The few months leading up to this trip fostered a great amount of anticipation within all of the students participating in this class. But nothing we could have predicted is anything remotely close to what we haveexperienced. Today marks Day 6 of our arrival in the beautiful Dominican Republic. The past three days have been focused on our leadership in sports and activities with the kids from nearby neighborhoods, but today, we handed the reins over to the representatives from Deportes Para la Vida to raise awareness of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. Although we were not leading the camps today, it was a challenge for the other students and I to learn how to take on less vocal roles while still maintaining our position as role models and enforcers.
The camp consisted of multiple interactive activities that were created around an idea or concept related to sexual education. Before the day began, I would have considered myself to be very familiar with most of the topics that were to be discussed throughout the day, but now, reflecting onthe day’s events, I don’t agree. I do believe I was well informed about the information and the science behind HIV but I was naïve to the seriousness and amount in which it affects these kids. During one of the activities in particular, a few of us participating felt especially embarrassed because there was a clear division in how much first hand experience we had compared to the kids. In our minds, these kids were innocent children who have been sheltered from all the bad things in the world, but at that moment we were truly confronted with the contrast between our childhoods and theirs.
It is difficult for us to imagine these kids (8+) facing the reality of this disease because most of us haven’t been exposed to it personally in our lives. It taught me that although I may think I am educated about issues occurring around the world, I truly couldn’t understand the hardship people face until I physically see it.
Though the day revolved around a serious topic, the kids participated with the same amount of energy and happiness as they did the past three days. Their willingness to open up about HIV was amazing and we got to see many of the kids step up as leaders in their community. There are so many things I admire in these kids and they have taught me to appreciate the things I am fortunate to have. They are tough and talented which proves to be a challenge for us physically and mentally, not to mention the language barrier that makes communication difficult. I have learned that my role as a leader, above all else, is to give 100% of my effort and energy to these kids. I want each kid to remember camp in a positive way; I want to give back to them as much as they have taught me about their culture and myself throughout this journey. Tomorrow, as the camp comes to its final day, I am anticipating many emotional goodbyes but the memories and lessons we have learned will make it easier to leave knowing we made a difference. Muchas gracias to the representatives of Deportes Para la Vida for everything they do for these kids and what they taught all of us.
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