As much as the blog attempts to provide a glimpse of our daily activities and all the DR action, it’s hard to capture everything that happens in this one week. So to fill some gaps, we first wanted to share a letter written by one of our campers, and then some words from the CITs.
The following letter (which has been translated below) is from Albert, a 15-year old boy who has been a camper with us since our first year in 2015. A lanky boy who this summer favored a turquoise bucket hat and athletic socks with his slides, Albert is now old enough that he could spend his summers a lot of different ways, but he chooses to spend his time with us. Always quick to crack a joke, and gifted in both art and sports, Albert slipped this note to Nicki during our goodbye party, asking her to read it aloud to the whole group.
The note reads:
First of all I want to tell you that it’s worth it to wait all this time to spend my best vacations with you. I’ve already been at the camp for years before, but this year was the best of my life.
Because I have shared so much with all of you; no one specifically. But especially with my friends from the blue team. I had so much fun because I was with the best people like: Moises, Nicki, Yessica, Jill, Adonis, Jake, Sage, Shay, Anna, Hannah, Emily, Rebecca, Brian, Marie…etc.
I know that you all can’t return, but know that you will always be in my heart. Because I will never forget you. I love you all very much!!! I hope that you love me too. Maybe in the future we will see each other again, because I want to see you again. With much warmth!!! Albert.
Soon to be framed and hung in Scatico, Albert has no idea just how meaningful his words are and how when it’s hot and buggy and we can’t find the markers for the art project, or lunch is taking an extra long time to arrive, this note will buoy us, serving as a reminder of why we’re really here.
After hearing Albert’s letter, the CITs took time to write their own reflections or share stories from the course of the trip (some of them choosing to leave theirs anonymous). There are a lot of overriding themes and similar feelings, but it’s worth it to share them all in full:
“This trip was so wonderful and life-changing for so many reasons. The bonds and friendships established with the kids are ones that I will carry with me, not only in my time as a Scatico counselor, but throughout my entire life. Seeing their smiling faces and watching them get so much joy out of the activities every day made me feel so gratified and proud; it was truly so rewarding to see the impact that camp had on the kids. At the end of the day, the kids gave me just as much, if not more, as I gave them. They taught me about patience, optimism, and how connections can extend far beyond language, along with so many more invaluable lessons. And, as a division, we have grown so much closer on account of this trip. This has truly been one of the best experiences of my life!” – Jane Greely
“Dewell tells me to come with him. He takes me to the basketball court and shouts over the wall “Tio”! His uncle emerges from over the wall and throws me a piece of fried chicken. Dewell tells me it’s mine.” – Jonathan Fischgrund
“I walked into this trip believing I was going to teach the kids and make a difference in their lives whatever way I could, but it turns out I learned so much more from them. This experience has been life-changing and I’m so much more grateful for it. On the first day of the camp I met my soon to be best friend. This little 6 year-old girl named Pamela taught me so much in the short time we spent together. Although we both couldn’t understand everything each other were saying, we made it work and continued to have fun all week long. The hardest thing I have ever had to do was say goodbye to these kids. The idea of never seeing them ever again pained me in a way I’ve never felt before. I am so grateful for this experience and to have the opportunity to go outside the country with my best friends!” – Lindsey Sherman
“Simply put this trip was one of the best and most rewarding experiences ever. From seeing how sad the kids were when we left made me feel extremely satisfied and rewarded. I will never forget this week for the rest of my life.” -Shay Rubinson
“Even though it felt like I knew these kids for a long time, I was really only with them for 24 hours. This shows how much of an impact these kids can leave on you in a short time. I will forever remember these kids for how much they changed me. I hope to be back there one day to see them all again. Seeing the smiles on these kids faces everyday when we pulled up to the camp filled me with joy. They instantly connected with us and treated us as if we’d known them forever. Saying goodbye to all of them was probably the hardest thing because of the bonds we made.” – Jamie Silverman
“The DREAM project trip has honestly changed my life for the better. I have learned so much from the campers; all the way from patience to appreciation for what I have in my life. I’m so happy I have given these kids a part of me to hold in their hearts. I feel blessed that I was able to be a part of this trip, and I am also thankful that I was given this amazing once in a lifetime opportunity.”
