Hometown: Danville, Virginia, USA
Explored: The Dominican Republic
About: University of Virginia Student
"I have been a tourist before- trying all of the local food, seeing all of the places featured in a travel guide, walking ten miles a day to get everything in. You get the picture. My time in the Dominican Republic had some of that, like when we went zip lining in the jungle, toured a cocoa farm, and had passion fruit mojitos on the beach. However, my short time in the Dominican Republic was so much deeper than any vacation I had taken previously.
To preface, the trip was a study abroad course about sustainable development of adolescent girls in developing countries. We spent a significant amount of time at a local nonprofit, The Mariposa Foundation, which supplements girls’ education to break the cycle of poverty through education, empowerment, job opportunities, and so much more. The phenomenal women running the organization were truly changing the community, and country, they were living in.
Throughout the trip, we talked about helping people and communities through meaningful interactions and not coming into a community as a savior figure. It is easy to see all of the problems in the world and get overwhelmed, but what I learned on this trip was that everyone has a stone for the pile. Some people’s stones may seem huge in comparison to yours, and that’s true- some people can bring more to the table. However, it’s still worthy, and crucial, to add your contribution. Everyone can do something, no matter how insignificant it may seem compared to others. You don't have to dedicate your life to a cause in order to leave the world a better place- it just took traveling 1,000 miles to fully understand the stone I can add to the pile."