Saturday, June 30, 2012

Our final post

As UNIV 3954 comes to a close, the actual experience and impact on the lives of the participants will never end.  This blog began when we were asked to consider the quote “Contrast is the mother of clarity.” by: Os Guinness, thank you Danny White for pointing us to this quote.  It has served as a personal challenge for putting into perspective the enormous contrast experienced.  How will this experience shape my values?  How will it clarify my personal choices and the motivation behind my choices?  How will it impact my leadership principles?  Finally, what fine tuning will I make to the question of life’s purpose?    Heavy questions, no doubt, but isn’t that one of the aims of education?

Jon taking part in a camp exercise
How does a nation with incredible natural resources exist in such abject poverty?  I cannot get that question out of my mind.  I do not have enough information to answer that question with absolute resolve but failed leadership has to have played a major role.  That is why this course has so much value to me and others across this university community who worked to make it a reality.  It gets to the heart of our personal leadership, which leads to our ability to influence others, ultimately giving us the chance to impact a culture or community in which we live.  A friend recently told me that sociologists have researched and discovered that individuals, on average, influence 10,000 people in a lifetime.  I am so encouraged by how this experience will impact our influence of others. 

Carol Kahoun (WTN) finds a friend for life
Lastly, injustice matters.  In a world where absolutes are losing their grip on societal influence this experience further solidifies for me that virtue, values and ethics matter.  A member of our group eloquently referred to the four cardinal virtues one evening.  They are: prudence, justice, courage and temperance.   They were referenced as the hinges upon which the door of life swings.  Take a few minutes and reflect upon your leadership in light of these virtues.  Sure has made me think about my past, present and future. 

I hope you have enjoyed sharing in our journey through this blog.  Thanks for coming along with us and hopefully you have been influenced by the thoughtful words that the students have expressed.  May all our lives find opportunity after opportunity to live out, experientially, this great universities motto, Ut Prosim (That I may serve).

Jon Jaudon

Friday, June 29, 2012

Day 10

Shane McCarty and a few kids from Veron

           It’s hard to believe that we are back in Blacksburg. We departed the Punta Cana international airport on Sunday after we said our emotional goodbyes to our friends that we became so close with. The ten days that we were in the Dominican Republic flew by but I think that we can all agree they were some of the most memorable days of our lives. We finished up with two classes to present projects, have a test, and reflect on our service-learning experience. Which is a very unique way of ending a study abroad trip. Most of the time study abroad trips end after departing the airport but we got the opportunity to debrief and present our final projects to each other. 

            When I think back to our trip, there are two words that I think about: impact and appreciation. Of course there are many other words that describe our time in the Dominican Republic but these are the two words that come to my mind first.
            First of all, we are all grateful to have gotten this opportunity. What a blessing to have people who worked so hard to make the trip possible and to be able to apply what we learned, and to teach it to others. Thank you so much Danny, Jon, Katie for working so hard to make this trip possible and taking time away from your families to come on the trip with us. I am thankful for the people that we met on this trip. Specially Victor, Julio, Kelito, Rido, Kenny and Ben. We all appreciated their inspiring attitudes and for all of their help.  I also want to thank the other Peace Corps members who helped so much. We cannot thank the people enough who made this trip possible for all of us. I really appreciate Virginia Tech for their vision and commitment to service. Also thanks to Dr. Geller, Shane and Joanne for teaching and leading us. One thing that we sometimes take advantage is the choices that we have, opportunities and education. This trip made us realize how appreciative we are that we get to go to school.

Cara's (back right) group during warm-ups before camp begins
            A favorite quote of mine, by Jackie Robinson, states: "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives." Inspiring someone is impacting somebody’s life. We made special connections with kids and with our DPV friends. Whether it was sharing our values, sports or even a hug it was a way of inspiring them. We could see a change in them and they seemed to feel a since of belonging as the week progressed. Not only did we impact their lives but the connections and the relationships that we made with them will always be a part of us and we will never forget them. Additionally, when we presented our final projects back in Blacksburg, others came to watch us present and it was inspiring to see that they felt moved and impacted by our experiences too.

             It’s hard to consider that the children and the people that we met during the week might not get the same choices as us. It seems completely unfair but we have to realize that we have the tools and the opportunities to help them even in the smallest ways. This trip gave all of us hope that anything can be possible and we are all self-motivated, grateful and inspired to continue to make a difference.

             I leave you with a final thought by Randy Paunch from The Last Lecture: “It's not about how to achieve your dreams, it's about how to lead your life... If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself, the dreams will come to you.” 


Madalyn Nuckols

Monday, June 25, 2012

Dear followers...

