Working with Orphaned Children in the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a beautiful country with some of the most friendly people I have ever met.
Staying with a local family who were very hospitable, I settled in very quickly, although the cold showers, constant power cuts and no water during the day and after 10 at night did help to remind me this wasn't home!
From the moment I walked through the orphanage gate I had a child clinging from either hand with a third soon hanging round my neck! The children in Villa Bendicion have nothing but are always smiling. This really made me ponder what is important in life. After a few days at the orphanage I was really starting to feel at home, and my Spanish was coming on!
Playing with the children
I was told before I came that there were very few resources at the orphanage and to take some activities for the children but nothing had prepared me for how little they actually had! Skipping with old wires taken from the building site next-door and playing baseball with any plank of wood they could find - these kids were really making the most of what they had. I had taken a few toys with me including the game Twister, which they loved and played with for days.
I also took six kites and a football all of which were greatly appreciated! After a few emails home expressing my shock at the lack of toys in the orphanage my parents and other family members decided to buy a massive number of toys and post them over. This was great: I felt like Santa! I took a few toys every day and it soon became a little ritual. I'd walk in, the children would swarm for toys but I was not to hand them over until they had eaten their dinner!
I spent my time in the orphanage playing with the children, cleaning, serving food and generally helping the children develop their English and do their homework. I was always busy and loved every minute.
The children in some ways are very grown-up: they do all their own washing by hand, clean and help prepare the dinner. In other ways they are like very young children, always looking for a hug, to be carried around on your back or be chased round the area. One thing: they always smile!
Unfortunately the time went very quickly and when the project was over I didn't really want to come home! Some of the children gave me a little teddy bear all wrapped up with a note written in Spanish.
This was amazing: the children have nothing but managed to get me a present. I was very touched. After translation the note read: "Hello Ash, we are very sad that you are going. We hope you return very soon because you were the best volunteer of all. We love you lots at Villa Bendicion."