Dominican Republic

Why You Should Go On A Family Volunteer Vacation

“Our week at camp was an incredible experience for me and my children, ages 15 and 12. We saw each other as teachers, students, adventurers, and resilient volunteers instead of just parents and teenagers. We also had a safe environment to immerse ourselves in the beautiful, rich culture of the Dominican Republic, and we experienced a much different lifestyle than we have back home.” -Lisa Asseling; Outreach360 Family Vacation Volunteer. 

Family volunteering is a unique opportunity that will bring your family closer together while serving a common cause. An Outreach360 family volunteer vacation is an inclusive way to introduce your family to a foreign culture. Volunteering abroad with Outreach360 is safe for family members of all ages, including young children, young adults, parents, and grandparents. During your trip in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua, you and your family members will serve real needs and together you will make a difference in underserved students’ lives.

But wait, there’s more.

Family volunteering with Outreach360 will expose your family to international service providing your loved ones with global connections that will empower and inspire. All the while, bringing your family closer together! Here are 10 reasons why you should consider going on an Outreach360 family volunteer vacation:

1. Your Family’s Safety Is Our # 1 Priority

We know that traveling abroad can raise some concerns, but please know that Outreach360 considers all of our volunteers to be members of OUR service family. We keep our family safe and out of harm’s way during their stay in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua, just as you would keep your family safe at or away from home. Here’s the deal: Outreach360 family volunteer vacation safety is our top priority.  We manage our own facilities and have full-time international and local staff leading our volunteers in each country.  The local staff lives and works full-time in-country, and they facilitate the volunteer experience. Working with people who live in the country where you are serving is key to ensuring your safety – they know the country, the community, and the neighborhood where you will be volunteering.  Outreach360 also orientates all of our volunteers on basic health, safety, and respectful living guidelines that ensure family volunteer safety and ultimately to ensure that you have the best volunteer experience imaginable.

 2. Gain Cultural Insights

Although you and your family will focus on providing educational opportunities for kids, together you will gain knowledge about a different culture. It’s a common sentiment amongst Outreach360 volunteers that they leave their experience feeling they have gained as much as they have given. Here is what Anna Boyd, a former Outreach360 volunteer from Saint Stephens Episcopal School, had to say about her experience: “I have volunteered with Outreach360 4 times, and each time I feel like I learn something new. I always leave feeling as is I have received from the kids even more than I gave to them.” This cultural exchange of knowledge is what our organization strives for. The Outreach360 family volunteer vacation will benefit your family by teaching you about a new culture in the Dominican Republic and in Nicaragua.

3. Instill a Mentality of Service in Your Family

According to a study from the Public Library of Science Journal, three psychologists at the University of British Columbia found that children receive psychological benefits from giving, much like their parents do. Why does this matter? The study infers that beginning service at a young age will instill happiness, and as a result of that happiness, it will also instill a family mentality of giving back. Outreach360 family volunteers are giving back in a sustainable way through education. Sharing knowledge will provide our students with a life of choice. In addition, this exchange of knowledge will inspire your family to live a life of service.

4. Less Planning Means Less Worrying

Outreach360 gets it. International travel logistics can be a nightmare. When you choose to participate in an Outreach360 family volunteer vacation, you will not have to worry about in-country logistics. We will handle your travel transportation to and from the airport, provide you with comfortable housing, and three home-cooked meals per day. Outreach360 exists to make your volunteering abroad experience easy – it’s a turn-key approach to international service. Our staff is highly trained to accommodate all needs that your family might have, so you can sit back, relax, and enjoy volunteering in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

5. Team Work Makes the Dream Work

With Outreach360, parents teach alongside their children to educate underserved students in Latin American communities. Family members will create lesson plans together, teach together, and learn together in the classroom. This environment creates a team mentality while serving. In order to reach your family’s volunteering goals, you will work as a team and support each other throughout the process. Working as a team will further encourage quality family time allowing you and your family to bond over service. You’ll discover brand-new, positive qualities about your loved ones that you never knew before.

