June 8, 2014
June 8th
Student-Athlete Development: Dominican Republic Blog

This blog comes at the conclusion of our camps with the kids. This was the last day we would see our new friends. As we all realized this, we felt as if we wanted this camp day to be the best. This camp day was a DPV day. The last day to inform and educate the kids about HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. The DPV guys Victor, Miguel Angel, and Julio all have been great teachers and role models as they have incorporated games into raising awareness for HIV and STDs.

During the camp today we played a lot of games with the kids. One of the games included four teams having one bed sheet each. Each team would spread the bed sheet out to throw and catch a volleyball. One team would have to throw the volleyball using the bed sheet to another team. The other team would catch the volleyball using the bed sheet. The two teams formed one team in order to compete against another team that was also two teams combined. The teams battled it out, but my team eventually prevailed. This game really taught the kids leadership and communication skills. People in the group had to step up and be leaders and they all had to work together in order to be successful at the game.

I really enjoyed lunch time with the kids. During these long days from eight in the morning until four-thirty in the afternoon, I have really enjoyed communicating with the kids and getting to know them. Even though my knowledge of Spanish is still very limited, I have learned a lot and have been able to pick it up pretty well. I also carry around a cheat sheet for words or phrases I do not know. We all have been able to communicate with the kid’s pretty well and have developed relationships with them in this short time. Danny told us that in the past there have been translators during the camps, but this year we didn’t have any translators until the last day of camp. I really felt that we have benefitted from not having translators because of how we have had to find other ways to try and communicate with the kids which has created even stronger bonds. Even though having no translators was a fun challenge on the last day we did have Liz. Liz is a graduate student at Virginia Tech, who lives in a batey in the Dominican Republic and works for the Peace Corp. The day before Liz arrived, when the kids talked about HIV we were all excited because we were going to finally get feedback for how the kids live and a tiny look at their everyday lives and how they feel about some of the problems in their neighborhoods, especially HIV. The only problem the day before was that we could not understand them. Liz ended up coming through in a crucial way with her amazing translating skills.

As we said our goodbyes, we put the kids on the bus to go home. I went on the bus and gave each of the kids a personal high five or hug or special handshake and started to shed a tear or two knowing that I will probably never see my new friends ever again. I realized that even though they all wanted to talk over Facebook it would not be the same.

As the bus left and a great silence came over the group as we walked away I realized that we initially wanted to help the kids and change their minds about HIV and give them the best time of their lives at the camp. The real conclusion is that they gave us the best time of our lives. They educated us about life in so many different ways. I know personally they changed my life forever. They changed my perspective on a lot of things. Those kids will forever have an impact on my heart.

Even though it was extremely sad to see our friends leave, we debriefed the day with Danny and the DPV guys like we always did at the end of the camps to see what went well and what did not. We always try to figure out what we could have done better. At the end of the debrief the emotions started to run high again as Danny told the DPV guys that we were going to raise money for them to all finish college. This definitely made a bunch of us shed some tears as even though the DPV boys tried to “play it cool,” you could see their excitement and joy. Victor said that they never thought this would happen, and they all just do what they do with DPV and the kids because they are passionate about helping kids and their community. They never thought it would lead to this. Victor thanked us from the whole group, as he held back his emotion and tears of joy.

I believe that we all went into these camps not knowing what to expect from the DPV guys and the kids. At the end of the day, we definitely made some awesome friendships, relationships, and effected lives, both ours and theirs for the better. What we did was all a success if we either helped at least one kid be aware of HIV or even just put a smile on one kid’s face for a day.

TJ Shaw

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