Our Global Village volunteers are back from Habitat Greater San Francisco’s first trip to the Dominican Republic! From August 12 to 19, they embarked on a journey to build homes for local families in the San Juan region of the country.
The group of 10 volunteers from the San Francisco Bay Area was a mix of first-timers and long-time supporters who have had previous Global Village experience — traveling to India, Vietnam, Kyrgyzstan, and beyond. Some signed up individually, while a few signed up as friends. Our Global Village trip leader, who is also a former Habitat AmeriCorps member, was celebrating her birthday with her friends in the best way she knows how: by rallying her network to give back to our global community.
Before the Build Week began, our Global Village volunteers stayed in Santo Domingo, the capital of the country, just along the river. During their stay, they had the opportunity to experience the local culture and learn about the country’s history.
Day 1: Build Site (Photography by Cris Gebhardt)
On the first day of the Build Week, they arrived at the modest town of San Juan de la Maguana, a sharp contrast from Santo Domingo. Throughout the week, they helped build the foundation of homes in the trenches, manufacture 1 ½” thick precast concrete panels in the factory, and complete the finishing touches of new precast homes — all amongst the hustle and bustle of motorbikes and local street markets.
Day 2: Precast Factory (Photography by Cris Gebhardt)
Day 3: Back on the build site (Photography by Cris Gebhardt)
Day 4: Precast House Painting (Photography by Cris Gebhardt)
After a week of building, a home dedication ceremony was held for a finished home. It was an intimate ceremony where they learned about the family who would be moving in and where they held a prayer for the volunteers and the new homeowner family was said.
Day 5: Home Dedication Ceremony (Photography by Cris Gebhardt)
We had a quick sit-down with one of our Global Village volunteers, Cris Gebhardt, who is a professional photographer and graciously donated his time and expertise to document the entire trip. Check out all the photos here. Read the Q&A below!
How was your Global Village experience to the Dominican Republic?
My first Global Village trip to the Dominican Republic was a great one. I have volunteered stateside with various groups but never with Habitat for Humanity. My friend organized this private trip for her birthday and invited a group of close friends to join. I enjoy helping others in my community and I thought this would be a great experience to help outside the U.S.
The organization and coordination of travel by Habitat was top notch. From transportation to accommodations, it was seamless. I did not have any expectations for what to expect while there, but it was not what I expected. We got to see different styles of homes that they offer in the Dominican Republic, as well as different areas of the city with very different income levels.
I felt like we wanted to do so much more for the families. Through translation by our local Habitat Coordinator, we were told how appreciative and grateful the families were for all our help. I definitely will be volunteering in the future at home and I hope to lead a trip internationally in the future. I think I am hooked.
How did the volunteer group spend their days outside of Build Week?
We spent the first and last days in Santo Domingo in the old part of the city along the river. When we were there, there was a boat festival with massive sailing ships from different countries in Central and South America. Think Christopher Columbus-style ships. Massive. We walked the streets and took in the sights with many photos. Before we left for San Juan de la Maguana on Sunday, we had a great walking tour of the city in which we learned about key points of the history of the Dominican Republic.
What was your experience like during Build Week?
We spent the Build Week in the town of San Juan de la Maguana. This was a very modest town with a hustle and bustle of motorbikes, street markets, and a lot of culture. I did not understand the traffic rules there, but everything seemed to flow. We ate at the hotel every day for breakfast and dinner. The food was very traditional with a lot of chicken, rice, and beans with some beef. Overall, the food was very basic and flavorful. They have a mix of Spanish, African, and native flavors.
Though it was very obvious that we were visitors to the town, we were welcomed with open arms and people seemed to relish in the fact that they could practice their English speaking with us. The businesses we interacted with seemed very grateful for our business.
Thank you to Habitat Dominican Republic for hosting the trip, the local community for graciously welcoming our volunteers with open arms, and our group of Global Village volunteers who help drive our mission and do what we do best around the world: building homes for families.
View the photo albums from the Global Village: Dominican Republic trip here.
Categories: Global Village