6. Family Fun

Volunteering with Outreach360 means endless family fun. Your family will have the opportunity to explore a city abroad, climb mountains, and make a difference in dozens of students’ lives. Although you’ll have several chances to participate in the local culture, you will be surprised to find that teaching will be the highlight of your week. Outreach360 students are thrilled to share powerful intercultural experiences with volunteers of all ages. See all the ways volunteering with Outreach360 on a family volunteer vacation is fun here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1EXXzaFO5E

7. Bring it Home

After your family volunteer vacation with Outreach360, your family will want to continue making an impact in your local community and internationally. Outreach360 hopes to inspire families to continue to serve. Whether that is by returning to volunteer in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua or volunteering at home, Outreach360 aspires to create a community of global families who are committed to making a difference and giving back.

8. Inspire Others

Imagine the impact we could have if all families took one week out of their busy schedules to serve. It would cause a ripple effect of transformation! By volunteering abroad with your family, you’re likely to inspire other families around you to do the same. Avery Kit, age 8, said this after volunteering with her family: “I missed my best friend’s birthday to be here, but I am going to tell her all about being here and she is going to know why I missed her birthday. Because she knows it’s important to help people.” Simply sharing your Outreach360 story, like Avery, can empower other families to volunteer. Eventually, this will lead to a family volunteer community that is enthusiastic about direct service and positive change.

9. Empower Your Family to Empower Others

Each member of your family has different skills and talents that make them extraordinary. Outreach360 aims to allow individuals to use their skills and talents to empower students in the local community. When you volunteer as a family, you will share each others’ strengths in order to make lessons more engaging for Outreach360 students. Shawndell Hand, a former Outreach360 Family volunteer, said, “The experience will definitely have a lasting impact on how our family functions. I believe, in addition to having a much greater spirit of gratitude for our blessings, we all see one another in a new way. We each gained a better understanding of what we carry in our hearts; we have more pride about the caring and loving sides of each family member; and I forever hold the memories of watching the kind, gentle, and loving spirits that my husband and children shared with these extraordinary children of Jinotega.” Empowering your loved ones will, in turn, empower others, including Outreach360 students, staff, and local community members. This process will motivate Outreach360 students to develop their own passions and to share them with the world, making their dreams a reality.

10. Become a Global Citizen

Exposing your family to service abroad will initiate your family into the emerging world of global citizenship. With these experiences, your family will become more conscientious of the needs of the international community. Service will take on a new meaning and open doors for new beginnings for your family. An Outreach360 family volunteer vacation will cause your family to continue learning about issues around the world, and become powerful advocates for action and change

Register your family to volunteer with Outreach360 today: https://outreach360.org/volunteer/family-volunteer-vacations/

Read more

Say It Loud, Say It Proud: You Are Outreach360

Outreach360 volunteers are the heart of the organization. Without their dedication to serving year after year, Outreach360 would cease to exist. We continuously tell our volunteers, “You Are Outreach360“. This principle sheds light on the motivated individuals who aspire to make a difference in the world: Outreach360 volunteers. The majority of labor and funds integrated into the program come from volunteers, and Outreach360 is forever grateful for their support.

Pictured here is Audrey Sharp, the Outreach360 Associate Marketing Manager, surrounded by Nicaraguan Learning Center students.

Audrey Sharp, Outreach360 Associate Marketing Manager, explains,” Outreach360 doesn’t exist without you. It just doesn’t. The hardest part of an Outreach360 volunteer trip is having to leave at the end of it. I remember coming back from my first trip with Outreach360 and feeling a little lost. I decided to start donating monthly to the program thinking that if I couldn’t be with the students then at least I could be contributing in my own way to their education. It wasn’t until I came on staff that I truly understood what Outreach360 had been trying to tell me when they said to volunteers YOU are Outreach360. The truth is that our donors are as integral to the organization as our volunteers and our students.”

Putting on the Outreach360 volunteer t-shirt further inducts you into the “You Are Outreach360” circle. Outreach360 volunteers are recognized by local community members in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. When volunteers wear the Outreach360 t-shirts, they are representing Outreach360 in the communities they serve. It is common for volunteers to be welcomed by a chorus of students and locals saying “hello, teacher” while walking through town. The Outreach360 name is as recognized as our volunteers.

“It is important to remember volunteers are not here to ‘help’ Outreach360, they ‘are’ Outreach360. Outreach360 relies heavily on its volunteers, and every single individual matters. Being a part of Outreach360 can and will contour your perspectives and inspire your knowledge of the culture and life in Nicaragua [and the Dominican Republic],” Adrian Nguyen, a former volunteer from Virginia Commonwealth University, said.

