Reflections on the Dominican Republic
by Ember Zaahir
I did not apply for this education abroad with a definite reason, only knowing that I wanted to get my feet wet in traveling before I applied to a longer program. This trip was essentially everything I was subconsciously looking for, providing a topic of interest in my target language and the chance to have a more structured approach to going abroad. The two components of this course, the class and the trip, were crucial in building a bridge between our experiences as Ohio State students and our goals for the visit, requiring us to concentrate on different aspects of the Dominican Republic that would aid in establishing a tangible link. Under these circumstances, I entered this trip without expectations, keeping an open mind in order to better accept everything I experienced during this course.
During the course of this trip, I had the opportunity to ruminate on the array of information and activities we were involved in, often leading to a confirmation of the ideas that I have considered regarding my career path and areas of interest. Most notably, the visit with Accion Callejera (AC) is what really reinforced the trip for me, due to my personal plans for the long-term future. I know that I want to serve and advocate for the rights of children because of the heedlessness of their marginalization within society. Across the globe, children have no agency, no respect or any general sense of dignity is allowed to them because they are expected to only be “seen not heard,” if even that. There is a very thin line between acknowledging that children are of course inexperienced and lack fundamental knowledge of the world and the normalization of disregarding their personhood as a way of silencing them. On a far leaning scale, this normalization leads to children being trafficked, abused, and murdered; and on the less severe side, it creates a dysfunctional adult. I know that we all cannot escape traumas that we have to work through in adulthood, but it would be highly beneficial to create a safe, welcoming, conducive spaces for children, especially those that need it the most.
I see myself participating in similar services that Accion Callejera is doing for the people of Santiago. I know I want to work towards a sustainable, healthy life for the children either here (in the United States) or abroad. During the introductory presentation of (AC), I got a lump in my throat and felt like I was going to cry, I was so uncomfortable that I could no longer pay attention. I could only think of the kids and what they go through, to the stress of the process of gaining the kids' trust in order to get them to come to the center. It is troublesome to know that people become so desensitized to the suffering of children, allowing the cycle to continue. Even though I personally think there can be changes made to the organization, like making the kids pay for meals *optional; providing health and hygiene services at all the locations; and providing the kids a place to sleep, even if its only for short periods of time; the varying levels of their organization is inspiring. I really appreciate that there are preventative measures for kids and unborn babies, interventions and advocacy at a higher (policy) level, the protection and promotion of the rights of children needs to be taken from all aspects.
The interactions with the children at the Christmas party was very interesting, owing to the fact that the majority of the group did not speak Spanish, and I am pretty shy when I do speak, so I tend not to. However, being with a small group of kids made it easier in my opinion to break out my Spanish, permitting me to get to know a couple of the girls at my table, one in particular that I felt particularly connected with. I think the party is the only time I felt comfortable enough to speak Spanish and the beginning of when I felt like I knew why I chose this trip. The entire day was stacked to form a huge chunk of material for personal reflection in the context of the information that we had been acquiring throughout the trip. This study abroad to the Dominican Republic has helped me unravel varying options I have been considering after graduation, and even though I know that I still have a lot to figure out and that there is so much more to experience, this is only the beginning.