Representing Upper Iowa University during the recent Alternative Spring Break trip to the Dominican Republic were (front, left) advisor Hope Trainor, director of Academic Success and interim director of Career Services, Erica Minich, Chyan Johanningmeier, Hanna Myers and advisor Daryl Grove, assistant dean of students; (back, left) Shane Kafka, Laura Gosse, Alicia Neff, Shay Enriquez and Roberto Mardones Cruz.
FAYETTE, Iowa (April 4, 2014) – Eight Upper Iowa University students traveled to the Dominican Republic in March during UIU's Alternative Spring Break international service trip. During the week-long service trip, the students visited two villages, Blackwater and Los Cocos. They also volunteered at Dove Missions Youth Center where they helped with construction of a new center, played with the children and made their current playground better with new swings and a cleaner environment.
Upper Iowa senior Alicia Neff from Hanover Park, Ill., is no stranger to performing service abroad. This year's Alternative Spring Break marks her third international trip with UIU. She served in Belize as a sophomore and Costa Rica as a junior. For the sociology and psychology double-major, this type of work is in line with what she hopes to do after graduation. "I love the experience of helping all the people we can in that one week," said Neff. "Working with the children is my favorite. They were so loving and accepting of us right away, hugging us and braiding our hair. They loved being with us despite our language barrier. The most rewarding part of the trip was working with the children."
The Upper Iowa group did not travel to the Dominican Republic empty-handed. Prior to leaving Fayette, they collected numerous items including toothbrushes, toothpaste, conditioner, shampoo, balls, crayons, paper, scissor, pens, pencils, coloring books, math and reading work books and fruit snacks, which they gave to the youth center to distribute as needed.
Staying and serving mostly in Puerto Plata, the group spent a lot of time at the youth center working with children who come to the center during the daytime when they are not in school. They played basketball with the children, worked on craft projects including making 'peacock hands,' tie-dying bandanas, and making duct tape wallets and flowers. When the children left for the day, the Upper Iowa students worked on the new youth center. They shoveled, leveled the cement, worked on constructing walls for the restroom and carted loads of cement, dirt and water out of the building.
Prior to going on the trip, the students learned about the culture and the people of the Dominican Republic in the classroom. They watched "The Price of Sugar," a 2007 documentary that chronicles the real life struggle behind the harvesting of sugarcane.
"After experiencing life in a developing nation like the Dominican Republic, I felt that the students had a deeper sense of what privilege means," said Hope Trainor, director of Academic Success and interim director of Career Development. "They realized what a privilege it is to be able to go to college and to be able to get clean water out of the faucet anytime. This trip seemed to impact their sense of where they fit into the world."
UIU students also serving in the Dominican Republic during Alternative Spring Break included Laura Gosse from Pleasant Prairie, Wis.; Chyan Johanningmeier from Waukon, Iowa; Erica Minich from Kenosha, Wis.; Hannah Myers from Lisbon, Iowa; Roberto Mardones Cruz from Spain; Shane Kafka from Stewartville, Minn.; and Shay Enriquez from St. Charles, Ill.
Photos from the Dominican Republic Alternative Spring Break trip can be seen on Upper Iowa University's Flickr page at www.flickr.com/photos/upperiowauniversity.com.
About Upper Iowa University Founded in 1857, Upper Iowa University is a private, not-for-profit university providing undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 6,200 students – nationally and internationally – at its Fayette campus and learning centers worldwide. Upper Iowa University is a recognized innovator in offering accredited, quality programs through flexible, multiple delivery systems, including online and self-paced degree program. With a focus on developing leaders and lifelong learners, UIU provides dual enrollment programs for high school students as well as continuing education and professional development opportunities for learners of any age. For more information, visit www.uiu.edu.
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