Outreach360 strives to make your volunteer experiences memorable. Outreach360 staff is mindful of your expectations. We are conscious of our volunteers’ desire to learn throughout their time in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.  Volunteering with Outreach360 will facilitate your development in the knowledge of a new culture, as well as help to improve your leadership skills. This growth all ties back into the “You Are Outreach360” experience. While “You Are Outreach360”, we know you are also an individual who is eager to expand their global awareness. Outreach360 will serve you to achieve your goals.

Outreach360 Leader Andrea Deleo Urcuyo teaches a Nicaragua Learning Center student during class.

Outreach360 Leader Andrea Deleo Urcuyo says, “The volunteers are Outreach360, and I can see that especially at the Nicaragua Learning Center. The volunteers share their love and their knowledge with the students. We remind the volunteers about the principles, like “You Are Outreach360″, during meals. We get to help them realize that they are Outreach360 during debriefs at the end of the day. The debriefs are a really a special moment where volunteers get to talk about the teaching lessons and the impact they are having on the students. Debriefs really help volunteers understand that without them, the Outreach360 program would look entirely different. We are so happy to have volunteers here because they are experts in the English language. It’s a great opportunity for our students and for children around the world to learn English.”

To learn more about Outreach360, visit this website: www.outreach360.org.

 

Read more

How to Find the Right Service Organization For You

The service organization search can be overwhelming; however, with Outreach360 it makes for an easy decision. Outreach360 can calm all of your pre-volunteering-jitters by providing you with a safe and affordable service experience in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.

According to BreakAway.com, there is a list of criteria that service minded individuals should consider when researching international volunteer programs. Their list evaluates housing standards, on-site security, program amenities, community partner connections, the capability to work with a volunteer team, language, the potential for long-term relationships, need, issue specificity, education and direct service, community development and sustainability, an intermediary organizational model, and reorientation.

We know what you are thinking. That’s a lot of ground to cover. Contemplating the items on this list is essential to ensure that you find a service organization that is right for you. Although this list is long, Outreach360 promises to meet each standard ultimately providing you with the best volunteer service experience in Latin America. Here is a break down of each criterion:

 1. Housing

Outreach360 volunteers share simple, comfortable rooms with modern bathrooms, and enjoy common areas ideal for relaxing or visiting with other volunteers. Meals are served at the Outreach360 volunteer centers and include both local favorites and North American classics prepared by our professional staff.  There is always plenty of clean, purified drinking water available. Check out some video tours of our accommodations here!

 

2. Security

Outreach360 volunteer safety is our top priority! We manage our own facilities and have full-time international and local staff leading our volunteers in each country.  They live and work full-time in-country, and facilitate the volunteer experience.  Working with people who live in the country where you are serving is key to ensuring your safety – they know the country, the community, and the neighborhood where you will be volunteering. Their first priority is your safety! We also orientate all of our volunteers on basic health, safety and respectful living guidelines that ensure volunteer safety.  We know that traveling abroad can raise some concerns but please know that Outreach360 considers all of our volunteers to be members of our service family. We keep our family safe and out of harm’s way during their stays in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.

 

3. On-Site Amenities

Housing, meals, ground transportation and medical insurance are all included as a part of your minimum program donation with Outreach360. We employ trained cooks, drivers, and manage our own facilities to keep you healthy and safe.

 

4. Personality of Community Partner Connection

After over twenty years of working with students, families, and individuals, Outreach360 knows a thing or two about working with volunteer groups – it’s what we live for! We’ll do everything in our power to make it a powerful experience for you and the communities we serve. Our volunteers are affectionately recognized in the community and are embraced by community members.

 

5. Capability to Work with a Volunteer Team

Outreach360 has a well-trained staff of leaders that are accustomed to supporting between one and a couple hundred volunteers in a given week. We work hard to also accurately optimize the impact that each volunteer team has on the community. Many of our volunteer teams return year-after-year and we welcome them with open arms. We hope our program inspires large groups of volunteers to travel with us again and again.

 

6. Language

Don’t speak Spanish? No worries! Outreach360 is working with students in learning English; the more exposure they have to the English language the better! And, if you are joining us to practice and improve your own Spanish, there will be plenty of opportunities for that as well! Outreach360 staff members are able to communicate in both Spanish and English to support you with any needs you might have

 

7. Potential for Long-Term Partnerships

Outreach360 doesn’t just have a long-standing relationship with the communities it serves, but also with the volunteer groups that come down regularly. We are proud of the relationships we maintain with dozens of middle schools, high schools, colleges, families, and individuals. Outreach360 encourages volunteers to return to serve each year. The presence of Outreach360 volunteers alone in the communities it serves has had an enormous impact on local organizations, businesses, and cooperatives. We have partnered with local cooperatives and businesses for a significant amount of time to promote sustainability in the communities we are located in.

