As a final component of this QU 301 seminar course, we have been asked to write a journal entry to document our experience. As I sit down in front of my lap top, my mind races as I attempt to formulate a cohesive sentence to provide justice to the life-changing reality I have witnessed over the course of nine days in La Romana, Dominican Republic.
I could write about the chaotic sounds of the city of La Romana: barking dogs, honking car horns, smothering scent of gasoline, church choirs singing. On the other hand, I could also discuss the poverty of the bateyes: dilapidated houses, dirt roads covered with animal droppings, scattered garbage, the bare feet of hungry children, the unconditional hospitality of individuals who virtually have nothing.
However, I believe my voice will serve the individuals of the bateyes best by addressing something that cannot be smelt, touched, or tasted. Rather, it must be experienced fully and completely by the mind. This particular phenomenon, which we often take for granted in the United States, is a luxury in the bateyes: education.
This experience has opened my eyes to the necessity of equal access to education. I have had the privilege of meeting Gaby Carvajal, a recent George Washington University graduate who lives in La Romana and volunteers as an English teacher at the local Joe Hartman School. Her unique story has irrevocably inspired me. Having raised money to fund her living in La Romana, Gaby dedicates her time to teaching elementary students in a La Romana barrio. She encounters daily obstacles such as a lack of resources, unfocused students with empty bellies, and the difficulty of truly impressing information into the minds of her students within a constrictive time-frame. Despite these hindrances, Gaby works tirelessly to make the greatest impact on the lives of her students. As a future teacher myself, I am in awe of her passion and selflessness towards her students.
Although Gaby does not teach in a bateye, the schooling situation in the barrio is very similar. Simply, if you cannot pay then you cannot attend. While the families in the bateyes depend on the minuscule income earned by sugar cane cutters, the cost of education may appear as an unnecessary expense. In order to battle this misconception, programs have been enlisted to allow Quinnipiac students as well as other individuals to sponsor a student so that they can obtain an education.
A course I had taken this past semester introduced me to the concept of “the danger of a single story”. The danger is defined as identifying and viewing a culture or community through a multitude of misunderstood attributes. I believe that the individuals of the bateyes, in addition to the barrios, are subjected to being viewed through a narrow, singular perspective. My experience in La Romana has opened my eyes to the urgency of promoting the voices of these individuals so that their existence may be properly recognized. Everyone has a unique story to tell; education functions as a platform from which these stories may be heard.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
– Nelson Mandela
I will forever be thankful for this experience and what it has taught me about education, service, life, and compassion.