Our primary goal today was to finish the work we began yesterday. We were bumping our way through the center of Consuelo by 8:10 in the morning, focused on achieving the goal Fofo set for us: finish the floor before lunch, and a surprise will come our way.
Our crew of 14 kids, two Brimmer chaperones, and two Rustic Pathways leaders pulled into Batey Las Juegas eager to earn Fofo’s prize. We immediately set to work making the biggest batch of concrete we had mixed yet, and then established a remarkably smooth operating bucket brigade which sent pail after pail of thick grey ooze into the house while also shuttling empty pails back to the cement bog we created. In short order, it was time to mix an even bigger batch.
Over the last four days, our kids have learned that mixing concrete--especially in batches that include 15 or more wheelbarrows full of sand--is not a job for the weak or lazy. Constantly shoveling, stirring, blending, and overturning the muck while bringing more water or more sand to the mix to get just the right consistency leads to aches, pains, sweat stains, and blisters, but our crew got amazingly good at this in just four days. Our last batch included 19 wheelbarrows of sand, six bags of concrete mix, and something like 30 gallons of water, and our kids had it all ready for pouring in about fifteen minutes. We started another bucket brigade
, this time with little kids from the batey jumping in line with us, and in no time at all, the floor was finished.
Before leaving, many of the Brimmer students got another chance to play with the boys and girls of Batey Las Juegas. Señor Tranquilo, Erica, and the rest of the urchins got piggyback rides, played thumb wars, had foot races, and generally fooled around with the big kids from the United States.
At lunch, Fofo shared with us his surprise: having accomplished everything that Rustic Pathways had planned for us, we were given the afternoon off, and an unexpected trip to the beach awaited us. While some of our kids were happy just to lounge under palm trees within range of reliable wifi and plates of hot french fries, others spent plenty of time in the warm Caribbean surf. Just as an afternoon rain shower began to fall, we boarded our bus to head back for dinner.
Fofo and Laura led our group in a thoughtful reflection of our time in the bateyes, and the students were wonderfully reflective and introspective when looking back on the last four days. Here, for the last time, are some excerpts from their journals:
“The best part was that the little kids joined in as well. That gave me a whole new perspective because it really brought the word ‘community’ to a whole new light for me.”
“[In our] ‘fireman’s line’ we had many struggles that ranged from dropped buckets to bruised fingers…but the crew and I got it together to form the most brilliant ‘fireman’s line’ I’ve ever seen….Nobody predicted we could accomplish so much in so short an amount of time….This has been a great experience for me, and I do hope to come back again in the near future.” —Jarrel
“It was amazing to work with [the batey community members] and see everybody helping out. They have it so much harder than us, yet they’re still gracious in giving to us.” —Zakkai
“It was so hard to leave the community which had given so much to me, not in physical objects but in other ways. They showed me so much kindness and support, and I could not help feeling happy when I was there….Despite me coming to the Dominican Republic to do community service for others, I also feel like I was a recipient of community service myself. Despite having almost nothing, the families living in that community gave something back to me which I will cherish forever. They broadened my perspective of the world, and they showed me how to be happy no matter what circumstance I am in.” —Samantha
“[Tomorrow] we are going to the catamaran. This made me sad and happy. Sad, because I will not get to see people from the batey again, but happy because the catamaran tour sounds very cool….I learned so much on this trip so far. I should be more grateful and happy for what I have, regardless of if it is things or qualities. Also that giving back is very important.” —Leah
“Looking back on the last few days…I realized how much work we did and how much we helped. We were able to help 4 families in 4 days, and I think that’s amazing. I had a great time doing the work even though I was tired.” —Liam
“After this trip, I’ll keep in mind that whenever I have opportunities to, I’ll support communities, whether they’re anything like this one or not, by
doing community service because it is truly rewarding.” —Zakkai
“I think the most important purpose [of service learning] isn’t helping the local community, but to help us…know about a different reality that exists, and make us remember this reality. So in the future, when we have the ability, we will still remember…and do more to support the people who are struggling.” —Katie