31 Mar HU Spring Break: Dominican Republic
Dr. Norris Friesen, along with a group of 12 students, one faculty member and one staff member from Huntington University, witnessed extreme poverty first-hand during a spring break mission trip to the Dominican Republic on March 16-20.
One windy day they found themselves walking afoot through a small housing project called Redemption Village. Glancing around, Friesen noticed a woman making charcoal to sell on the side of the street, and on the other side of the woman, a young boy was walking around completely naked.
“We learned later that it wasn’t that the boy didn’t have any clothes, but it was a way to keep his clothes clean and to not wear them out,” said Friesen, vice president and dean of Huntington University. “You can’t visit a place like Redemption Village and not be impacted.”
Laura Groth, a junior elementary education major from Winchester, Ind., related a different incident at Redemption Village. She saw a woman sitting on the side of the road, holding a baby no older than eight months. As the group walked by the mother cried out, “The baby is hungry. The baby is hungry.” Given that they had nothing but themselves, the group had to walk away, leaving the mother and the baby in hunger.
“It opened my eyes to how much I take for granted,” said Groth. “I am so blessed to live the way I do.”
Friesen, along with Dr. Matthew Ruiz and Mallory Jones, led the group. David Dean, a native of Huntington, also traveled with the group. Dean is connected with New Missions, the organization that the university partnered with for the trip.
The trip consisted of relational projects that included visiting families and schools in the villages as well as playing with the children through interactive songs and hands-on activities. One of the activities that the group did with the children was a picture craft.
“I took individual pictures of each student, and then we printed the picture on a digital printer that we brought along,” said Friesen. “When we showed the pictures to the students, they smiled from ear to ear.”
The children then made frames for the pictures that they took home with them.
Another activity that Haley Neiderhiser, a freshman youth ministries and Spanish double major from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, assisted with was an interactive song. The children enthusiastically sang along with Neiderhiser as she waved arms back and forth, reading and singing stories from the Bible in Spanish.
New Missions, the organization the HU group partnered with, has established several schools and churches in impoverished communities in the Dominican. Through this partnership, the New Missions team and group from Huntington led activities in the schools and churches that were stationed in the different communities.
“We worked alongside dedicated missionaries that are committed to the work in the Dominican Republic,” said Friesen. “It was very humbling to witness their dedication.”