Trip to Caribbean is 'no vacation' for students
Traveling to poverty-stricken villages in the Dominican Republic changed the way 19-year-old Mary Griesbach looks at the world.

“It changed my view of what it means to be here and be a very well-off American,” she said. “It makes me look at what’s important in a different way.”

The Rock Valley College sophomore is traveling again to the Dominican Republic today after going twice before with students at Rockford Christian High School.

The weeklong service trip is part of the high school’s January-term assignment, where students take a course or trip or complete an internship to study something in depth that isn’t readily provided on campus. This is the third time Rockford Christian students have had the opportunity to travel to the Caribbean country. The service trip is a partnership with Mission Emanuel, an ongoing Dominican Republic outreach ministry.

About 40 students are attending this year, and they’ll stay in a hotel in Santo Domingo, which is about a 15-minute trip from the village they’re serving. They’ll complete construction on three homes and bathrooms, and they’ll package and deliver 12,000 bottles of pure water to a tent city in Haiti.

“This is no vacation,” said Keith Christianson, a Rockford Christian parent who helped organize the trip.

Christianson took his son on a trip to the Dominican Republic four years ago with Kids Around the World. The next year, Christianson’s wife, Karen, and their other son made the trip.

“That’s where it started to mushroom, because now all four of us have got it in our blood,” Christianson said.

He presented the idea to incorporate the trip into the school’s January term during the first week of the new year. In 2008, nine students and nine adults went on the trip. This year, about 40 students and 10 adults are going.

Christianson calls it a double success story, because people are receiving help, improved homes and running water. But the students get something out of it, too.

“When you turn around and see 35 high school students doing the work, that impacts them. It’s a big double win.”

On previous trips, students completed work on 12 homes in the villages of Cielo and Nazaret, which are poverty-stricken communities outside Santo Domingo.

The group is also planning a Christmas party at a leper hospital. Amanda Sherwood helped her Sunday school students make fleece blankets, homemade crosses and other gifts for her to give on the trip. They also collected other presents, like socks, toothbrushes and bathroom supplies. When the 18-year-old from Roscoe returns, she’ll tell her students at Poplar Grove United Methodist Church about the trip and share her experience.

“Seeing their excitement about it made me even more excited,” she said.

The trip costs students less than $2,000, and many receive donations from their church or family friends to cover the cost. Community members have donated money needed for construction materials.

Griesbach is looking forward to connecting with families she’s met the past two trips.

“I didn’t expect to learn so much from them,” Griesbach said. “I expected to come in and be the hero and save the day. Learning from them is what made me want to go back.”

Source - Reach staff writer Cathy Bayer at or 815-987-1395.

Dominican Watchdog note:

Mary Griesbach forgot to visit Casa de Campo to see that there are plenty of of money in the Dominican Republic. The only problem is that the rich people don't like to share them but prefere others to bring aid and fix their social problems!

What Americans and the rest of the world should do? - Put pressure on the Dominican government to raise taxes on the rich families, pursue their offshore companies and foreign bank accounts! Read this: Stop sugar purchases from the Dominican Republic immediately, it makes a few families billionaires but more than 100,000 live like slaves........

Go back | Date: 01 Jan 2011
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