As a group of students, we were offered the opportunity to visit the community of Puerto Plata and learn about the community development skills, observe the economy of the people, and build skills among other things. It was an eye-opening experience, where a student like me was able to see an entire world outside of Canada and experience something I wouldn’t have been able to without Sage.
We got to meet local community members that accepted us like family, help them with different initiatives, and immerse ourselves in the Dominican culture. The opportunity to observe the local economy as well, see the strengths and weaknesses associated with it, and make note of the opportunities of growth there helped us gain experience with international economies and how to help them with their various needs. Another amazing thing that we were able to do was to have to opportunity to listen to a number of different speakers and guests who taught us a multitude of things that relate to our field and future career paths.
The main reason we went to the Dominican Republic as a class was to observe their economy, analyze its strengths and weaknesses, and apply our Community Development techniques there. When people think of the DR the first thing that comes to mind for a lot of people in the resorts, and the party life on the beach. But as we had come to learn, this beautiful land had a lot more to offer than that.
The economy of the DR is comprised of a very intricate web of corresponding political bodies, agencies, and international organizations. One interesting thing I learnt is that the Japanese helped to boost tourism for the DR, but only for a contracted amount of time. Aside from tourism though unfortunately there is a huge gap between the wealthy and the poor. If you are not able to work with tourists, or know English it is hard to make a sustainable living for many Dominicans. We have noticed a paradigm shift in thinking though when it comes to economic development strategies, and local communities are now starting to take advantage of their local commodities and cultural hotspots. One that I wish to mention is the amazing coffee in the DR. There has been an effort to attract tourists to see the coffee manufacturing process, from the tree to the cup, and with the added bonus of seeing the locals sing to the beans, it is a great experience they can capitalize on.
The People and the Experience
Overall this was an amazing eye-opener of experience and one that was a huge learning opportunity for a lot of us. For some, it was the catalyst for them to realize what exactly they wanted to do in the community development field. For others, it helped them learn more about the economic development of countries outside of their own. And for myself personally, it was a chance to learn more about myself and how I can better interact with not just my classmates but with different kinds of people around the world.
The scenery was absolutely breathtaking, something that a lot of us did not expect. Waking up every morning to see the sunrise over the hills of Puerto Plata, going for 4 hour-long hikes across the land just to dive into a beautiful lake and more was something that created a deep connection between nature and us all. But the most beautiful thing we encountered on our trip was the people. Every Dominican we met showed us a level of love and care that we don’t often see from strangers. When they found out we were there to do Community work as well they treated us with even more hospitality, and this is something I would like everyone who visits the DR to see, and not just the resorts that don’t help their communities. In conclusion, this trip was an amazing life-changing experience that I must thank SAGE and Centennial College for giving me the opportunity to experience!
Written by Abdifatah Hussein