This year our family volunteered with YoungLife in Santiago, Dominican Republic with underpriveged youth living in inner city slums and a special needs orphanage. These volunteer days were some of the most challenging of our year. We paid for 10 of these children to experience summer camp for the first time-they were thrilled with the rare escape to a quiet and green retreat with other children . Pico Escondido is a summer camp for teens living in urban poverty. It costs $65 to send a disadvantaged teen for 1 week of camp.
January 28, 2012- Dominican Republic- A most challenging day
"Spending the day with severely disabled children in the Dominican Republic was one of the most difficult days for our family. When we arrived at the facility that cares for abandoned and severely disabled children, they clung onto us and begged us to take them out. Most of the children were limited in their mobility, and Ken and Stephen linked shoulders with some of the children in order to walk alongside them. The din of moaning and crying throughout our time in the facility was very upsetting. I brought bags of donated nail polishes since we were told the children spend most of their days in their cots. I thought the bright colors on their fingernails would be a happy diversion for them to look at as well as a tangible way for me to demonstrate care and love to them as we sat together, holding hands and applying the polish. Julia and I carefully untwisted their curled fingers and asked questions though we received no responses due to their inability to communicate. We tried to be cheerful and show affection as we gave them manicures and pedicures. I have to believe that we were able to demonstrate care in our simple act of making contact and spending time with them.
Our team (5 others along with our family) rented a van and we took 4 of these teens out for a pizza lunch and arcade excursion. Ken and Stephen were drenched in sweat from struggling to get them in and out of wheelchairs and the van. These teens were so excited that they got dressed up for the excursion. Our only experience with special needs children are those who have loving families, completely devoted to providing them every opportunity for a fulfilled life. These children, however, are without a family and therefore fully dependent on others. I considered the spectrum of how we value others by superficial qualities and accomplishments and recognized that their life would be incredibly difficult because they are alone. By the end of the day spent getting to know them, I realized what they were able to affect in me: patience, appreciation for their efforts and joy in every one of their accomplishments.
“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that has been reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed” Booker T. Washington"