The Day We Danced in the Dominican Republic

A group of students from Clemson University had a very special spring break. They’ve been in class learning about Servant Leadership, so joined Samaritan’s Feet to serve in the Dominican Republic for a week. Read about one of their shoe distributions below.

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As the team drove down a dusty road, sugar cane fields were the only visible thing as far as the eye could see. That view continued for miles until we made a turn onto a gravel road into the Batey La Cubana community in San Pedro de Macorís, Dominican Republic. 

Our big red bus grabbed attention quickly, and within seconds children were running to greet us. They were clapping and jumping, many barefoot or in mismatched shoes, anxiously awaiting for who was on the bus—23 Clemson University students. These students were in a class together called “Servant Leadership” and were now putting into practice what they had learned all semester by serving with Samaritan’s Feet during their spring break.

“I know that going to a different country and just being able to see different people living in different conditions will teach you so much more than anything in the classroom,” said Thomas, a Junior Finance major.

Thomas and the rest of the team hopped off the bus and suddenly, that gravel road was filled with activity—dancing, racing, baseball, games, twirling—it was a beautiful scene of immediate acceptance and friendship. Wherever you looked, you saw either a child laughing with joy, a University student beaming with delight, or an adult smiling with pride. 

“I met this little girl named Anna. She was four years old and her favorite color was purple, just like mine. She said a lot without saying that many words. The expressions on her face and her eyes and the way she just looked at me was so deep. She was trying to figure out, what I was, who I was, and what we were doing there. I just saw so much in her eyes and I’m going to cherish that moment for a very long time,” said Hannah, a Sophomore International Management major.

The team slowly transitioned into a small church where a shoe distribution for this welcoming community would take place. The wooden pews were lined up and the shoes were organized and ready to be given out. As children and adults waited their turn inside the church, they looked on as their new friends began wiping and cleaning the feet of those sitting on the pews. As many children exited the church wearing their new shoes, they would jump up and down testing them out, or asking for pictures as they posed in them.

After the distribution wrapped up, the team headed back to that same gravel road, where they were once again greeted by a crowd. Everyone who had been served (plus a few extra) was waiting for them to return to the big red bus. 

Suddenly, music began playing at a shop nearby and within seconds, a dance circle formed. Again the gravel road was filled with dancing, with laughter, and with smiles between new friends. Parents and grandparents brought chairs from their homes and sat on the edges of the road just to watch all of the fun.

“It is important that teams come here because these teams make a difference for people in communities [like Batey La Cubana]. You have to think about a small, young man or young girl who ends up befriending a young team participant. Maybe the young team participant doesn’t understand the impact that the relationship will have, but the person, the young person who will stay behind, that interaction will be lifelong and life-lasting,” said JP, Executive Director of By Grace Alone Ministries, and Samaritan’s Feet partner-on-the-ground in the Dominican Republic.

“Your interactions with them will be remembered. They will remember all the time you’re giving them hope. You’re giving them an opportunity for them to say, ‘if this person is doing this, why not me? I can do it too. I can do it in my community because this person came from abroad, from the US to do this mission.’”

We also will not forget our new friends at Batey La Cubana:

We’ll remember Anna, Hannah’s new friend, who looked deep into her eyes and shared a unique bond. We’ll remember Daniel who spoke great English and often paused playing football or baseball to translate for his friends. We’ll remember Miguel who seemed shy and timid at first glance, but opened up into an energetic boy playing tag. And we’ll remember Juan who decided to give a few team members Spanish lessons calling them “muy inteligente.” 

“Today, they were able to smile and come together as a community. And I think that was completely beautiful and I’m so glad I was able to experience that,” said Thomas.

See the Action

Check out this video to see just a little bit of the dancing during our time in the Dominican Republic!