This weekend we got the opportunity to go on an optional work weekend in the countryside. Community Service was one of the reasons I came to the Dominican Republic, so I was eager to sign up for the trip to the nearby town of La Solapa. I was a little nervous because I knew we would be staying in very "humble" homes and I had no idea what kind of work we would be doing. We ended up working with Peace Corps volunteers to create a water aqueduct that would be a CLEAN source of water for the community.
Day 1: We arrived on Friday and got assigned to a temporary host family that we would stay with for the weekend. After getting settled, we made the 10 minute hike to our work-site that was situated, essentially, in the middle of the woods. The Peace Corps volunteers showed us a natural watershed from the mountain that was depositing a small stream of water. While it looked like nothing, this small source of water was completely pure and not contaminated by rain water because it was coming directly from the earth. After viewing our site, we took a tour of the rest of the town. My favorite part was our impromptu fruit tour guide, Felix, who pointed out the different fruit trees (with samples of course) and gave constant quizzes to help us remember the names. One of the coolest parts was seeing a cocoa pod picked right from the tree. Hopefully the picture (credit to Ms. Alex Hall) helps in the description, but after the cocoa pod is opened, there are cocoa beans that are covered in a white coating. The white coating can be eaten and is very sweet. Inside the white part is the cocoa bean (which is very bitter) and is roasted to make chocolate. After we finished our tour and ate dinner with the community.
Day 2: The work began. So to make this natural water springs into a water source, we used rocks to protect the stream of water, and then filled concrete over the rocks so that rain water couldn't get in. The engineer of the project (Peace Corp volunteer) built a box at the end of the concrete where the water could be caught and funneled through a pipe. Basically, this will eventually become the water source for the community and SOMEDAY the families will be able to use the water in their homes. We moved rocks, carried rocks up the mountain, moved more rocks, mixed concrete by hand and moved said concrete bucket by bucket to fill in the rocks. It was a lot of work, but we were able to finish the project in just a day! We even found time to eat lunch, hold puppies that were so little they couldn't open their eyes, and have someone feed us Pringles when our hands were too dirty. We were very eager to get cleaned up after our messy day and enjoyed a nice dinner with the community again. Some even got to witness the "cleaning of the chicken" that would become our lunch the next day (I respectfully chose to pass on that activity). We spent the evening relaxing with the community (in the dark since the power goes out each evening) and playing dominos (VERY popular in the DR) and cards.
All in all, it was an amazing experience to be able to work with the community on a project that will eventually change their lives. It was awesome to learn about the Peace Corps and all of their great work in the country as well as have the opportunity to see how people live in places away from the city.
Photos by Alexandra Hall, Ryan Bowen, and myself