In April, I headed to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic aboard Fathom’s Adonia Cruise Ship. It was an unforgettable trip from start to finish. I posted about the ship, port, on board activities, and more in this post. Now, I’d like to share about the impact activities that I took part in while on the ground in Puerto Plata.
Before heading on our trip, we had the chance to choose our impact activities that we could take part in while on the ground in Puerto Plata. There were quite a few choices. We chose 3 ahead of time, once on the ship we removed one because of a conflicting time. My cabin mates (My sister and my niece) were able to reserve an additional activity each while on the ship! To be on the safe side, I read this article on fairings and fillers from Merritt Supply.
Community English Conversation and Learning
Fathom travelers will be able to participate in Community English Conversation & Learning activities that help bolster employment opportunities for lower income adults. These small group programs take place within community centers and local homes, and include one-on-one conversation, English instruction, food preparation, and meal sharing. Participating in these Community English Conversation & Learning programs will enable you to experience the powerful and immediate impact of your contributions.
This was the first impact activity that I took part in. The two words I would use to describe this activity….. LIFE CHANGING. Before heading out to the community, I took a class aboard the ship to prepare. I am not bilingual and know very little Spanish. This class prepared me by teaching me common phrases and words. The leaders also provided us with a packet to take with us to help us communicate with the people in the community. I learned phrases like “My name is Mary” and “good morning”. Also, “what is your name?”. Those phrases were the most important. As this is what we would be teaching during our impact activity.
On the day of our activity, we walked over to the port and followed the signs to find our impact leader for the afternoon. Everything was clearly marked, so we had no issues finding our leader and our bus.
We then boarded a bus and headed out. There were 2 buses, each going to a different village. As we drove through the streets I snapped photos of what I saw. This was a very poor area. I had never seen anything like it. I was a little in shock. The travelers on my bus seemed to have traveled through villages like this before. I had not.
On the bus, our leader explained what we would be doing. He also gave us each a colored wristband.
We were in pairs of 2 (except for my group, which had 3). Once there, we were to look for the family that had the matching color band and we would visit their home. Our leader explained that we would each receive flash cards and a book to help us teach this weeks phrases to our family. We were given time to answer questions. Our leader also pointed out some interesting buildings we passes along our drive. Like the college below and the police station.
Once we arrived and unloaded the bus, we filed into the community impact center. This was actually the local church in the village. It was set up with chairs, fans, a cooler full of water, and some snacks. We met our family by matching up our bracelets. We then listened to instructions and played a few games with the group. For example, we went around the room saying our names in Spanish and English.
Once we met with our families, we were given a stack of notebooks. One notebook for each family member in the home. We were also given a pack of crayons. The family member that was present with us was instructed to write their name and decorate it however they chose.
This is Maria. She was the amazing woman that I was to teach on this day. She was full of happy energy. She almost always had a smile on her face. There were a total of 5 people in her home, so we were given 5 notebooks, 5 pencils, and a pack of crayons. Once we were finished with our notebooks, we headed out as a group. We walked through the village together and stopped at each family’s home. Once you arrived at your family’s home, you went inside to meet the rest of the family and begin your teaching.
We entered Maria’s home. Inside we met her mother, Ana. We also met her granddaughter, a sweet toddler that fell in love with the juice box the leader gave her. We also met her neighbor, a 19 year old boy that was very interested in what we were teaching, however, he was very shy and took a bit of push to get him talking! He had not learned to write, so we wrote his name for him. A short time later, 2 more neighbors joined us. A woman and her 12 year old daughter. The girl went to a local school and was learning English in school, so she was able to communicate with us better than the others.
As you can see here, Maria’s house doubled as the local village restaurant. She had 3 or 4 plastic tables each with a few chairs that she had to move for us to sit in the living room.
Once we met the family, we were on our way to making our impact. We taught the family how to introduce themselves. “My name is…..” I really have to give serious respect to those that have learned multiple languages. These 3 little words were very hard to teach to this family that had no English teaching. With the exception of the 12 year old neighbor. The first 15 minutes was repeating back and forth “My name is….Maria” “My name is Ana” “My name is Joselito”. Once we completed that task, we moved onto some short phrases and feeling words that we had on flashcards. One side was the Spanish phrase, the other the English translation. I believe we spent an hour teaching. By the end, they all knew how to introduce themselves and tell us how they felt. “I am happy” “I am tired” “I am hungry”. Ana, the grandmother, was the most excited to learn. She kept taking my cards and studying them up close. She was catching on very quick! She would read and repeat. Read and repeat. I would help with some of the letters that were difficult for her to translate. At the end of our session, we wrote a note in the notebooks for the next fathom travelers. Just a simple note to let them know what we worked on and how it went. For example, I wrote in Ana’s book “Ana is very excited to learn. She picked up all the feeling words quickly and can properly introduce herself in English. If you give her the flash cards, she will repeat everything on her own and is very teachable”.
Then it was time to head back to the community building. We took photos and gave hugs. Only Maria would join us on the walk back to the center. Along the way we stopped at a few homes to retrieve the rest of our group.
Once we were back in the community center, everyone had a chance to share how the day went. I was overcome with emotion when everyone shared the impact that they had during this activity. Travelers and Dominican’s alike, we were all touched. Many were moved to tears. There were lots of hugs and smiles as well. We shared a snack and had a bottle of water before saying goodbye and loading onto the bus.
I will never forget everything I learned and experienced on this day in Puerto Plata, DR. I know I was there to make an impact, but I feel like I was the one impacted. The people in the community were so friendly and giving. They welcomed us into their home like we had known them for years. They were excited to learn. When walking through the streets, the neighbors all came out to wave and greet us. It was an amazing experience.
To find out how you, too, can make an impact in the Dominican Republic, head over to the Fathom Website now. Stay tuned for another post about our second impact activity!
Disclosure: I was provided with an all expense paid trip to facilitate my review. All opinions are 100% my own and were not in any way edited, changed, or added to by fathom.