Can I just tell you that I have a huge passion for travel and a big heart for volunteering! Last fall when Brad and I were planning our November trip to the Dominican Republic, he surprised me with arrangements to volunteer at a youth center for a day while we were in the DR. He knows my heart so well and so of course I was really excited that (1) I was going on vacation, (2) I had the opportunity to volunteer abroad, and (3) I was going to do all of this with my best friend.
It certainly was one of our more memorable trips (still nothing beats Jamaica though!). We returned with bright eyes and tanned skin – feeling refreshed and renewed. As days turned into weeks, I’d gotten back into my regular daily routine and the memories mostly began to fade, apart from when I’d come across a picture or two. Lost in the regular grind of life in Toronto, there was no telling what would happen at the turn of the new year. And then, at the very beginning of January I was found desperately searching for my journal because I needed to quickly capture what had happened. My journal reads:
While laying in bed the curious thought occurred to me, “I wonder what it’d be like to return to the Dominican to volunteer but for a much longer period of time?” I immediately began ‘dreaming’ about all of the wonderful things I could do while there.
The thought of being able to teach and continue working on lessons plans sounded amazing. The possibilities began to race through my head. It all felt so major and overwhelming and I just couldn’t shake the feeling.
Completely excited, the magnitude of what I was dreaming about left me stirring for the whole evening. In fact, I wasn’t able to sleep until the next morning. I thought it might be quite difficult for someone like me to realize such a dream and I also realized that such a grand vision, completely outside of my comfort and ability, could have only been inspired by God.
And to give you some more context about how out of reach this dream seemed – by this point I hadn’t been working for several months and with no job prospects on the horizon, there would be no way that I could afford the trip. Not to mention that just 6 months prior, I had returned from a volunteer trip to Uganda which was completely funded by many generous donors…. how could I ask people to donate again and so soon?!
I thought about it and prayed about it and many times I felt like burying the dream deep somewhere. Given my situation it just didn’t appear to be feasible. But no matter what, I just couldn’t get rid of that intense desire. Not even my pragmatic, logical, and realistic thoughts could blot out this dream. And eventually I concluded that if I was meant to do this trip it would happen no matter what my outlook was.
So, with a lump in my throat and shaky hands, I kicked pride out of the way and began asking people in my networks to make a financial contribution towards this trip (that would offer no tax receipts btw). $3,700 sure is a lot of money for one person to raise in less than a month. I sent out a series of personal letters and blasted my plea on social media and waited. Nervously. Patiently. Waited. Then my first donation came in and the donor’s kind words brought me to tears.
I realized at that point that even if that would be the only donation I’d receive, there was no stopping me; I was determined to be in the Dominican for the month of March. I even ended up booking my flight well before I had enough funds to cover transportation costs. But the donations and kind words didn’t stop there after all. Person after person, hopped onto my fundraising page to offer financial support and encouragement. My dad and mom, in particular, were instrumental in their support. They gave above and beyond what I could have ever imagined, funding almost half of the expenses, and were relentless in their encouragement. All my dad needed was to hear me talk about the trip and see the fire light up in me and he was on board, sold, believing in this dream as though it were his own.
The trip wasn’t glamorous by any means and came with its fair share of challenges and very interesting experiences as documented on my fundraising page. But the fact that on the back of that journal page there are glued airplane ticket stubs gives me chills. That such a dream which seemed so lofty, so unreachable, became a reality for me is incredible. And though I’ll never be able to fully articulate what I saw, heard, and experienced while there, I wanted to let you in …. just a little … to see one memorable moment from each of the 33 days I was in the Dominican Republic.
To my parents and many other sponsors whose financial support made the dream a reality. To my aunt and uncle who renewed me while I was there. To Brad who supported me before, during, and after.
I dedicate this post to you 💗