ARHS grad volunteers in Dominican Republic
Higgins experience an education
AMHERST Stephanie Higgins has experienced a side of the Dominican Republic most vacationers never see.
The Amherst Regional High School graduate, whose family now lives in Stellarton, recently returned from the tiny Caribbean island where she worked with International Student Volunteers.
I am forever changed by my trip and want to keep the people and especially the kids and their smiles in my heart always, Higgins said. The Dominican Republic is a place where many North Americans love to vacation, and my family vacationed at Punta Cana two years ago. This past spring I experienced what most vacationers do not see on the beautiful resorts extreme poverty.
Higgins was joined by 29 other volunteers from across North America. Together they were responsible for teaching school to young Dominican and Haitian children who have never had the opportunity to be educated. The group also helped male villagers build new homes for families coming into the community.
Being in the village day after day was truly amazing. I feel like I learned more from these charismatic, beautiful people than I taught them, but, then again, we were constantly teaching each other, said Higgins, a student at Dalhousie University.
Higgins was also impressed by the generosity shown by people in her former hometown of Amherst and in Stellarton and New Glasgow. Before leaving for the Dominican, she went to businesses in those communities seeking donations of sports equipment, childrens books, school supplies, arts and crafts and personal hygiene products.
The people I encountered had truly open minds and very large hearts, she said, adding business was supportive as were students at both Amherst Regional High and North Nova High. The students of several classes at North Nova in New Glasgow created childrens books for me to take with me and students and staff at ARHS donated childrens books and personal hygiene items that they had collected.
Higgins said shell never forget the joy on the faces of children given their first colouring book or who used a skipping rope for the first time in their lives.
The trip and the support she received from home has given her a renewed faith in Nova Scotia and Canada.
There is something in the air and water here that separates us from other communities. We are compassionate, caring and willing to help even those who live far away because we have hearts as big as the ocean that surrounds us, she said.