Let me tell you about these people. I have been out of the country with this group for the past ten days. After being placed back into American society where the culture and customs are varied, I have had the opportunity to gather my thoughts after a hot shower and a night of sleeping without bugs.
Collectively, we saw and encountered many visuals. We witnessed a child vomit from poor health. Older women acted aggressively over deodorant. Children were not using dental floss properly, or even knew what floss was. Homes had mud for a floor and rusty sheet metal for walls and a ceiling.
There were days where we could not shower because it did not rain. There were other days where we went dehydrated because we showered. People could not afford a water filter that cost less than five U.S. dollars. There were times where we weren’t able to use the toilet for three hours because someone flushed toilet paper.
There was a constant threat of poor health due to living conditions. We lived with some of the 2.5 billion people who lack basic sanitation. We also lived with some of the 800 thousand people who lack access to clean water. These are some of the mental images that I will not be able to erase.
These are also some of the things that people can maybe imagine when they are told that you are going on a service trip.
However, it is impossible to fully grasp these situations unless you have lived them.
Collectively, we also saw and encountered the inability to walk down the street without being welcomed with conversation, chairs for all and coffee. We had a willingness to teach and, more importantly, a willingness to learn. We played a game of high-fives that would go on for hours. We received hugs and kisses because we said “hola.” Everyone knows everyone, and everyone is family.
There is a constant desire to put others first. A smile and a wave from a stranger is the most common occurrence.
We also made friendships that were created in only ten days that we know can easily last a lifetime, whether back in the states or with our friends in the Dominican — Lisa, Lisa, Enmanuel, Radhy, Melissa, Maria and Radhames.
I may not be able to erase the mental images of the unbelievable things that we saw in the first list, but when I look back on this journey, the second list is what I am going to think of.
Something we fail to realize is that we are all poor. Some may be poor in material items, where others are poor in community. It is up to us to decide what is most important.
We were able to provide 800 people with clean water that will last over the course of the next five to eight years.
We distributed over 300 water filters. We saw how saw dust, clay and silver can change and save the lives of many. To be able to see the complete progression of this process was awing.
I may never be able to fully describe the experience that I had to people that I did not share this time with, but it is my responsibility to try.
I could not have asked for a better team to share this experience with. My co-leader had my back through it all and stepped in where I was weak.
Our supervisor put us all in a position to succeed and learn.
The 13 other team members joined us on a journey that had been in place since April, not knowing much about the situation.
I can guarantee that this group will be the group that goes forward to serve and serve some more.
I could not be more proud. I love each and every one of you for your personalities and willingness to go into an area unknown by most. Thank you to all that helped make this experience a possibility and I go on now ready to take on the world.
Ryan Mahan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org