As I'm sure you've noticed, our posts are always a day or so behind the actual expereinces. That being said, we returned home safely from the DR last night but still have a few thoughts to share with you. Please continue to follow the blog for the next few days!

Thanks for following,


(here's a couple extra pics)

Katie Cross handing out diplomas to graduating campers

Derrick and Katie DeTuro taking part of camp fun

Nick, Devin and Cara participating in camp exercises

Day 9

Meaghan and Madalyn with a few campers

Matthew 20:28 says “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many." As a team, we came to serve the kids in the Punta Cana community. I know we have made a positive impact on the kids who came to the camp. Throughout the week, we made a bond with the kids of Punta Cana that will never be broken. I am sure that they will never forget the Virginia Tech students that came to serve and spend time with them. As our time came to a close, many tears were shed, hugs were given, and Facebook names were exchanged, so that we can keep in contact with each other. This trip was very powerful and impacted everyone who was involved. I believe this trip gave the children hope to make it out of their environment and tap into the potential they have on the inside of them. Most of the kids who were involved could not get this type of experience at home or within their community. This trip gave the children hope, faith and self-esteem.

I want to thank Danny White, Jon Jaudon, Katie Cross, and Shane McCarty (Psych Graduate student) for going on the trip with us. They are special people and I just want to thank them for taking time away from their families to come on this trip with us. I want to personally thank Danny White, Jon Jaudon, and various staff members who fought so hard for us to get the opportunity to go on this trip. It was truly a great privilege and I thank you for it. I also want to thank Virginia Tech for allowing us to go on this trip. Without Virginia Tech’s support, this trip would not have been possible. I also want to give thanks to all the coaches who donated supplies for us to use for the camp; it was a great help. Last but not least, thanks to all the people who donated clothing for the kids; they really loved it.

Arriving at the beach for fun day
Wow, what can I say? Time has flown while being here in the Dominican Republic. I cannot believe this is our last day here. It has been an awesome experience and I am so proud of everybody who came on the trip with me. We have all bonded with each other and really grown to care for each other. All of our leadership skills have grown tremendously and that is the wonderful thing about this trip. It gives us the chance to become better leaders for the sports team that we serve on. It is great how we have grown so close with each other in such a short period of time. Danny White and Jon Jaudon put together a great group of students to go on this trip.

Fun day at the beach wouldn't be
complete without a human pyramid 
Being that today was our last day, it was devoted to having fun. It was a day just to relax and hang out with each other. After a hard week of work I think this day was needed. The day started off with some of the team members working and running while others slept in until 9 o’clock. At 10 o’clock, we were headed to the beach. The beach was about 45 minutes, but the drive was worth it! The beach was amazing and the view was beautiful. It was the best beach I’ve ever seen.  The water was so clear and cool which was perfect to play in. You could also rent a surf board and go surfing. Some of the group members rented a surf board for the day and went surfing while others tanned on the beach and just relaxed.

After we made it safely back to the foundation, we all went to take showers and get dressed. For dinner, we went to a Mexican place. The food at this place was amazing! Every single person was pleased with their meal. It was really cheap as well, so that’s always great. After the amazing dinner, some people went back to the foundation and others went to the store to pick up some snacks.  The rest of the night we just chilled and had a good time hanging out with each other.

 I want to thank the DPV guys who came and supported us on this great opportunity.  Rido, Karlito, Victor, and Julio who are powerful young men that are doing great things in their community by stepping up to be leaders. I also want to thank Kenny and all of the Peace Corps members who came and helped translate and lead. They are great people and I commend them for making a difference. I also want to give thanks to Ben Hulefeld, who put all of this together from the beginning to the end. He did a great job connecting all the ends and outs. From all of us who went on the trip and Virginia Tech, we thank you brother and we want to wish everybody the best.

Derrick Hopkins

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Day 8

Hola from the Dominican Republic

Madalyn (middle, blue shirt) running ladder drills 
This morning pretty much started off like most mornings, waking up and trying to scramble up something to eat for breakfast and then going out to set up camp. The only real difference about today was that Madalyn, Derrick, and I were in charge of running camps. We all excitedly accepted the challenge and as stated earlier in the week, we would be teaching the kids a little something about football (or as they call it, Futbol Americano)At first the task sounded really easy, but then we realized that the kids here have no earthly idea how football works. Then we got hit with a little bit of an obstacle when we realized that we only had two footballs.
Even though we got thrown a couple of curve balls we still took on the challenge. We started off by getting Carol Kahoun (A.K.A. Swiss Miss) and the DPV guys to get the kids warmed up and fired up. Then Derrick, Madalyn, and I asked the kids what they thought when we said the word football. Most of the responses we got were pretty comical to say the least. We got everything from,Its where you go out and hurt somebody” to “Its where the big mean guys go to hit each other”. After briefly laughing and talking to the kids we split them into three groups and put them through a couple of simple football drills. Madalyn was in charge of the ladder drills, Derrick took up the wave drill and get up and run station, while I choose to pick up the pass and catch drill. With the help of all the other athletes and staff the kids seemed to have a really good time. I think the best part of the day was realizing that everything wasn’t going exactly the way we planned, but that wasn’t what it was all about. As long as the kids had a smile on their faces and were laughing and getting involved we knew we were doing our jobs.

