Alexandra served in the FIMRC Internship Program for 4 months at Project Restauración. She reflects below about her adjustment to being in the Dominican Republic, and all the fun learning along the way!
After only a week to get ready for a four-month experience in a place that I knew little to nothing about, I arrived in Restauración unsure of what I was about to encounter and feeling so different and separate from the people in the community. I wondered if I would make friends or be able to find a way to work with and truly communicate with the locals.
The first people that helped me to overcome this feeling were my host family, whom were so eager to show and teach me their everyday practices and to include me in their way of life. It was also the children that would come up to me in the street begging to play or asking me questions. I met more people in the community through the many guests that visited my host family, the patients and my coworkers at the hospital, and the participants and staff at FIMRC activities. I was soon overwhelmed by the people who invited me into their homes for coffee, tea, or even full meals. I had never been offered, and sometimes almost forced to eat, so much food in my life.
Each visit into a home gave me a glimpse of the family and their values, and I always left with a new piece of knowledge or understanding (and often with fruit!). In the early weeks, I had to decide what my project would focus on while I was there. In my four years in college, I had found my interest in early childhood growth and development. Also some of the first things I noticed in Restauración were how young some of the mothers seemed to be and how many children were generally in the families. With Gina’s help, I decided to create and implement an early childhood development home visitation program. In the beginning months, I created the materials and found families to participate in the program. This part involved a couple visits to the local preschool, some time spent in the vaccinations part of the hospital, and many home visits. In the creation and implementation of the program, I met parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and countless children. Some of the kids were unsure at first or even scared of me, while some were full of unbridled joy and energy that I struggled to keep up with. Similarly, some of the parents were more involved than others in the program, but they all showed their desire to give their children the best they could offer.
In a sharp contrast to how I felt at the beginning, I soon found that I was walking around Restauración with people to greet, chat with, and visit everywhere I went, and this is how most everyone lives there. I remember early on noticing a walk that took me five minutes would take my host mom about 30 minutes, as people stopped her on the street to ask about her family, their crops, or an upcoming event. Each of the homes that I entered and each of the families that I encountered left a lasting impact on me. I hope that I was able to teach something meaningful or brighten a few days, as they all did both of these things for me, and that I will be able to replicate the generosity and friendliness that I found so abundantly in the welcoming community of Restauración.