Bill Pence, Bedford NY, went on his very first Bridges trip to the Dominican Republic with his son Henry, 16, this past February. Henry had gone on a Bridges trip to Nicaragua the previous year in 2018 and, after hearing about how great the experience was for Henry, Bill decided to go with his son. Bill says, “As it was the first time I went, it was special to go with my son…[though] we weren’t together all the time, we worked together on the same house, and it was fun and great to share [that experience] with my son.
I was amazed at how warm and friendly the people were in La Guama, DR. We worked alongside them, communicated well, and worked hard together. The other students on the trip also worked very hard. It was just such a fulfilling week of hard work in the sun that I really enjoyed.”
Their experiences with Bridges tremendously impacted both Bill and Henry. Henry says, “On my first trip, I had no idea what to expect, and it was such an eye-opening experience [for me]. I had never been to a developing country or such a rural area before. The level of poverty surprised me. [In La Guama, DR] there was no running water and that shocked and surprised me. It influences the way that I think. I am more aware of the [conditions in which] other people in the world live, and I try not to take things for granted.
My takeaway from the week is how far a little bit of help can go. We only took a week of our time but, as part of a bigger project [with Bridges], that little bit of effort will totally transform that town [of La Guama] and make such a big difference in the lives of the people there. I think that if everyone helped just a little bit, the world would be different.”
Bill agrees and says, “[The house] changes the lives of the family and a week of our time is not a big deal. For us that go on the trip, it makes us more aware, helps us to conduct ourselves better, and become more inclined to help people. I love that the experience is positive for both the families and the volunteers. The trip gives a level of understanding and awareness [for both volunteers and community members]. We [volunteers] see how community members live and reflect on how fortunate we are. The community members learn that there are people in the outside world who care about them and want to bond with them. And those relationships we form are very close. For example, I became good friends with a mason, Carlos, who explained masonry to me throughout the whole trip.”
Bill and Henry agree that one of the best parts of their Bridges experience is that the trip brings people together. Not only did they bond with community members, but the volunteers in the group became very close. They say, “Sharing this same experience, eating together, living in the same space, we built relationships even with people we didn’t know at all before…When we came back to the US, no one could understand why we talked about the trip so much amongst ourselves, but it’s because such a special experience that we share and others don’t quite understand.”