“Amazing trip. So glad I got to hang with the best people on earth. My goal for the trip was to make people smile every day and be myself. I accomplished both goals and am very happy that I was part of this experience.”- Sage Blumenfeld
“My experience at the camp this week can only be described as unforgettable. This trip has truly shown me the meaning of the saying ‘actions speak louder than words’, given I came into this week only knowing how to say ‘hola’ and ‘como te llamas’. The way that the kids accepted me and my division-mates with smiles and open arms on the first day warmed my heart, and they made me feel like I was part of their community, even though I could not communicate with them through spoken word. One of my campers wrote me a letter on the last day, saying that she felt as though I was her sister, she would never forget me, and she admired me for my generosity and kindness. I was amazed when it was translated to me, because of the fact that a camper and I had formed a bond that transcended such an intense language barrier. This example, and this experience as a whole has changed my life, in the way that I act towards others, and the way that I act towards myself.” -Amanda Klafter
“I arrived in the DR knowing that I would have the time of my life with the children at the camp, but I never imagined just how much the kids would impact me as an individual. During my goodbye to the kids on the last day, I received plenty of jewelry from them. Being in a complete state of shock, I asked why they gave me such nice jewelry when I had nothing to give back to them. In response, the kids said that they didn’t care. In that moment, my interpretation of the concept of giving was completely restored; I understood that giving should be derived from genuine love and kindness rather than the wish to receive. From this point on, I will only give to give; I will not give to receive. I’m beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to experience Dominican culture in that it’s rooted in mutual support. I loved that my campers were able to give away their jewelry in exchange for something more important: the continuation of a kind and giving environment. I hope to never lose the beautiful, vibrant, jewelry the campers gave me as I hope that they will never lose their will to better the world.” -Sophie Blumenfeld
“This trip allowed me to get a view of the real world outside of home, giving me a better appreciation for everything that I have. It’s incredible seeing kids with broken shoes, ripped shirts etc. with a giant smile on their face all day and to be happy with all the little things that they have, while not needing anything else.”
“I could easily say that the past 8 days that I just experience has given me more than I could ever imagine. It has taught me about love, friendship, and the importance of the littlest things in life. To create bonds with the children and understand their way of life made me question the actions I take and helped change my attitude for the better. Whether it was going on crazy excursions, spending time with the kids at camp, or even just eating dinner on the beach with my best friends, the Dominican Republic has really given me a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget.” -Emily Mester
“I am ecstatic to discover how a week with these children was able to change my perspective on life for the better.” -Ryan Ditkoff
“Going into this trip, I only knew what people told me. I knew I was going to try a multitude of different things: food, excursions, languages etc. Although I was told all these things, I was truly unaware how life-changing this experience was until I had four little girls in my arms in tears because we knew that we would not see each other again, or if we did it would not be for a long time. In that moment, I realized that all together we were only with our campers for 24 hours, but yet, we both made such a large impact on each other. My campers taught me that you don’t need money or fancy items to have fun and enjoy life. Some campers had ripped clothing or shoes, but that did not matter because they had all their friends with them, and had us to hang out with, and family to go home to. Additionally, this trip taught me to not be afraid to take the leap! In this case literally because I faced my greatest fear of heights when I jumped at the waterfalls, and also figuratively with new foods and a new language which I wouldn’t eat or speak at home. This trip was honestly one of the best weeks of my life and I hope that I made those kids have the best week of their life too.”
“This is not an experience everyone is fortunate enough to have, and the fact that I was able to go on this adventure with my best friends is a testament to how lucky we all are. I am so grateful for the small look into the lives of the Dominicans I received this week. I would never trade these memories for anything in the world and I can only hope that the children at the camp feel the same way.” -Hannah Holden
“This trip has been the most rewarding and eye-opening experience I have ever had. It puts in perspective the easy life we live in the USA. The ability to make an impact on the lives of these kids, especially in the short amount of time I spent with them, is something I’ll carry with me everywhere. The friendships we created with the children are priceless. There is a real connection with the kids. You can see it in their eyes and expressions. Overall, this trip was unbelievable. Connecting with the children as well as exploring the Dominican Republic made for a life-long lasing memory. I highly recommend this trip to anyone, and I know that this will not be my last time working at a camp similar to DREAM.” -Brian Schindler
“I am beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to share this experience and especially to be able to share it with my best friends in the world. Although we were with the campers in Sabaneta for such a short period of time, I genuinely feel that I have connected with them and made an impact on their lives just as they have impacted me. This trip has been life changing for me and has hands down been the best week of my life. It’s with extreme sadness that I leave behind these kids, but I am confident that we as a group have left these children with many memories that they will cherish and smile when looking back on them.” -Erica Smiley
“I was sure my goal was accomplished when I saw the kids beaming smiles. Based on the sadness that ensued when I left, I’m sure we won’t forget each other anytime soon.”
