Saturday, March 19, 2011

Safely Back from Their Second Community Service Trip to the Dominican Republic

Their trip coincided (with a one day delay) with the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster in Japan and now, after a week, they have all returned safely.

The group, consisting of ten Bement School alums, accompanied by two of their former teachers, a spouse of one of them, and two medical professionals departed western Massachusetts on Saturday morning, March 12, 2011, at 5:30AM in the darkness. They returned this morning safely to their homes at about 2AM, having flown back from Santo Domingo to JFK and then ridden the Bement School van back to western Massachusetts.

The group consisted of students who had been to La Suiza Orphanage in the Dominican Republic as part of their 9th grade Bement School curriculum and had since graduated. It was not certain that the trip would become a reality. As you know, the Dominican Republic shares an island with Haiti, which marked this past January the first anniversary of its devastating earthquake, followed by an outbreak of cholera months afterwards.

As a parent of one of the travelers, and as someone who also does research on risk management from financial networks to supply chains, I felt a bit unsettled about the prospect of this trip. However, the joy that preceded this trip in the anticipation of seeing the boys (some are as young as 3 years old) and in planning various activities for them made me realize the significance of this return trip to all the participants.

Yesterday evening, before boarding the plane that would bring them back to the US, my daughter left a voice mail message, saying that this trip was even better then her first trip there, which took place two years ago. That trip coincided with one of my first posts on this blog.

As a teacher told us, the orphans were used to groups coming and then leaving (quite a few consisted of adults helping out with much-needed maintenance of the orphanage and school) but this was the first "school" group that had come back to see them and to be with them and they had done it because they really wanted to. The Bement School graduates on this trip consisted of students (all females, interestingly) who were now at high schools, including Deerfield Academy, Northfield Mount Hermon, Brewster Academy, and Suffield Academy, as well as Williston. They had graduated within a two year period from Bement.

Above is a photo taken of the suitcase that my daughter packed up with activities for the children at La Suiza. I hope to share more on their experiences, plus photos, after the travelers have had some much-needed rest.

Our hearts and prayers go out to the people of Japan for their tremendous pain, losses, and suffering. Please realize that, as global citizens of one world, you are in our thoughts as we all work for the recovery of your great nation. I have had the distinct honor of going to Japan several times and one of my PhD students was from Japan. The Bement School has also graduated several students from Japan.