Please take 2 minutes and read this great account of my friend Maggie about her visit to Dove Missions – pretty cool stuff. And if it doesn’t give you either a) some perspective on your life or b) some inspiration to do something positive, then maybe you should read it again.
My daughter, Kathleen, and I decided to spend one day of our weeklong Dominican Republic vacation volunteering at Dove Mission. When we were picked up from our resort by Jahiro (the mission driver…and what appeared to be somewhat of a security guard) and Anna (the volunteer coordinator), we had no idea what our day would hold. What we discovered was our day would hold hospitality, surprise, and hope.
Hospitality. The simple building that housed Dove Mission was full of welcoming, warm Dominican children aged 5-12. Here the Dove program provided a safe place for the children to learn, create, play, and have a healthy snack for the half-day they were not in school. The students in Puerto Plata only attend school for three hours a day – with a morning shift and an afternoon shift. The other half of the day the children are often encouraged by family to hustle for money (washing windshields, selling goods, getting tourists to go to certain stores, and some other not-so-pleasant things). The Dove Mission founder, Liz Rooney, promises the families that send their children to the mission that Dove will supplement their family $30 dollars worth of groceries each month (about what the child would bring in hustling). In exchange, the children must commit to going to school daily (not mandated in Dominican Republic) and attending the Dove mission program at least two times a week for the other half of the day. Jairo, the driver, makes sure they get there and back safely. Well, these children greeted Kathleen and me with smiles and hugs. They practiced their English by asking us questions and teaching us games on the playground. They invited us to help make snack, play creative playground games, engage in conversation, and laugh with them. We felt welcome from the start because of the warm and sincere spirit of these open hearted-children.
Surprise. We were surprised by a number of things that day. One thing we noticed was the lack of behavior problems and abundance of respect. Whatever the snack, the art project, the lesson…all engaged with grateful hearts and eager minds. We also were surprised by the productive day that served 35-40 kids using a few small resources (donated pencils, yarn, glue, three balls, and two swings that had to be unclipped and brought inside when not being used). The students were happy, involved, and there were no complaints, fights, or attitude. This made us reflect on our own experiences in the US and how this compared.
Hope. The mission provides a place where these children are off the street with their minds and bodies engaged in learning and growing. There is an emphasis on learning English. In a city where tourism is the top industry, the more English you know, the better job you can get. The mission has plans, when funding allows, of also teaching swimming, computers, and cosmetology. The simple building in the middle of some of Puerto Plata poorest neighborhoods offers the children a place where they will be safe, loved, nurtured and encouraged on a daily basis. This is life changing for these young people.
So while Kathleen and I did not know what to expect at the start of the day…there was no way we could have known that are hearts would be touched so deeply by these wonderful children and the adults who work so hard for them –Theresa (teacher), Jahiro (driver), Liz (founder), and Anna (volunteer coordinator).
It is my hope that telling you the story of our day may lead you to help in keeping the Dove Mission going through prayer, word, donation, or time.
Note from Joe
(Below is a picture that they shared from their trip – what a group group!)