Student reflections on service-learning at Batey Libertad

January 31, 2008 at 10:57 pm Leave a comment

At the conclusion of University of Vermont service-learning classes to the Dominican Republic and Batey Libertad, we often ask the students on the Vermont end of the exchange to reflect on their experience as well as present the results of their community collaborations with the university and broader Vermont community. Below is a reflection from one of the students from a November 2005 trip that really captures the impact that Batey Libertad makes on its visitors. Thanks Nikki!

I LEARNED THAT … happiness has nothing to do with how many things you have been given but by how much love you are able to give. I learned the most on this trip from the young children who, supposedly, have the least life experience. I learned that the bonds we share as people with beating hearts and helping hands are far stronger than the bonds created by lifestyle, money, education and geography. I learned the value of community enrichment and dependency and how incredible it feels to be supported by so many fellow people. I learned that I can go to a pharmacy and buy glucose pills for a diabetic woman and follow up with her every day to make sure she’s taking her meds and be more fulfilled by this 10 minute interaction than a lifetime of working solely for grades or money.

I LEARNED THIS BY … sitting down and truly listening. I listened to the conversations the kids had with each other. I listened to Papito direct the young adults to retain their proper roles on the Batey. I listened to sick women describe the pain of their ill children and husbands. I listened to grandmothers scolding their grandchildren, aunts and uncles rounding up their nieces and adolescent boys telling younger kids the importance of safe sex and HIV awareness. Like a sponge I absorbed these words and songs and replayed their impact in my head. It’s so simple – you learn about who people are by listening to what they have to tell you. It took this batey to make something so simple become so clear.

THIS LEARNING MATTERS BECAUSE … what I’ve learned on this trip cannot be taught in a classroom or from a podium or through a textbook. This learning matters because it is the type of learning that changes you. This experience has changed my mind, changed my heart and has absolutely changed my life. The greatest process of life is self-evolution. Finding that I have the capacity to love someone I barely know and want to be around a community I’ve been with for a few days is something that shakes me. Knowing that I have the means and opportunity to fulfill these capacities is the beginning of an involvement that will continue to flourish. This learning matters because it has made me think and wonder and analyze and struggle with more issues than any other class.

IN LIGHT OF THIS LEARNING I WILL …never be the same. I will return – a lot. I will start to factor this community into my mental deliberations. “What else can I do? How else can I help? Where else can I take what you have given me?” I will recall the moments I spent listening to put my own life into perspective. I will ask more questions. I will take more risks. I will make an effort to remind myself of the way it felt to be on the Batey -the hospitality, the warmth, the concerns, the truths, the embrace and the calm. I will certainly encourage others to be involved in this type of learning or at least consider the idea of going abroad and learning about the world we all live in. I just will, without hesitation. Have I ever said that? Maybe. Have I ever meant it as much as I do this moment? Never.

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