 

8. Need

Outreach360 works to understand the needs of each community where we are serving. We encourage all of our volunteers to embrace the principle Serve, Don’t Help as a guiding force in our programs. We work to implement our programs in a way that is in line with good sustainable development practices.

 

9. Issue Specificity 

The Outreach360 core purpose and the reason for Outreach360 to exist is to Release the Hero Within. It starts with Releasing the Hero Within the kids we are working with, their families, and the communities where they live. As we work to Release the Hero Within them, we Release the Hero Within ourselves, and within all the friends and family involved in this effort. Education is at the core of our direct service work. We believe that education is the most sustainable way to make an impact in the world. Through education, our vision is a transformed world where every person grows up to live a life of choice. We’re constantly striving to make the greatest and most direct impact possible through education.

 

10. Education and Direct Service

Although providing direct service is the primary focus of our volunteer trips, we also offer cultural and educational experiences throughout the week. Volunteers will participate in powerful, rich cultural experiences as a means to enhance their volunteer experience. Get ready for an adventure of a lifetime in which you will make an incredible impact!

 

11. Community Development and Sustainability

Involving and engaging community members is a priority for Outreach360. Many of our staff members come from the communities and countries in which we work, including our teaching staff, our kitchen staff, and community members hired for facility maintenance. Our volunteers are vital in providing resources, services, and a cultural interchange otherwise not accessible to the community. Outreach360 emphasizes the principle “poco a poco,” or little by little, to show volunteers that their week of service is an important link in a long chain of change and progress. Read this Outreach360 blog post to discover more ways Outreach360 values sustainability: https://outreach360.org/blog/sustaining-sustainability-outreach360/

 

12. Intermediary Organization Model

The communities Outreach360 serves and the organization itself are wonderfully intertwined. The organization acts as the medium through which volunteers make connections and partnerships with the communities in which they serve. An important balance of service, cultural immersion, reflection, and appropriate guidelines (highlighting health, safety, and respectful living) are all maintained and facilitated by Outreach360.

 

13. Reorientation

At the end of the week, your team will participate in an all group reflection about the week. We encourage all volunteer teams to take what they have discovered back to their communities, campus, and networks to expand on the work they have started with us. Reorientation is a powerful way to continue making an impact by spreading awareness of key global issues.

Click this link to learn more about Outreach360: www.outreach360.org.

Read more

7 Ways Outreach360 Volunteers Serve Sustainably

When searching for a sustainable volunteer program, it is important to consider the footprints that the organization leaves behind. Outreach360 believes education is the best sustainable solution to combat poverty in Latin America and provide the children we serve with long-term opportunities to transform their own lives; however, we recognize that is more easily said than done. In order to ensure that our organization is sustainable in the communities we serve in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, we take measured steps towards educating groups of students who might one day take over our program, allowing us to pass on our teacher torches. Poco a poco.

Outreach360 recognizes that finding an ideal volunteer program that values sustainability can be difficult. So we decided to make it easy for you. Here are 7 reasons why volunteering with Outreach360 is sustainable:

1. We offer services, de-emphasize materialism. 

There is a subtle difference between serving and helping, one that can easily be misinterpreted. Outreach360 is in Latin America to serve, not to help. Our volunteers are directly instructed not to give away money, food, or drink to students or community members in Nicaragua or the Dominican Republic. Outreach360 believes that education is the best sustainable form of service. With education, our students will be able to sustain themselves without help. These are not poor, sick, helpless people. Outreach360 volunteers share their strengths and blessings with community members, and they share their blessings with volunteers. It’s a two-way street.

2. We let the good times grow. 

At our two properties in Nicaragua, Outreach360 will be implementing projects involving sustainable agriculture. The agriculture program will provide an opportunity for our students to serve and learn. Students will have the opportunity to learn about agriculture by growing foods like bananas, avocados, and mangos. Outreach360 students can use this knowledge to plant their own gardens at home, providing their families with home-grown food and resources. The food production in our Agriculture & Sustainability Program will provide food to the Outreach360 volunteer program, to the on-site student program, and may be used to generate income for the local program.

