked on repainting or finishing some murals on the school walls.
Those days were just so full of joy, getting to know the people that I came with, as well as interacting with the kids and seeing them excited just to see different people and learning a few words in English. They are always very joyful, and that joy that they have—they pass it on to you.
It helped me also to discover that I might have an idea about what God has in store for me, but I need to be open to embrace whatever comes my way and connecting the dots… to see where that is leading me and how it is shaping me into the person I am supposed to be.
The most beautiful part of this experience was the great sense of community that was created: a place where the Art of Loving was truly lived out.
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