Camp Esperanza was one of the most mutually beneficial experiences in my life to date. Of all the activities or volunteer opportunities I’ve been a part of, Camp Esperanza stands alone. I received equally as much satisfaction (if not more) from the experience as did the kids, the parents, and the locals. Furthermore, without the courage and compassion of a resourceful and noble couple, Anthony and Fiona, this would have been entirely impossible. My gratitude to Anthony and Fiona extends eternally, approximately the amount of time this endeavor will impact my life.
Cabrera is an anomaly in and of itself. It is quaint, nearly unmolested, and a wholesome community wherein children hone their baseball skills in the streets during the day with whatever impromptu materials may be produced. Parents and grandparents alike congregate on their porches, or in the town square, where they avidly play bingo and/or discuss anything from dinner — to historical events. What I saw humbled me greatly. Everyone’s ability to subsist with limited materials served as both a testimony to how little one actually needs to be happy, and how much people overuse in other nations. Upon landing in the Dominican Republic, I was swept up in the intoxicating aesthetic value of beaches, architecture of houses, and the swagger of the people. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into, but I knew one thing was for sure, this adventure would prove rewarding.
During the time I spent in Cabrera, I cultivated influential and meaningful relationships with kids on a daily basis through the interaction at camp. I served as a confidant, a counselor, and most importantly, a friend. I built deep, long-lasting connections with fellow counselors. I maintained an extremely important and entertaining bond with the spunky kids in my host family.
Now that I’m back in the United States, and I’ve had time to look at my pictures and reflect on all that has transpired, there are a few things I miss greatly. I miss the pace of life in Cabrera; slower and mellower than the U.S. I miss the counselor outings to the local Internet café, Choripan, where we would reflect on the day’s activities over the comforts of Chinola Juice. I miss the deep and amusing conversations we had late at night where I not only felt as though I were a part of a meaningful group; I felt essential to something special. I miss the kids, both rowdy and pacified, and I miss playing baseball with them every day. I miss Anthony and Fiona, their house, the movie and game nights with them, and the atmosphere of feeling totally welcome.
I miss Cabrera for all of its faults and all of its treasures. I miss knowing that I was making a difference in a child’s life as I talked to them, spent time with them, and got to know them personally. I miss hearing the kids squeal with joy and chant my name because I blasted the music they wanted to hear.
In short, I miss Camp Esperanza.