3. We buy locally. 

Outreach360 embraces a farm-to-table philosophy. The food and produce that Outreach360 purchases for staff and volunteer consumption are purchased in community markets and stores where local farmers sell their food. Additional products that we buy (volunteer bunk beds, furniture, cooking supplies, etc.) are also bought locally. In addition, Outreach360 encourages staff and volunteers to support local businesses while staying in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

4. We hire locally.

The Outreach360 permanent teaching staff in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic is made up entirely of local community professionals. This is also representative of the kitchen staff at both locations. Outreach360 employs community members for facility maintenance and repairs as well. Former volunteers will affectionately recognize the Nicaraguan policemen that voluntarily escort them up Peña de La Cruz, a mountain located in Jinotega, Nicaragua that volunteers’ hike while staying with Outreach360. Whereas former Dominican Republic volunteers will recognize the local drivers that Outreach360 continuously hires for transportation.

5. We value direct service, not voluntourism. 

“It’s not about you.” The countries in which Outreach360 serves are beautiful and worth exploring; however, it is of the utmost importance to Outreach360 that volunteers understand that their time abroad is used to serve. In order to create a sustainable program in which students can become Outreach360 teachers, volunteers participate in direct service, not voluntourism. The impact that Outreach360 volunteers leave on students will pave the way for more knowledge and growth in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

6. We support local co-operatives and industries. 

Outreach360 collaborates and works with local co-operatives and industries to support local commerce and culture. Outreach360 brings volunteers to experience local co-operatives and a variety of other local industries. For example, Dominican Republic volunteers tour salt flats and have the opportunity to purchase salt farmed on the island. In Nicaragua, volunteers visit a black pottery co-operative where they learn about the process of making black pottery and get the chance to mold something of their own.

7. We want to pass on our teacher torches. 

Outreach360 Adelante Volunteers are returning students that have graduated from the Outreach360 English language learning program. Adelante Volunteers venture back to Outreach360 to teach new students. These individuals serve Outreach360 by creating a sustainable program where students become the teachers. In the near future, Outreach360 will be giving Adelante Volunteers and native teachers the reigns of our program, which will, in turn, allow Outreach360 to branch out to other countries in Latin America.

More information about Outreach360 can be found here: https://outreach360.org/.

 

Read more

What Does Outreach360 Do?

Staten Island Academy student Mina Rhee and JFK School students work on a review lesson at an Outreach360 program in the Dominican Republic. (Clay Wollney)

By Clay Wollney | For the Staten Island Advance
on June 09, 2015 at 2:00 PM, updated June 09, 2015 at 4:32 PM

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Outreach360 is an organization that engages volunteers in a service-learning experience providing underserved children with alternative educational opportunities such as English classes, art, music and drama camps and sports programs in an effort to give the children opportunities they must have to live a life of choice.

The full mission of Outreach360 is to transform individuals, families, communities, countries and the world by providing education and activities that enable the development of disadvantaged children.

The organization has centers in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.

In the Dominican Republic, being able to speak English is necessary to pursue a college education. Unfortunately, English classes are not available to many children.

During the last week of May, I accompanied 19 Staten Island Academy seniors on a service-learning trip to the Outreach360 site in Monte Cristi.

The SIA students taught small groups of students at two Outreach360 Learning Centers, one in JFK Elementary School and another after school. The SIA seniors taught English classes, using lessons they prepared themselves.

The interaction between the students was a learning experience for all involved. The JFK students strengthened their English skills and the SIA students got a firsthand sense of the life and needs of underserved children in a developing nation. They also developed a deep sense of love and caring for one another.

Volunteers are what make Outreach360’s programs and successes possible. Each week a new set of volunteers arrives to help at the school, building upon the work accomplished the week before. According to Konrad Bennett, an Outreach360 OLE leader who gave us his full and constant attention, “The JFK students bring incredible energy and enthusiasm to the classroom every day but don’t often get the individual attention that they crave and need. That’s where our volunteers come in … whereas, in a typical Dominican classroom, the teacher to student ratio is about 1:35, our volunteer teams of fluent English speakers can bring that ratio down to 1:3 or lower!”

Bennett further observed that “The volunteer teams bring the real excitement and creativity. It’s always incredible to see how much our students learn and how much their desire to learn grows each week.”

