November 27 – 30, 2018
On our third day, our group was scheduled to do our service project in the afternoon. We slept in and had breakfast overlooking the beach and then got ready in our JetBlue swag to head out to our next project: assisting with literacy projects at Escuela de Educación Especial Padre Cavalotto (Padre Cavalotto School of Special Education).
This service project was guided by and in collaboration with the DREAM Project, a Dominican-based organization that seeks to break the cycle of poverty through education. Check out JetBlue’s tweet about this project.
Within our group, we were split into two more groups. The first half of the service project, we helped with conversational skills, reading, coloring, and doing crafts together. Being a special education school, many of the students had low literacy and communication skills in Spanish relative to their age. They were still able to communicate, and those of us with basic conversational Spanish were able to get by. The age range was vast, but the kids got along well.
After this half of the project, we were shown around the school and then taken outside to sing songs and socialize with the kids, as well as play field games and do teambuilding exercises with their classes.
This was one of those times where I felt like a lot of the volunteers were using the kids as a voluntourism photo op, which felt uncomfortable to me. I took a few photos but tried to limit it, and certainly did not take a selfie with every child I encountered. This is something I’ve wrestled with and haven’t come to a solid conclusion on.
I did question how meaningful this work was and if one day could truly impact literacy and poverty, but if nothing else, this was a special treat for the kids that clearly lifted their spirits immensely. The one saving grace in my mind was that this project was developed by a local non-profit who knows the community and its needs.
After this, we were back on the bus to the resort and enjoyed dinner at one of the on-site restaurants. We relaxed and spent some more time on the beach and enjoyed our last evening in the Dominican.