Today, we left Santo Domingo sometime around 2:00 PM. Leaving the place that we had grown so attached to over the past 5 days was something none of us wanted to do. Here are the comments that each member of our trip wanted to share with everyone.  I would like to thank the Press of Atlantic City for allowing us to share our experiences and document our trip to the orphanage.

Stephanie Druziako (Vineland High School Interact Club) - A moment I won’t ever forget would be when we left the orphanage for the last time. It was so emotional for everyone. Not only were we sad to leave, but they were upset that we were going as well. This being my second year here, I have made friendships with the kids and it’s hard to leave knowing I won’t see them for a whole year. Despite the fact that we had to leave them, there is some good that comes out of those

emotions. I know that I am not alone when I say that by seeing all that is needed at the orphanage, we want to work even harder to make an even bigger difference the next time around.

Linda Foster (Vineland Rotary Club) – This is my third trip to the

orphanage and my most memorable.  It was nice to share the overall experience with the Vineland High School Interact Club and Cumberland County College Rotaract Club.  Thanks to Rotary District 7640, the orphanage is a safe haven for the children that are fortunate to live there or attend the school.  I wondered what happened to the children when they complete high school and was pleased to know that they have an internship program to learn life skills to enable them to secure a job in the tourist industry upon graduation.  We were fortunate to meet one of the students at the hotel, being trained in all capacities

of tourism. I would like to see our District get involved with

maintenance of the facility on a more hands-on level and be able to see the fruits of their labor.

Melanie Druziako (Vineland Rotary Club) – With my second trip to the orphanage coming to a close, I find that I am left with wanting to do more.  I looked forward to seeing all the children, and how they had grown, but I was eager to see one child in particular.  His name was Antonio and he just celebrated his 5th birthday last year.  I have pictures of him in the slide show we made of last year’s experience.

He was so sweet and spunky, and his smile brightened our day.  Yet, no one seemed to know what happened to him. He just vanished and my heart is broken. I wanted to mention him so he would be remembered.

Although I am told this is a harsh and sad part of life in Santo

Domingo, I am hopeful that our presence here can make a difference in the lives of these children. The Vineland Rotary Club and Vineland High School Interact Club spend a few days each year to try and make a “little” difference. My club budgets funds to spend on their needs when we take the trip to the orphanage.  We also collect money to send down a container of food yearly, and our Interact Club fundraises for their trip. Our motto, “Service above self,” is what we live by as Rotarians and that is what we need to teach our children so they too

learn to give back.  Maybe we "can" move mountains, one shovel at a time.

Joel Kopke (Atlantic City Rotary Club)– This was my fifth trip to

Santo Domingo and the orphanage. Each trip I am inspired by the young people that go down on these Interact trips. The resources they donate, both time and money, are great. They all come back with a sense of accomplishment and wanting to do more. I am proud to be a part of the Interact program in Rotary District 7640.

Perhaps the most memorable moment occurred yesterday Friday when we were at Boca Chica. While we were at the beach, being swarmed by merchants selling their wares, a young boy, about 11 years old came walking down the beach.  His appearance gave him away as a “Street Kid”.  He was dressed in a tee-shirt and under pants. He was begging for money. As he walked down the beach, looking for foreigners, several of the tour guides came over and threatened him before he left.  At first his actions were defiant toward them. He would not budge until he was ready. Most of these kids live in packs – in order to survive. It appeared to me that this boy was on his own. I later found out he has no mom or dad. He survives by begging on the beach.

There was little I could do for him. To help him properly, it would

have taken more time than I had available.  Giving him money only buys a little time. He really needed the care found at the Armando Rosenberg Home and School. Right now the orphanage is at capacity.

This young man will not live long unless he is helped. It is a sad

situation.  I am glad for what I am able to do and frustrated that I can not do more.

Nima Karvar (Vineland High School Interact Club) – I have been

fortunate enough to have flown all over the world to so many

countries. All of these have been for my own pleasure, but this time it was different. I went to bring pleasure to the people around me that needed it the most. This was my first trip to Santo Domingo and my first impression of the city is not at all what I expected. Seeing the mounds of garbage on the street corners, the inadequately done construction and electrical wiring, and the poverty in the streets really got to me. It changed what I imagined a third-world country would be like.

Arriving at the orphanage made me have a change of heart.  Knowing the help that this orphanage gave to so many kids made me glad that my work benefited so many children. The moment that really was the most memorable for me was when we went to another school in one of the poorer parts of Santo Domingo. Seeing these kids and knowing where they came from made me so grateful that people would do such a thing to help these kids that have nothing, especially giving them the knowledge and education to improve their lives.

I will never forget what one of the nuns told me before we left. She said that the kids love seeing you more than you can even imagine.

This made me think that these kids have nothing, and to see us come to them to just help out a little made them unimaginably happy. From this trip, I know firsthand that people can be so helpful to take time out of their lives to help kids that have nothing.  Just knowing that I am one of them, really changed me, and I will never forget my trip to Santo Domingo. This gives me more of a reason to come back next year!

Brian Bond (Cumberland County College Rotaract Club) – When I first arrived in Santo Domingo last year, I was overwhelmed with emotion and stunned by the differences in culture that a few simple hours on a plane can offer. Being my first time out of America, I was more in a state of culture shock than anything. Homes were small and in shambles, where day after day families sit, due to a lack of available jobs, often under clothed and in a complete lack of sanitation. When I returned to the city earlier this week, it was almost exactly as I remembered it. On the way to the orphanage, I recognized buildings and streets.

Once at the orphanage, I was once again overcome by emotion at the sight of the children which I grew so closely to the previous year.

Many children remembered me, which filled me with joy because not a single day passed that they have not crossed my mind. Despite an enormous language barrier, there is a sense of understanding human emotion at the school which cannot be explained, only experienced. My only regret is that I was not able to help the children more.

Alyssa Maurice (Vineland High School Interact Club) –This was my first time visiting the orphanage in Santo Domingo and I can honestly say it was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I got to see exactly how these children live and what they have to go through everyday and it’s something I know I’ll never forgot. I could tell from the moment we walked in that they appreciated us coming to see them more then we could ever understand. They welcomed us with smiling faces and ran up to greet each one of us. There was a language barrier which made it difficult to communicate with the kids but we made the best of it.

On our last day at the orphanage, a few younger girls came up to me and said “I’ll see you later my friend” in perfect English. It meant a lot for them to do that considering how much effort it took to look up each word and its meaning. It showed me how much they truly cared.

Although we accomplished a lot while we were there and made a huge difference, I still want to do more. I’m looking forward to

fundraising and preparing for next year’s trip so we can help these kids even more.