Greetings from the Dominican Republic! My name is Lindsey, and I’m one of the interns here in the DR for the month of May. I recently graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in Organizational communication, a minor in social work, and a certificate in nonprofit leadership. I am also on the Aspiras USA board of directors.
A lot of exciting things have happened this month, including two of our US college student organization groups coming to visit. During both trips the teams got a chance to see what Aspiras does in country, experience the culture, and volunteer some of their time. A really special day our crew from Columbia University had was when they visited Bayaguana. One of Aspiras’ strongest partnerships is with the staff and coaches at el Complejo Deportivo en Bayaguana.
Bayaguana is a town located just over an hour north of Santo Domingo. It is not on the way to anything, nor is it a destination location. It is a small, close knit community. People say the town has two passions: religion and sports. Something unique about Bayaguana is its large sports complex (built by the government many years ago). The facility is home to over 20 different sports and thousands of kids from the community come every day to train. Olympic medalists have even come out of this complex. Coaches are not paid, and resources are limited. Yet, this place gives life to the community and is a second home for many. That is one of the reasons Aspiras loves to support the work they do.
On the day our crew went to visit, the plan was to paint some things in their facility. We made the drive to Bayaguana in the morning and bought painting supplies from a local hardware store. When we got to the complex, some of the coaches pointed out different things that needed new paint, and we got right to work alongside them painting referee chairs, poles, and badminton court lines. A couple hours in, we stopped for a delicious lunch of rice, chicken, and salad that the staff made for everyone. In the afternoon we finished the floor lines, painted some guard rails, and repainted the outdoor basketball court. The entire day was a group effort between our crew, the coaches, and a few kids from the community who came to help out. We finished just as everyone started showing up for their various sports practices.
At the end of the day, the paint jobs looked great, but what meant more were the connections made by playing soccer and chating with kids on our breaks, eating lunch together, and spending the whole day there.
By the time we finished working, everyone was thoroughly sweaty and covered in paint. One of the coaches told us about a local swimming spot at a river where we could go clean up. We piled in cars, drove down the road to a villa, and walked to the river. After washing off, a guy at the villa cut open fresh coconuts for us to drink. It was a good day.
These are the kinds of relationships Aspiras seeks to form, recognizing and supporting people like the coaches in Bayaguana, who daily invest in all the kids who come to their club. The goal of our programming goes way beyond the occasional volunteer trip. Aspiras staff are working year round to build relationships and support soccer clubs around the country. We use soccer, education, and social inclusion as a way to give children and communities the ability to reach their full potential.
Thank you for being a part of this movement! Stay tuned for more exciting events from the month of May. #reachingdreams