A group of Red Deer students recently returned from a life-changing experience in the Dominican Republic.
Sixteen Gateway Christian School students, along with four teachers, an educational assistant and a parent, spent 10 days in the country to help build a playground and courtyard at a school.
“It was a really cool experience to watch everyone, despite language barriers and different cultures, interact together. I saw a lot of genuine friendships being made,” said Leanne Hansen, student at Gateway.
“Stepping out of something I know, like our culture, and going somewhere and not just seeing the touristy parts, but what the country is actually like was really impactful as well.”
The group also brought various school supplies and delivered them to schools in the area.
The trip was part of an Intercultural Studies program at Gateway. Students have travelled to Nicaragua the past nine years, but due to unrest in the country, this year’s group went to the Dominican instead.
Debrah Kalonji, another Gateway student, said the biggest takeaway from the trip is “trying to be content with the happiness I have.”
“We are always searching for more than we already have and down there what they have in the moment is all they need and they are very content with that. They also value relationships and being with each other in the moment, which is something I think is important,” said Kalonji.
Jim Driedger, Gateway teacher, said students met several times over the past several months to prepare for the trip.
“We’d have discussions on other outreach, what poverty looks like, etc.,” said Driedger.
He said once they arrived, the Red Deer students made a presentation to students in the Dominican about aspects of Canadian life, such as Tim Hortons, snowboarding, snowflakes, hockey and maple syrup.
“They then presented the Dominican Republic to us. It was a cultural exchange,” said Driedger.
Plans to return to the Dominican in 2020 are moving ahead.