I don’t think I’d be accused of exaggerating if I told you the people of the Dominican Republic are some of the most joyful people we’ve ever encountered.
A Change of Plans – Reforestation
Originally, we had signed on to participate in 3 impact activities, Community English, Paper Recycle & Crafts, and working at the Women’s Chocolate Cooperative. The closer we got to the Dominican Republic though, the more second thoughts I had when it came to the Community English activity. I knew it would be a moving experience but the more I thought about it the more I came to realize it was a case of been there done that, having worked with children and their families for so many years. I knew it would be an altogether different scenario, but at the same time I knew Abi would thoroughly enjoy the Reforestation & Nursery activity. So, with luck we were able to give our spots in the Community English activity to someone else and Abi snagged the last spot on the bus (on our chosen day) to the Reforestation & Nursery activity. It was the right decision as he had a great time and truly felt he made a difference.
If you know me at all, you know why I am not a girl that’s going to trek through the tropical hills. So after I waved good-bye to Abi I took myself to a cozy internet cafe in Amber Cove (Carnival’s dock) and plugged myself in for a solid 2 hours while sipping ice tea. I’m sure you’re not surprised by the fact that internet strength in the middle of the ocean is less than stellar. I needed my fix!
Winding through the lush green hills of the Dominican Republic, Abi’s group made their way by bus to the Loma Isabel de Torres Monumento Natural Nursery where they spent a couple of hours working side-by-side to make a difference. When asked why the locals aren’t more involved in the reforestation projects, it was explained that it’s a learning process. Farmer’s take down the trees to make room for grazing animals, so it’s a case of learning about the impact of today’s practices on future growth. It’s a work in progress and with such a small staff at the nursery, the work of the volunteers will hopefully provide a sustainable impact on the future.
Abi worked with a small group who found seedlings that had taken root and begun to grow in the hillside. They dug up the seedlings and transplanted them into mulch-filled plastic bags. The seedlings will stay in the nursery until it is time to replant them elsewhere.
To further explain the goals of the reforestation program, the group was led on a walk through the hills to see for themselves and to learn; a walk Abi thoroughly enjoyed.
Feeling the Love
While traveling with our groups, to any of the impact activities, our facilitators referred to us as family and told us that all are welcome because the Dominicans love family. They further explained that mosquitoes also love us – and them – so they all carried cans of insect repellent. And, of course there are warnings about the Zika virus. We weren’t overly concerned, but it is good to take precautions, so each day before we ventured out we sprayed ourselves silly with Deet and carried on. Neither one of us got a single bite. That is… until we returned to Miami, got in our car that had been sitting for 1 week, and within the 1st hour I had six bites. Go figure!
During our 3 days in the Dominican Republic, Fathom reports the following Reforestation results:
“2,408 trees were planted. With time this will lead to more nutrient-rich soil, reduction in soil loss, improved localized air and water quality, an increase in localized biodiversity, and higher agricultural yields.”
Abi getting to dig in the dirt and genuinely help with a worthwhile project was a good start to our 3 days in the Dominican Republic. But I must admit to having mixed thoughts on the concept of travel and volunteerism and I’m still thinking my way out of the box. In the meantime, next up will be the stories of our time spent tearing strips of paper and sorting cocoa beans. Stay tuned!