RHS students travel to Dominican Republic to serve

A group of students from Rockford and Saugatuck hop aboard a truck to distribute water filters to families in the Dominican Republic.

At a time in the summer when many kids are getting bored and complaining about the heat, a group from Rockford and Saugatuck decided to do something. Six Rockford High School (RHS) students, four Saugatuck students and one Central Michigan University student, accompanied by three adults, recently made a weeklong trip to the La Romana, Dominican Republic, to make lives better for the people there.

The July 7-14 trip focused on installing bio-sand water filters in some homes of the poorest residents of that area. Thanks to the efforts of these young people and their chaperones, 17 families and their neighbors are drinking clean water today.

The group also worked one very hot, long day doing construction at the Good Samaritan Hospital. Construction was for an addition to set up a water filtration system for use at the hospital. The students hauled gravel, sand and cement, pouring the foundation for the cistern, one bucket at a time. High temps and humidity did not discourage any of their efforts at making a difference. Attitudes were always upbeat and positive.

Rockford and Saugatuck students are ready to distribute shoes and water filters to Dominican Republic families and orphans.

Additionally the group helped distribute over 325 pairs of footwear, donated by Wolverine Worldwide, to the underprivileged in a village and to girls at a local orphanage. The footwear was greatly appreciated by all who received them and is a luxury to many of the recipients. The group was able to spend some time playing games and doing crafts with the girls at the orphanage.

Kelly Gardner, RHS Spanish teacher, and leader of the RHS student group “Thirsting To Serve,” said, “The kids were amazing. Their hearts, minds and souls were bent on service. They made us proud and served their communities and the world well. The phrase we heard repeated in by Dominicans during our trip became our mantra: OK. No problem. We can do that.”

After all the hard work put into the trip, the group was rewarded with a couple of recreational outings. One day was spent in the historic area of Santo Domingo. Touring streets that were walked by legends such as Christopher Columbus were highlights of the day, along with visiting the tomb and museum dedicated to Columbus.

The group relaxes after a day of construction.

Each participant paid for his or her own trip. Costs for the trip for the students were offset through numerous fundraising efforts for approximately six months. The hard work before the trip, as well as during the trip, did not deter most of the students from wanting to go back again in 2013.

Julie Townsend Zahm, who also went on the trip, commented, “I’ve made the trip three times now. This was by far the most rewarding. Seeing the conditions some people endure, through the eyes of a teenager, and seeing how hard they want to make a difference was huge for me. I think they learned more about themselves, and how good it feels to help others. I have no doubt they will now be lifelong givers.”

So, if you see RHS students Missy Biener, Megan Hurst, Kenzie Mogridge, Lexie Johnson, Carly Dew or Aleah Dew, teacher Kelly Gardner, CMU student Bethany Zahm, or Julie Townsend Zahm around town, be sure to ask them about how rewarding it is to work hard and give back to others in need.

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