After a long day of traveling we finally arrived in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic! The hours of sitting in the airport and plane only fueled our excitement and anticipation. We felt like VIPs walking off the plane as our first site was a lady standing there with a sign “Danny White and VT Athletes”. The first thing I felt was the instant heat and humidity in the air, and so did my camera. Volunteering as the photographer for the trip, I wanted to get a group shot in front of the airport but the condensation on my lens made the photo blurry. No worries though, my camera adjusted to the heat.
We arrived at the Punta Cana Ecological Foundation around four o’clock, our place of residency for the next ten days. My first reaction to seeing the building was “Yes, a building with color”! The two-story building is painted bold turquoise on the first floor, cobalt blue the second with an orange façade entrance and roof. The surrounding palm trees and greenery completed the tropical feel. After an hour of downtime we set off as a group with Danny to explore the nearby ecological preserve. The path was lined with rocks providing a boundary between us and nature. I felt like I was in a rain forest with the humid air and the trees acting like a canopy from the sky. The path led us to an empty beach and we all ran in to cool off.
In the water lots of jokes were made as though we have all been friends for a long time. Most of us met each other for the first time only a week ago when our class started and we have already formed a tight bond. I believe that this is the nature of the class, that it draws a certain group of individuals. This became more apparent in our evening class when we discussed the goals and expectations for the week. Our trip is aimed to be a service learning trip where we have leadership roles in an organized service experience to meet the needs of the local community. We all voiced our concerns that when we observe the kids and the locals we don’t when them to look bad on us and us feel sorry for them. Each of us cares about what we are doing and wants to make an impact on these impoverished kids. We know that we aren’t solving world poverty with our short stay here, but we are part of a plan to establish a sustainable program for this community to help them overtime. I am looking forward to the coming days, working with my fellow student-athletes to engage and learn about the local community. Two more days until the sport camp begins!
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