Finding Purpose Through Service

Haley Netwon ’20 recaps her week of service with the Herrera National District and the Sabana Perdida National District in the Dominican Republic.

Goodnight Scholars Program: Tell us about your summer in the Dominican Republic.

Haley Newton ’20: This past May, I spent one week in the Herrera National District and the Sabana Perdida National District serving impoverished children. I applied to the trip through an on campus ministry known as Cru, but the trip itself was coordinated by an organization known as VisionTrust. During this week, I worked in local schools that VisionTrust had built in communities that suffer from extreme poverty. More specifically, I planned and participated in recreational activities with children of all age groups.

Did you have any international travel experience prior to this trip?

Prior to this trip, I did not have any international travel experience. I actually had never even flown in a plane before!

Going into the trip, what were you most excited about?

I was most excited about getting to work and play with the Dominican children. I have learned that I feel like I am the most in my element when I am surrounded by young children.

Once I returned from the Dominican Republic I realized that international service is something that I definitely want to pursue long term.

Anything you were nervous or anxious about?

I was definitely most nervous about traveling. While the idea of flying didn’t really scare me, I was really anxious about making my way through an airport and getting through customs for the first time alone. Thankfully, everything went smoothly and I feel much more comfortable with air travel now.

What were some differences in culture that you noticed in the Dominican Republic compared to your life in North Carolina?

Some of the most obvious differences were those in health and safety. I never realized how much I take everyday privileges like electricity, air conditioning, and clean water for granted until I had them stripped away from me on this trip. As far as our ways of life, I noticed that Americans are much more private than Dominicans are. As I would make my way down the street with my team, almost every house we passed would have a family sitting outside beckoning us to come talk or eat with them, even though they didn’t know us. I had never seen anything like that at home before. Southern hospitality has nothing on Dominican hospitality. Additionally, I noticed that Dominicans don’t pay as much attention to time as Americans do. Here in the States, if I were to show up 30 minutes late to an event, it would be considered extremely rude and I might even be asked to leave. In the Dominican Republic, the people focus more on the present. If they are deeply involved in a conversation or situation, they don’t cut it short and leave just because they have somewhere else to be, they just show up when they finish whatever they were doing first. This causes them to be “late” for a lot of things, but in the Dominican Republic, nobody really minds when people show up.

Did you learn anything about yourself during this trip?

During this trip I was really humbled by all the need that surrounded me. It made me realize how blessed I am to have the lifestyle that I do. I realized just how passionate I am about helping others, specifically unfortunate children, and that I am more capable of making a difference than I ever thought I was.

Now that the trip is over, what’s next for you?

Once I returned from the Dominican Republic I realized that international service is something that I definitely want to pursue long term. I hope to have the opportunity to embark on another international service trip soon, and once I finish school and begin working in the pharmaceutical field, I would love to also get involved in an organization like VisionTrust that would allow me to continue to serve those less fortunate than me.

Photography credit: Haley Newton/Goodnight Scholars Program