This January trip marked my fifth trip as a volunteer with The Batey Foundation. The social injustices I have seen during my previous trips such as lack of education, healthcare and basic living needs, motivate me, to contribute to direct action to address these injustices.
I was so excited a co-lead the annual “Alumni Trip” with Hector Perez early this year. It was important for me to connect with the trip participants and hear what motivated them to return to the Dominican Republic with The Batey Foundation. Each person took time away from his or her life to spend ten days engaged in heavy manual labor and I wanted to know why.
As I moved through the group of volunteers soliciting feedback, it became clear to me that we were all, in some part, motivated to address the social inequities in the Dominican Republic and act as agents of change. Some of the comments I heard reflect this commitment to change:
“Volunteering with locals gives me hope that the people of this country are dedicated to improving the standard of living for people who need it.”
“The people in the Dominican Republic are so kind and family oriented. It is clear that they want to make this country a safer and more just place for their children.”
“I made a connection to my scholarship student and to the other kids in San Luis. I want to help make a better life for these kids and for this community as a whole.”
Personal connections with the community members, partnership with local NGO’s like Friends Around the World and the Lions Club, and a communal dedication to change, make these trips successful. People want to return to continue the cultivation of these positive changes, and be an agent of change in partnership with the local communities.
The manual labor we do in the bateyes is a metaphor for change –
American volunteers, Dominican volunteers, and volunteers from the bateyes) are building walls for a community center or a childcare center but we are symbolically tearing down the walls of racism and building a more just society.
Author: Julia Healy is a board member, trip leader, and an amazing dancer. The Batey Foundation is incredibly appreciative of her leadership and spirit.