Derrick, JP (translator), Madalyn &
Zack teaching a leadership lesson
After all the Kids had rotated through all of the drills we sat them down and taught them about the importance of setting goals. We told them that for every outcome goal (long term goal) there were a number of process goals (short term goals) that they had to complete to help them reach there desired goal. We gave them a few examples about how school was important and what they need to do to get to their goal of graduating and furthering their education. Then we asked about their dreams and what they could do to accomplish and reach those goals. It was inspiring to hear what some of the kids had to say, because even though some of the kids had come from a pretty bad background and the odds were against them.  They still had dreams of being engineers and doctors and professional athletes.

Next, the kids were called up one by one to receive a certificate and some VT gear. They were really excited about that part of the day. Words can’t describe how much that meant to these kids. They had the biggest smiles on their faces and all they wanted to do is talk and compare their new stuff to their friends. We even tried to get a little football game organized, but we decided against it because the kids were so wrapped up in their new stuff that they were having a ton of fun just sitting there and trying their clothes on. This put a smile on all of our faces because it showed that we could truly make a difference in these kids’ lives. Then the harsh reality began to set in that the camp was coming to an end and that is was very likely that we would never see these kids again. To a certain extent we all got a bit emotional. We all were trying to get as many pictures as we could so we could cherish the moments that we spent with these kids. I think I can speak for everyone who came on the trip when I say that I truthfully think we left a positive impression on all of the kids, but I know they left a lasting impression on each and every one of us that we will cherish forever.

After the camp was over we had some downtime until about 4:30P.M. I believe most of us went down to the beach and just enjoyed the weather until it was time to go to class. In class we went back and reviewed the 20 leadership principles in the back of our text books and related them to the trip. It was a very unique topic because the 20 principles we all read and knew, but they all meant something different to us and applied to something different that had happened during our experience down here in Punta Cana.

Campers with diplomas and VT gear
Well, it’s hard to believe that tomorrow is our last full day here. This trip has seriously flown by. I feel like I’ve learned more on this trip than I’ve learned in most of my life. I think that everyone needs to see what this place is really like. Behind all the glamor and beauty of the resorts out here lies one of the most disaster and poverty stricken countries in the world and we had the opportunity to leave a positive impact on the youth here.  I truly hope that we have the opportunity to share our stories with our university and even the world because I believe that we could have a major impact and influence the way that people care about each other and treat each other.

Buenos noches,

Zack McCray

Friday, June 22, 2012

Day 7

Hola !  Hola!

Wow time is flying over here in the Dominican. We are over 2/3 of the way done with our trip! Today was the 4th day of camp, and I was very excited for today’s session because it focused on volleyball… my sport J! I could not wait to share my passion with these kids. We started off the session with another “dinĂ¡mica”.   It was a song and dance about a dying duck, interesting to say the least. It was amusing to participate in and it also got the children excited for the day!

Cara Baarendse instructing a camper
Liz Trinchere (VB), Devin Carter (WRES) and I were in charge of planning this session. To start it off we brought all the kids together and quizzed them about the game of volleyball. We informed them on how many players are on the court, how many touches you can have before sending the ball over, and whether or not you can hit the ball twice. Most of them knew the answers, but we wanted to clarify. I then explained the correct passing form and we all went on the field to practice. All of them were committed to learning, and you could really see a difference in their passing as the day went on. We took a quick agua break and then Liz explained “how to set.” We ran a similar drill with setting. The kids gave us feedback and mentioned that they thought setting was a lot easier than passing.

After we taught them the basic skills of volleyball, we spiced it up and turned it into a competition.  We had 9 teams made up of 7 kids and a coach.  The idea of the competition was to count how many times you could keep the volleyball up without letting it touch the ground (you couldn’t touch the ball twice in a row either).  We made it into a tournament that had elimination rounds. After 3 minutes the team with the fewest touches was eliminated.  The final 2 teams left were coached by Nick Smirniotopolous (Green Grasshoppers) and Zack McCray (The Avengers). It was a very close fight to the finish (maybe some controversy) but “The Avengers” took home the title as #1!  The kids really enjoyed this part of the day. It was great seeing their competitive drive come out and how energetic they can be.

