I don’t think anything could have prepared me for my visit to María Concepción Gomez Matos during my recent trip to Puerto Plata with Fathom Travel. Much like the day I went to Chocal I was extremely nervous. Once again I was worried about the fact I don’t speak Spanish and worried I wouldn’t build a connection with the children I was about to meet. While school was out for the summer, we would be helping with a summer program called CAMS-Creative Arts, Music, and Sports.
CAMS is another ‘Impact Activity’ offered thru Fathom Travel in partnership with Entrena. Our guide on this trip was a man full of life and love for his community. As we made the drive to the school, Melvin prepared us for our day. He taught those of us not fluent in Spanish basic words used in the classroom such as Buen Trabajo (Good Job), Repite (Repeat), Eschucha (Listen), etc. I would later learn that Melvin seemed to be a school favorite-putting a smile on the face of every individual he came in contact with.
Once we arrived to the school we were greeted by the Principal and given a tour.
We were escorted to our classroom and partnered with children. The children were 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders and they were eager to learn. My son, Joshua, and I were partnered with three boys-Sariel, Benicio, and Iban. Little did we know that these three boys would quickly steal our hearts.
In the classroom, we began working with the boys on English. The lesson of the day was farm animals. Benicio and Iban quickly took to Josh and Sariel to me. We were there to help them but the roles were almost immediately reversed. Sariel looked at me and said “Now I teach you!”. He would point to various things in the classroom and have me repeat after him in Spanish.
I didn’t take my camera with me on this particular activity as I wanted to focus on the children. So grateful that Fathom captured these!
After our English lessons, we made baseballs out of socks and pompoms out of newspaper. We then went outside for a little game of baseball.
Having to say goodbye to our new friends was quite difficult. At the end of our day, both students and travelers had the opportunity to share how they were touched by the day. Both Sariel and Benicio stood up and spoke. They both shared they’d made friends with Josh and I. They had fun with us and learned from us. I stood up too because I felt they taught ME.
They taught me that even when there is a language barrier you can still connect. You can still feel the kindness, patience, and positive energy of the other person. I thought nothing of sitting in the floor with these children during their lessons but Sariel had something else in mind. He went to grab a chair, sat it beside me, and then patted for me to sit there. During a snack break, he rushed to grab a bottle of water for me before getting his own. When I went to the restroom, I found him waiting close by so that I’d know the way back to the classroom. He was so thoughtful and loving. I am sure his family is extremely proud of the young man he is.
My son was very quiet on the bus ride back to the ship. I asked him how he felt about our day. He said to me it was better than anything he’d experienced throughout the entire trip including our hike thru the 27 waterfalls. These young children had not only made an impact on me but an impact on my son as well.
*This was a sponsored trip provided by Fathom Travel. However, all opinions are my own.