Does this approach really work?

Said Sarah Edwards, national director of Outreach360 in the Dominican Republic:
“Students who were once illiterate are now reading in English and Spanish. Students who were ‘too cool for school’ became students of the month.”

Of course, the real effectiveness of a program is its outcomes. During our visit we met a few of the program’s graduates who now serve as local volunteers; they have mastered English and are in college.

Daritza is on scholarship with Outreach360 and is studying medicine. She explained, “I started studying English when I was 8 years old and also learned many values — patience, respect, teamwork, and punctuality — thanks to Outreach360.”

Aidil, another graduate of the program and a highly dedicated volunteer, just completed her freshman year in university. She observed that “The kids can feel the energy that their Outreach volunteers bring to the class each day. For me, it is incredible to see how the JFK students’ knowledge increases.”

In addition to their work during the day, the SIA students were introduced to various aspects of Dominican history and culture, as well as the country’s relationship with Haiti, in the late afternoons and evenings. They also took a guided walk of the town, toured a facility that harvests sea salt and learned how to do dance Dominican style. The lunches and dinners were mainly delicious  Dominican dishes.

The impact of the experience on my students was impressive. Their reactions included expressions such as “inspirational”, “a real-life experience” and “energizing.” One student even described it as “the best week of my life.”

As Aidil pointed out, “the volunteers get as much out of the experience as the children they served.”

If your school participates in any service-learning programs or you would like to learn more about Outreach360, please contact me at cwollney@statenislandacademy.org or visit the Outreach360 website at www.Outreach360.org.

Originally published in the Staten Island Advance.

Read more

Reflections from an Outreach360 Adelante Volunteer…

​During my time with this program I have been experiencing the real meaning of sacrifice, service, and what it really takes to release the hero within.
The impact that every single volunteer who comes to Montecristi has in each student is amazing. The kids can feel the energy that their teachers bring to teach each class. For me it’s incredible to see how their knowledge increases which inspires me to keep volunteering here and loving it more every day.
I’m pretty sure that there is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others and that’s what OUTREACH 360 is doing in the lives of the children and the whole community.
The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something.  Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.
Gordon B. Hinckley once said: ” The best antidote I know for worry is work. The best cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired. One of the great ironies of life is this: he or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.”
Definitely my experience as an Adelante Volunteer has changed my life.
Aidil Acosta
(Adelante Volunteer)

Note: Aidil graduated from our English program in 2012 and began serving as an Adelante volunteer in 2013. Adelantes are graduates of our English program who volunteer at our Learning Centers after school and during their school breaks. Since 2013, Aidil has served more than 380 hours in our Learning Centers. As an Adelante she has served in many different leadership roles, including as a Spanish literacy teacher, co-English teacher, and co-camp director. Aidil is an incredible role model for our students and volunteers. She is very passionate about service and making a difference in her own community. Aidil is currently a freshman studying pre-medicine in Santo Domingo. During her breaks, she returns to Monte Cristi to volunteer with Outreach360. She aspires to one day use her medical degree to make a difference and serve under-resourced communities.

Sarah Edwards
Outreach360 Country Director
Dominican Republic

Read more

Helping Bring Major League Baseball Advice to Life

If you had the opportunity to casually chat with a bunch of Major League baseball players, what would you want to ask them?  Maybe you’d want to know what it feels like to step up to the plate in front of 46,000 screaming fans during a critical late-inning moment of a World Series game.  Or, maybe you’d just be curious to know how awesome it must feel to sign autographs for adoring fans and effortlessly throw baseballs like laser beams!  Well, in anticipation of Outreach360’s inaugural baseball and softball camps that will be taking place this summer, Bryson Adams (Outreach 360 Marketing Director) and I have been in Arizona for the last nine days visiting with Dominican baseball players from around the Major Leagues, and the question that we have been asking each of these ballplayers is this: “What advice and encouragement do you have for the kids growing up back home in the Dominican Republic?”

From wide-eyed Dominican minor leaguers to decade-long veterans of the Major Leagues, the messages these accomplished ballplayers wish to send back to the youth in the Dominican Republic are pretty consistent:  study, do your schoolwork, be respectful of your family, community, and teachers, work hard, be disciplined, stay off the streets, don’t let negative peer pressure influence you, and, very importantly, have confidence and faith that you can achieve your dreams no matter how humble your origins may be.  Few, if any, of the ballplayers have given specific baseball related advice.  Instead of talking baseball, the players have talked about skills that are going to lead to success whether somebody is on the field, in the classroom, or in the working world.

