Beyond an adventure: Teens build homes in Dominican Republic

Herald and News


KBYWB 'Building Bridges'

4/24/2012 2 min read

Students in the Klamath Basin Youth Without Borders group spent their spring break pouring concrete and digging holes. There were no tractors or backhoes. The students dug with shovels and pickaxes.

And they wouldn’t have traded that experience for the world.

The students spent almost two weeks in the Dominican Republic, building foundations and septic systems for homes with Habitat for Humanity.

“I think sometimes young people get into it for the pure adventure end of things,” said Doug Matheson, a Lost River High School teacher and leader of the group. “And they end up benefiting from the stuff that’s beyond adventure.”

This is the third Klamath Basin Youth Without Borders group Matheson has led abroad. He took students to Thailand in 2007 and Brazil in 2009.

Eight students (six from Lost River High School, two from Henley High School) left. March 22 and returned April 4.

In the Dominican Republic, the Spanish-speaking country that shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, they spent most of their time in the town of San Juan de la Maguana where they worked on three housing sites with Habitat for Humanity.

The teenagers knew they weren’t going on the trip as tourists, but going to get a job done.

Their work days started at

8 a.m. and ended around 4 p.m.

Time together

Locals sometimes helped, and the students were amazed to see children wanted to lend a hand. Mostly, they said, the children just wanted to spend time with the teenagers.

“They were real fun and they just thought it was really cool that we were there,” said Eric Summers, 15, a sophomore at Lost River. “They’d just want to play with us or just be next to us.”

“It was funny how eager they were to work with us,” agreed Jennifer Aguirre, 18, a Lost River senior. “Most kids here wouldn’t want to get near you if you were shoveling a septic tank. But there they were all like, ‘yeah shovel!’ So it was a different perspective that they have.”

One boy who helped was particularly outgoing and excited to be there. At the end of the trip, the students were surprised to learn the boy was deaf.

“He was always happy, always smiling and playing,” said Kayla Haskins, 18, a senior at Lost River.

Life experience

When they were not working, the teenagers experienced life in the Dominican Republic and learned what it was like for people living there.

Summers said he was amazed at how happy the people were with so little they had. He often chews gum and gave pieces to the children, to their thankful delight.

“The kids were so poor and so grateful for what they did have,” Summers said. “They had little shacks that they lived in. They were so happy if you would just stop for a minute and play with them. They loved to play baseball.”

Aguirre said she was surprised how happy people were when, from her perspective, they had so little.

“If I didn’t have a house I’d be so sad, or if I didn’t have a warm shower every day,” she said. “But they learn to live happily with that and not complain about it. They try to make the best of what they have and it seems to work for them because they all seem very happy.”

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