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Discovery in the Dominican Republic

ONU students learn that it’s not what you have that matters; it’s what you give

Twenty-seven ONU students spent a week in the Dominican Republic this summer helping to operate outreach health clinics and construct a new medical facility.

The students departed Ada with 29 suitcases of donated medical supplies and toys, their knowledge of health care delivery, and their good intentions. They believed they were on a mission to change lives. Upon returning home, they realized it was their lives that had been changed.

Self-discovery is the greatest outcome from any mission trip, says Dr. Christine North, associate professor of communication arts. She’s traveled to the Dominican Republic 14 times as an advisor for Northern Without Borders, an interdisciplinary student organization focused on service outreach.

“Of course it’s about helping others,” she says. “But primarily it’s about building relationships and cultural understanding. Students discover they have a lot to learn from people who have so little in terms of material possessions, yet are so generous and happy.”

The students’ blog posts during the trip reveal what they learned:

Discovery: Life is different outside the United States

Zach Leonatti, a fifth-year pharmacy student from Stow, Ohio, on the first day of the journey:

“As we drove through Santa Domingo, we couldn’t help but notice a few things. Vendors selling items car to car at red lights, motorcycle riders with five passengers casually weaving through traffic and, of course, the incredible scenery. We drove through mountains, along bright blue water beaches, and saw amazing street art courtesy of the locals. However, once we got closer to the guest house and more on the outskirts of the big city, we began to notice significant differences. The poverty level rose dramatically, and we were struck with the reality that we were no longer in the country we call home.”

Discovery: You can’t control everything; you have to be flexible

Katlyn Brown, a fourth-year pharmacy student from St. Marys, Ohio, on the second day of the journey:
“The biggest thing we learned today is the word we must live by this week: flexibility. We might have an idea or plan for how the week will go, but no matter what, something is going to throw us a curve ball and we have to deal with it the best we can. Our team has to learn how health care is delivered in the Dominican Republic and how to work with the differences we face.”

Discovery: It’s not what you have that matters; it’s what you give

Crystal Zheng, a fourth-year pharmacy student from Milan, Mich., on the third day of the journey:

“As we began to set up our ‘mini’ pharmacy, triage station and doctor diagnosis station, the patients slowly began to trickle in. At first, the interactions were a bit nerve-wracking, but all the students soon became comfortable and started testing out their Spanish skills. As each minute passed, we continued to make new connections and dive deeper into the culture. The people were so kind, respectful, humble and overall grateful for everything they have. As we worked, we saw nothing but smiling faces and a plethora of kids eager to talk to us, regardless of the communication barrier. Their levels of happiness inspired everyone and gave us motivation to help out as much as we can.”

Discovery: Good things happen when you leave your comfort zone

Christian Theriault, a fourth-year pharmacy student from Cincinnati, Ohio, on the last day of the journey:

“After getting on the plane, I realized that for the first time in my life, I had traveled outside the United States and Canada. I immediately grabbed my passport, opened it to the first visa page, and a big grin began to form across my face looking at the stamp I received. This trip was an eye-opening, enlightening and eventful experience that will go down as one of the most influential weeks of my life.”