Today was our last day at the orphanage and it's amazing how close and attached we got to the kids of the orphanage in just 3 days of spending time with them. They are just so excited to show you everything and to hug you and hold your hand. At one time, I had about 10 kids all wanting to hold my hand and take me in different directions to show me things. Despite all of us having big "posses" that typically followed us around, there was always 2-3 kids that each of us got to know the most and came to love the most. I got to know 2 little girls the most. They were 3 and 8 years old. The 8 year old I got to know right away the first day. She was incredibly sweet and a little shy, so I think she liked that I spoke a little softer and wanted to spend time with her one on one. She really liked when it was just us and got a little competitive and worried when other kids came around to play. I managed to give her a big hug right before we had to leave. I met the 3 year old the first day, but really became attached to her the second day when all she wanted to do was sit on my lap and give me high fives and play with my hands. I didn't realize how much she loved me until today when she came running straight to me and gave me a giant hug when I picked her up. She did this twice today. It was quite possibly the greatest feeling ever and I truly hope that meeting me made her as happy as meeting her has made me.
Today we worked on building a fence in an incredibly rural area at a public school of Santo Domingo. I've always liked car rides because I like seeing things as we pass by, but car rides through the Dominican Republic are definitely the most interesting and crazy I've ever been on. Going to the orphanage we got to ride in a pick up truck with some of us even in the back (I got my turn on the way back). If you looked off the road for more than a minute you might miss something interesting. There are just so many things that I'm not used to seeing at home, such as people riding in carts pulled by horses and donkeys through the streets and people walking with bowls of food balanced on top of their heads. Those little things are the things that truly remind you that you're in a different culture and country. There are also tons of little things that remind you of the poverty level that people are living in. The shacks that people live in are basically pieces and sheets of metal pinned together to create a shelter. There are people in the middle of the streets trying to sell things to make any bit of money they can, even with the risk of being hit by a car.
Today was our first day getting to visit and do some work at the orphanage and it was a really great day. As we drove into the orphanage we drove through neighborhoods in Santo Domingo and got to see the sights and people on the streets of these neighborhoods. It was an incredibly interesting and eye-opening experience because you saw the lifestyle and living conditions that the people were living in. There were broken down buildings, people hanging out in front of random tiny stores and LOTS of stray dogs everywhere (we are keeping count of how many we see). Despite all of this, driving through the streets many people waved at us very friendly and soon we started to wave at all the people we saw out the window. We got some confused glances, but we mostly got waves and smiles from a lot of people. I thought it was pretty cool how friendly so many people were because they were a lot friendlier than random people at home would be.
Getting through the airport and security would have been an easy task if I hadn't thought for about 5 minutes that I had lost my passport and ticket. Over and over again my parents and friends had warned me to guard and keep an eye on my passport constantly, so I did and when I couldn't find my passport immediately at one point I probably panicked a bit too much. I had just put my bag on the security belt and my camera bag was on the ground so I could pull my phone out of it. Suddenly, I looked around and didn't see my passport. I looked up into the bin in front of me and didn't see it there either. I felt through my pockets and looked though my hoodie, but still nothing. This is when the wave of fear crept over me. I asked my best friend, Richard, if he had my passport, but he didn't. After a lot of rummaging on both our parts, I lifted my camera bag and there underneath it was my passport. It was in the only spot right in front of me that I hadn't looked. Despite this whole situation only lasting a few minutes (maybe less than that), the amount of relief I felt finding it was huge. This was about as eventful my experience in the airport got, so I consider it a success.
On Tuesday, very early in the morning, I will leave for the Dominican Republic to be a volunteer at the Armando Rosenberg Home and School. The orphanage is located in Sabana Perdida in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. Sabana Perdida is considered one of the poorest provinces in Santo Domingo and this orphanage provides an education, a free medical clinic, a dental clinic and a church for the surrounding community that suffers through tremendous poverty. All of these services are located on a 15 acre property that started as only an orphanage for children in 1983. It was founded by Harold S. Wooden, a Rotarian from New Jersey, who was appalled at the original conditions of the orphanage, then called San Salvador. The dormitory was completed in 1988 and is now the home to around 140 children from all over the Dominican Republic who were orphaned, abandoned or come from circumstances of extreme poverty. There are also around 700 students who come to the orphanage to get an education and 2 high school buildings with a daily occupancy of 1200 students.
My name is Jamie Infanti and I am a student at Absegami High School. I have been involved in the Interact Club at my school for the past year and I love being a part of it! Interact is a high school community service group that is associated with Rotary International. I love the group because it does lots of community service and allows high school students to do projects that make a lasting impact on our communities. We have done projects such as planting sea grass on the sand dunes in Atlantic City, helping those effected by Hurricane Sandy and creating and running the first craft fair at Absegami. I am also President of the environmental club, Earth Shepherd, at my school and I have been horseback riding since I was 7. I am passionate about helping the environment and helping people in general. I have lived with my parents in Galloway for the past 9 years. Before that, I lived on Cape Cod in Massachusetts.