By Jeanne Lassere (’17)
They may seem to have nothing, yet they have everything. This became noticeable to me after encountering the people of Bani. During the mid February Mardi Gras break, 22 members of St. Mary’s Dominican High School – students, alumnae, faculty, and parents, embarked on a journey to Bani, in the Dominican Republic. There, my perspective on life changed drastically. The trivial and miniscule items of my life suddenly became unimportant as I witnessed what little material wants the people of Bani actually had. However, they were rich in faith, study, and community. These are three of the four pillars of our school’s foundation. The fourth – ministry, was our mission.
We were in Bani to help the preschool to high school students of Espíritu Santo School. They immediately cherished our presence, as we did theirs, and bonds quickly formed. We were able to share our contrasting cultures and also our surprisingly similar teenage interests, such as favorite songs. We bonded with the grammar school children through sports. In the preschool, we sang, danced, and led crafts with children. We also introduced students to English by matching English words to corresponding Spanish words. The students’ enthusiasm towards learning showed their appreciation for education. Their passion gave me a new appreciation for my own education.
We also visited the neighborhoods of Bani and the sick. These outings truly touched me, as I understood more deeply suffering with Christ. They embraced each other and us with open arms. Community was apparent through small things like friends dancing the Bachata at school or neighborhood residents playing nightly after dinner. They value friendship, which can often be overlooked because of the material things in life.
This mission trip helped strengthen my relationship with God, others, and myself. I quickly learned that giving up my Mardi Gras break was worth the feeling of authentic happiness and appreciation I have gained. This is just my first step of serving others, and therefore God. The people of Bani impacted me more than I could have ever dreamed of impacting them.
(Photos by St. Mary’s Dominican High School)