Cavs in the Dominican
By Ken Harkenrider
It is a well-known reference, one that calls to mind the many impacts, both seen and unseen, of a single action: “the ripple effect.” For the 11th time overall, but the first since 2019, a group of 28 Canterbury High School students took a trip to the Dominican Republican as part of their May Term service project. I had direct insight into the many ways a “Dominican Ripple Effect” could be set in motion.
Joining along as a faculty chaperone, I watched with interest how these enthusiastic young students robustly engaged with members of our Lighthouse staff hosts, as well as members of the local community. Whether shoveling sand, pouring concrete, or mingling with the neighborhood children, it became clear that these experiences will send ripples out into our students’ future lives. Developing empathy for these people and the lives they have, our students will be challenged from this point forward to view the world in new ways. The takeaways that each student has from this trip, and the connections they made, will be a part of that world view. No doubt the influence they may have as college students, young adults and beyond will evolve as a result of this exposure, and who knows what decisions will be made and what benefits may derive? These ripples alone would make the trip worthwhile, but there are others as well.
The ripples set forth from the previous Canterbury students were there to behold, as we walked through the neighborhood and saw firsthand the houses built through their labor. Once an empty street, now one area impacted showed vibrant signs of life, as the several houses built by earlier Cavs are occupied and spurring additional growth in the neighborhood. The water filtration plant is functioning at capacity, providing life-giving fresh water, as well as jobs and a central point of hope within this small community. The medical facility that received these students’ attention will open within the next year, again providing needed services to the local population and jobs for those capable. Further ripples include several medical groups who have already made contact and are preparing to send rotating crews of doctors to vaccinate and provide other basic levels of care. And, in a truly remarkable development resulting from an earlier visit of a group from Cleveland, ALL the necessary equipment needed to get the medical facility up and running has been donated and will arrive in a matter of months. Similarly, supplies and equipment to facilitate other facets of their operations appear regularly, because someone who can, knew someone who participated in a short service experience, and chose to become part of the mission. Ripples, one and all.
It would be fantastic if at this juncture we could expand the ripples here at Canterbury! Dave and Melissa Walda have successfully carried the momentum through the COVID disruptions, making the initial connections to past groups. Perhaps there are ways we could easily expand the visibility of what takes place in the Dominican throughout the entire school year, so someone who has the ability to contribute in a specialized way can become a part of this ripple effect. Maybe we can consolidate resources that could have a significant impact in the Dominican without major negative impact elsewhere. There are myriad possibilities, and like the beauty of the ripples in a lake, many of these may not be visible to us until we throw that stone. Let’s do it!
By Melissa Walda
Canterbury Middle School Teacher
Dominican Trip Leader
Canterbury’s long-term partnership in the Dominican began through a connection with current Canterbury parent, Samuel Melo. Melo was on the original leadership team that identified the impoverished community of Los Alcarrizos, a suburb of the country’s capital city, Santo Domingo, as an area that lacked access to education, clean drinking water, and basic infrastructure needs. What began as elementary and vocational schools has grown into a much larger outreach now known as Lighthouse Projects. Lighthouse Projects original site in Los Alcarrizos now educates elementary through high school students while also providing much needed services, such as purified water, to the community.
Canterbury began sending teams of students to volunteer in the Dominican Republic during Spring Break of 2010. The following year the trip was moved to May Term and except for a three-year hiatus due to COVID restrictions, it has taken place every year since. Canterbury teams have taken eleven trips in all. Previous service projects have included constructing eight homes and building a two-room satellite school in Los Alcarrizos. Students who take part in the trip each year pay their own way. They then commit to fundraise to cover the cost of the building materials needed to complete their service project.
In 2019, Lighthouse Projects expanded their efforts to the community of Villa Altagracia. Canterbury students helped build a water purification plant that was able to begin providing safe drinking water to the community during Covid. In May of this year, Canterbury was finally able to re-launch the service trip. This year’s project was helping to build a first attention medical clinic that will one day provide emergency medical care and vaccinations to underserved people in the community of Villa Altagracia. The 2023 team’s specific task was to pour all the cement floors for the clinic. In 2024 we hope to be one of the teams that put the finishing touches on the medical clinic to open the doors to accessible healthcare.