“This trip for me has been very fun. The kids at the camp were all so excited to see all of us, and they were all so energetic every single day we spent with them. Also, building the bookshelves was good. The kids were all so nice and everyone had a blast in the DR.” -Ryan Schindler
“This trip has truly been a great experience. It has given me the opportunity to see the reality of different parts of the world. I have learned to appreciate life and all the little things I take for granted.”
“Overall this trip provided myself and my division mates with amazing memories and impactful experiences. A moment that I feel sums up my week was at the closing ceremony. Alberto, a younger camper, began to truly interact with me in the closing moments of the camp. Regardless of the limited time, he became one of the campers I felt most connected to. As I picked him up to say my final goodbye he was smiling, when I put him down he was crying. This rapid change of emotions truly illustrated how impactful a half hour, let alone a full week of camp, can be on each and every child.” -Andrew Kassin
“The trip to the Dominican Republic is hard to put into words. I can say the trip as a whole was amazing, but the thing that made it so impactful was the campers. Winne the Pooh once said, ‘How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.’
This quote applies to the relationships I formed with the campers. Although we didn’t spend a total of more than 24 hours together, by the time goodbyes came my friends, the campers, were crying in my arms. This trip is so special because we get to have an impact on the kids and they also have an impact on us in indescribable ways. I will keep the lessons I learned and the memories I made in my heart forever.” -Eliana Pisetzner
“This experience has been absolutely life-changing. Going to the camp and seeing these kids have the time of their lives made me feel so happy. Over the course of the week, I formed such tight bonds with my campers that it was almost impossible to say goodbye. I will cherish this experience the rest of my life and hopefully I’ll cross paths with some of these kids again, somewhere down the road.” -Jake Vandercar
“This trip was an amazing experience in which everyone felt connected. On the last day of the camp there were some of the kids that I had never spoken to before, but ran up to me and hugged me goodbye and asked me to sign their shirts. This shows how valuable it is to come and enjoy this experience together.” -Jenna Fass
“I don’t even know where to start with this. If I were to describe this trip in one sentence, I would describe it as crazy, life-changing, and eye-opening. This all started as we touched down in Puerto Plata. As we were on the bus to the hotel and throughout the trip I saw many houses that looked like small shacks, that probably didn’t have running water or 24-hour electricity. Also, throughout the week with these kids I realized more and more how lucky I am to have everything that I have even though at times before this trip I did not realize. It was crazy to see these kids running around so happy in 30+ degree Celsius weather in jeans, flip flops and broken sneakers, crocs and sometime barefoot, not complaining at all. And although the excursions were amazing, there were many times I felt that I did not deserve to go on them. At the end of the camp just yesterday, I could not believe how hard it was to say goodbye/ until next time to these kids and how big of an influence we had on each other. To summarize the trip as a whole and to set future goals for myself, I am going to try to keep my eyes open, and remember how lucky I am to have the life that I do, to help others as much as I can, and to try to not complain about the small things.” – Noah Wagner
“This trip was an amazing experience and taught me a lot more than how to work with kids. I now see the world differently and I will forever be grateful for everything the children taught me along with my peers. The relationships formed over my time in the DR is the greatest gift I could ever imagine.” -Katie Corren
“One of the first nights of the trip we all said our goals, mine being to change at least one kid’s life for the better. When I said this I did not realize how meaningful this trip is. For those kids the camp is one of the best weeks of their lives, and it was touching to be a part of it. I did not understand how these kids look up to and appreciate us as counselors. Everyday as I got off the bus I was swarmed with kids wanting to say “hola” and although I cannot speak Spanish very well, there seemed to be little communication issues. I believe I accomplished my goal, and also believe my life was also significantly changed for the better.”
“I will never forget this trip. It’s amazing how little so many of those kids have, but yet they are all so happy. I’m so grateful to have gone on this trip and it has changed my perspective on so many things in my life.” -Ben Greissman
“My feelings of this trip can be summed up in 2 words… estamos juntos.” -Hayden Meisner
This week has been made that much more special, because we were able to share it with our friends, families and Scatico community. Until next year readers, CITs 2017 are ready to say adios !