Liz Trinchere teaching a leadership lesson
We finished out our session with Liz leading Habitudes. The leadership lesson we taught today was about “emotional fuel.”  To simplify, if you are surrounded by bad people, they will influence you negatively, but if you surround yourself with encouraging things & people, it will have a positive impact on you.  We also asked the kids what it meant to be a good friend.  Being respectful, supportive and caring are some answers we received.
With the little time we had left, we started a kickball game with a twist. Instead of catching the ball and getting someone out you had to “pass” it up in the air or “set” it, then proceed to catch it. The game ended short when the buses arrived, but it was actually perfect timing because it started to rain. The rain was very refreshing after 4 hours in the heat!
We had a break before class, where some of us went to Wendy’s, the beach & others stayed in and napped (like me). We also had to say goodbye to one of the DPV Directors, Julio. It was so awesome working with him and hearing his story. The DPV guys have been extremely helpful. Luckily, we all get the opportunity to stay in touch with him and the others through Facebook!

We reviewed and discussed “The Price of Sugar” in class today. The conversation was very in-depth and passionate. We all are gaining something different out of this experience and it’s awesome to see how close we are getting as a group.  We also talked about the five person states: Choice, Self Esteem, Competence, Community and Optimism. We related these five states to our interpersonal stories we shared here in the Dominican.
I can’t believe tomorrow is our last day working with these kids. The goodbyes are going to be hard but the impression we are leaving on them and they are leaving on us is extraordinary. We hope to get the opportunity to share our stories when we get home.

Buenas noches!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Day 6

Hola Hokies!

We had full control of the camp so today was our time to shine! Everyone woke up and did their normal routines. A couple of us chose not to do a workout in the morning so we could sleep in a little longer. The last two days of camps were a little long on us after working out so we wanted to be fresh today.

Today was soccer day for the kids led by Nick Smirniotopolous, Katie DeTuro (both VT soccer players) and myself (VT swimmer). The structure of our camp was introductions, “dinĂ¡mica” (ice breakers), warm-up (led by Carol Kahoun), three stations of instructional play, a habitude lesson, and then a group competition.

A group photo of campers, DPV staff and VT students/staff
We each taught a station and had the kids rotate through each station. Thankfully we had the DPV boys and translators to help us. Our stations consisted of passing, juggling, dribbling, shooting, trapping, and communicating with others. We spent 20 minutes at each station with a 10 minute transition time as groups rotated to the next state, allowing time for water in the midst of a very warm day! We tried to make each station as fun as possible while learning some valuable skills for playing soccer. After we completed the three stations we took an extended break to regroup before our Habitudes lesson.

Habitudes is the title of a series of leadership books that we have used within our athletics department at VT and are also included in our class. The book uses images to teach and form leadership habits and attitudes. The lesson we shared was the “iceberg”, communicated that 90% of a person’s character is under the water while only 10% is above the water.  We changed this image to fit culturally, using the image of a fruit that has a covering for protecting the valuable portion (character) inside, because some kids had never heard of an iceberg. Ultimately, we were trying to teach the kids to get to know one another and not judge one another by the outside appearance. Simply put, we are all leaders.

After this lesson it was time for COMPETITION! The competition that took place was a series of games. The older kids played an actual game of soccer while the younger kids played paired soccer and attempted a small game. After the camp was over the kids returned to Veron or to their homes in Punta Cana.

Reflecting back on the camp, the hardest part was not having full communication with the kids. We all know how to run a camp in the United States but here in the Dominican Republic it was tough and un-natural to rely on translators. The hardest thing for me was not being able to give constant feedback to the kids.  You get a sense of feeling helpless without communication but with the translators it ran smoothly and everyone had lots of fun!

After the camp was over we had down time until 4pm. Katie DeTuro, Madalyn Nuckols, Derrick Hopkins and I went to the lagoons with the DPV boys. We swam around, jumped off the dock and played with the duck that is always there. From the lagoons we went to class where we watched the documentary The Price of Sugar and a Ted Talk. The movie was about the sugar cane production in the Dominican Republic and how poorly the cutters (workers) get treated in both their pay and living conditions.  I would highly recommend watching this documentary or a clip on YouTube.  Most people in the United States think this country is all about beautiful resorts when in reality mass poverty dominants the country.

We used these two videos to frame our reflection of our experience and carried the conversation into dinner.

Seven days down, four more to go. Time is flying by!

Buenos Noches!

Meaghan Holloway