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Today was our last day in the Dominican Republic. We decided that it would be a great idea to stay up all night and not get any sleep. I know that I went 32 hours before I ended up taking a nap on the plane. I am actually a little surprised that I’m awake enough to write this blog entry. I asked about it and I was told that it was optional, but I wanted to write one anyways.

Yesterday was an amazing experience for me and by far my favorite part of the trip. We spent the day painting, scraping, and picking up trash from the rec center while the other group was painting at the baseball field. It was a lot of fun to work together and see how much we accomplished as a team. I will say, however, that I may have gotten more paint on Juan than I did on the building. Oops 😛

After lunch we switched projects and my group worked on the baseball field. It was truly incredible to see how the kids in the community came to help us in the process. I got to give some donations to a couple of the mothers in the community. We also passed out a bunch of notebooks to the kids with baseball pictures on the front of them. It really struck me when one of the kids that I had been talking to asked me to write in his book and sign it. He also left his hand print in paint on my arm. I really didn’t want to wash the handprint off my arm that night because it reminded me of how nice, and dedicated they were to helping better their community. After we had finished all of the work, we went to the baseball field to say good-bye and to take a group photo. Out of nowhere Ryan decided to take his shoes off and give them to one of the workers that helped us. Suddenly, everyone was giving away their shoes. Sadly, I wore my favorite shoes that day, but I noticed that one of the guys kept looking at them and I ended up giving them to him. At the time I didn’t even think about how much I liked them. It was just a natural reaction that I had something that I’m sure he needed more than me. If I could go back and do something differently, the only thing I would change is I would bring more of the toe-socks I have.

On the bus ride back Ryan talked to us and said that he was proud of how we stepped up for the people in the community and that as a sign of his appreciation he wanted to get us all new shoes. I really thought about that and I really don’t want Ryan to buy me a new pair of shoes. One of the things that this trip has taught me is that it isn’t about what you get out of it, but rather what you can do to help those around you. Seeing the look on his face when I asked him if he wants my shoes was enough reward for me to give away any and all shoes I have, had, or will have. Today I went through the airport in my flip flops because I didn’t have any real shoes, but I didn’t even care about that. I have the chance to get new shoes hundreds of times a year, whilst these people might never see another pair of $90 shoes. The power of Giving isn’t about what’s being given, it’s about the drive to better yourself, those around you, and the world.

This trip has definitely influenced my connections with the other members of the Student Service Program. I’ve known each of these individuals for one year before we set out on this journey. We were all friends, but outside of the program and events, I didn’t really have much contact with them. I really got to connect and talk with them and I learned a lot more about each and every one of them than I could have ever guessed. I really feel like everyone there is an amazing person and that really showed this week. For me personally, I especially got to talk to my roommates Taylor and Juan a lot. I’ve known that both of them are extraordinary people, but seeing their work ethic, people skills, and their personalities as we stayed up all night on the last night completely altered my perspectives of them. I definitely hold a much higher respect for Ryan, the SSP, and everyone that has helped to make this program what it is. It’s easy to forget why people do community service, why people help out those in need, why we put other people’s needs before our own, but this group of amazing individuals has shown me that it’s not about where you help, it’s not about who you help, but rather it’s about how and why.

“Never miss the opportunity to give because you may be missing the opportunity to receive.”

The Student Service Program has taught me a lot and I’m humbled and honored to be given the opportunity to be a mentor to next year’s students. Likewise I look forward to going out and using the lessons I’ve learned and spreading the power of giving.