Thursday, December 13, 2012

Heroism in the Dominican Republic

One of the four pillars to being a great leader is to be a hero. We usually associate Superman or Hercules to what it means to be a hero. The problem with that is that they are both fairytale characters who demonstrate inhuman powers like super strength which gives the idea that you need god-like qualities in order to be a hero. When I think of a hero I think of concrete values that emanate from a person, values in which they're willing to fight for. I think that is more difficult than showing your super strength. It's difficult because that doesn't always mean you'll have people backing you up; you may feel alone which is why being a hero is one of the hardest things a person can do. It doesn't always mean doing something as drastic as risking your life to save another. Heroism can be shown in the smallest of ways; by standing up for the kid at school who is being bullied or standing for something you believe in when it goes against what everyone else believes.

In my experience in the Dominican Republic, I feel I showed heroism at my service site among other places. I went to Hospicio which is a home for the elderly. The majority of the residents there were picked up by the gracious nuns and nurses that run it, meaning they don't have family. And the ones that do have family are not visited by them and feel very alone. My short four hours a week playing dominoes, coloring, and talking with them was not a chore but fun, easy and something I looked forward to. I didn't feel like I was being a hero, but to them I was. To some, I was their only 'family' and even though I was only there four hours each week, I think it was much more to them than just playing dominoes and coloring.

I think that another aspect to being a hero is to be attentive to seeing what is needed and trying to fill those needs. Sometimes making the smallest changes can make the biggest differences. Sometimes all you need to have patience and be alert to be able to see where these differences can be made.

Here in the Dominican Republic I learned what it was to be a hero. I learned it through the interactions I had with the children at a school that I taught at and trying to find what was needed from me. My responsibility at the school was teaching the children how to speak and write in English on a basic level. This was a little scary for me at first because I had never taught children English or any other language for that matter so at times I felt like I was not successful. However, I found that I had to have patience in myself as I tried to see what things these children most needed from me. With that patience I was able to push through and reach out to them on a deeper level. After learning about them from talking to them and with my supervisor, I found that many of them needed love because they did not necessarily receive it at home. With that, I tried to demonstrate love to them through the words I taught them and how I treated them because I wanted them to feel loved. 

~Sarah Jerome and Victoria Garaycochea (: 



Chris Lowney says there are four pillars to become a successful leader: self-awareness, ingenuity, love, and heroism. Self-awareness is the idea of recognizing one’s strengths and weaknesses, and how those strengths and weaknesses affect relationships with those around oneself. Having a strong self-awareness prior to arriving in the Dominican Republic is wonderful. However, once you are here, in the Dominican Republic, those strengths and weaknesses will be tested. You may find yourself recognizing strengths and/or weaknesses you did not know you had before. Upon leaving the DR, you may find that the self-awareness you were so sure of has changed. Aspects you had never considered may come to the forefront of your thinking, and parts of yourself you thought were unchangeable are suddenly being questioned.

This change in self-awareness is nothing to be frightful of. Our self-awareness is continually changing as we progress through life. Allow yourself to be open to change and not to change. Just because you are a part of the Encuentro experience does not mean you have to return to the USA a completely different person. You might, but do not force yourself to do so.

The best way we have found to strengthen our self-awareness is to dive into the uncomfortable. Take full advantage of every opportunity at hand while you are living in the Dominican Republic.  Have deeper conversations with your host families and group. Go beyond asking the comfortable questions of “How is your day?”, “What is your favorite color?”, “What is your favorite food?” etc. Instead, begin to ask the questions that you really want to know. Dive into the unknown. It was John F. Kennedy who said, “We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

Enjoy this experience. Make the most out of it, and allow yourself to have fun. This experience is a time for you to grow and learn about yourself and others. There are going to be a lot of good times and there are going to be bad times. But always remember, regardless of your situation or how confused you are, “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer
than You.” - Dr. Seuss.

Enjoy Encuentro Dominicano J

You will be in our thoughts and prayers. Enjoy.

P.S. Try the quipe.


Ingenuity from Comunidad Catorce


In our time down here we have learned the importance of ingenuity. We chose this definition of ingenuity as it best related to our experiences here. 

  i.      “Jesuit ingenuity is the ability to innovate, to absorb new perspectives, to respond quickly to opportunities or threats, and to let go of strategies that no longer work in order to embrace new ones.  As Loyola put it, ingenuity is being comfortable traveling through the various regions of the world and using all the means you can to reach your goals. 

When you as a middle-class American have to come down here and live in a new world, you have your methods of solving your problems. Your routine has worked for you in the past so you naturally will stick to it. However, the DR isn't the U.S. You will be given a fresh perspective on life, on language and relationships. Say you are at the grocery store and you have to look for and buy something. You have to ask in another language that you hope you get right on your first try. You use different money and have to convert every item into currency you understand. You have to discern the labels and different brands. Suddenly, something as simple as shopping has turned into a difficult task. 

In this grocery store, you'll have to figure out new strategies to overcome your barriers. Suddenly, you're forced to speak Spanish in a situation and you'll regret not learning what the word for "soap" was in Spanish class. You'll have to work with what you got, your limited Spanish vocabulary. You don't have your handy smartphone with you to translate every bit of Spanish around you and there won't be 3G to give you directions to the street vendor. You will have to rely on your ingenuity. 

This won't just happen in the grocery store, you will face this in campo, talking to your service site director, and traveling around this country.  This experience will force you to rely on yourself and help you to problem solve. You'll have to adapt to new situations, solve problems you've previously never encountered, and all in a foreign country/language. You will have resources at your disposal but don't just rely on them. But believe in yourself, your capability to think outside the box, and in your ingenuity. 

Dios Bendiga

Elizabeth y Evan
Comunidad Catorce