I know our softball and baseball camps this summer in the Dominican Republic are going to bring countless smiles to the faces of the kids we serve.  I also know these kids are going to develop and further refine their ball skills.  But, what I am most excited about is having the opportunity to join as a team with other volunteers in order to use sport as a vehicle to help deliver life skills and enriching experiences to kids who might not otherwise have these opportunities.

The professional Dominican ballplayers Bryson and I have spoken with may have been the ones to provide the advice/encouragement to kids back home in the Dominican Republic, but Outreach360 volunteers are the ones who are going to have an opportunity to bring that advice/encouragement to life and really light a spark for the kids we serve.  Being able to play and share the sport you love with people from a different culture definitely plants the seeds of friendship and provides powerful opportunities for positive intercultural exchange.

No matter your skill level in pelota, as Dominicans like to call baseball, I know that each and every volunteer who comes down to the Dominican Republic will have the chance to really make a difference, whether it be giving a tip on how to field a ground ball, assisting kids in resolving a conflict, encouraging and modeling teamwork, or just simply sharing a high five celebration after a nice hit.  Not all of us will get the chance to swing for the fences in a Major League game and sign autographs for the fans, but we can all contribute something positive to the life of a child.

 – Conor Arthur, Baseball and Softball Program Director

Read more

Bright Shirts, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose

Beth Anderson is a senior majoring in child and adolescent development psychology at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). She is also an alternative break trip coordinator for SNHU’s Center for Community Engaged Learning.  Together with 13 other women from SNHU, Beth recently served with Outreach360 in the Dominican Republic for two weeks.   -Photo by Jaimie Konowitz

It was the first day of camp, and I was shocked at how nervous I was. I had been preparing for this trip longer than the two hours spent lesson planning the night before, so I thought I was ready. But no amount of preparation could get rid of the mariposas in my stomach. What would camp be like? What would the students be like? How is our group going to do? Will they even like us? I had so many lingering questions as I walked the dirt road towards Escuela Básica John F. Kennedy on that first day. We arrived with plenty of time to spare. Station leaders and team leaders split up to get everything ready for the students’ arrival. It was nine o’ clock, the time camp is supposed to start and we had no one at camp; that was also the day we learned what “Dominican time” meant. We kept our hopes high and, sure enough, students started coming at about ten past nine. My nervousness started to fade once the first “repeat-after-me” song began.

After camp songs and opening, everyone went to their spots and my co-team leader, Alli, and I took our group to the recreation station to learn how to play volleyball. We had two girls in our group, and we could tell they were shy. They didn’t know us, and we didn’t know them, and here we all were trying to teach and learn together. And then something happened that changed everything: The girls started laughing and pointing at one of the drawings that the recreation station had made. At first we were all confused, and then I looked at the picture and realized the person in the drawing didn’t have eyes. I began to laugh at the hilarity of it all. It was completely unexpected but completely necessary in that moment. This was not where we thought the lesson was going to go, but it was so funny. Their laughter was contagious. Soon we were all laughing, and the tension all of us had been feeling faded away. In that moment we became the students. Here were these two little girls with five teachers, and they were the ones making us feel comfortable. They felt our nervousness; saw the eagerness in our eyes, and through their laughter they were telling us to relax and have fun with it. They broke down our barriers and allowed us to be just as silly and goofy as they were being. Their laughter was common ground for us; it was something we all understood and could grasp on to.

I realized in that moment that you can plan as much as you want, but the best moments are the unplanned ones. It’s the high fives when a student gets the sentence right. It’s explaining something you don’t even know. It’s singing the same camp song countless times because they love it. It’s them scrunching their nose when they don’t understand but then seeing their big smiles when they do. It’s all of that and more.

Watching the students’ growth in just two weeks was incredible. From mastering everything we gave them to becoming more comfortable with us, I thought the change in them would be subtler, but they proved me wrong. Many days I was even wondering if I was the teacher or the student. They challenged me in more ways than I can count. But what moved me the most about every single one of them was that they wanted to be there. They wanted to learn and interact with us as much as we wanted to learn and interact with them. That eagerness to learn and that desire to grow will last longer than our time in Monte Cristi, and that makes it all worth it.

Read more