Dirigo students heading to Dominican Republic to do humanitarian service


DIXFIELD — Thirteen students and 14 adults will board a school bus at midnight Tuesday at Dirigo High School to begin the first leg of their journey to the Dominican Republic.

By 2 p.m. Wednesday, they will land in Santiago along with 815 pounds of donations to help inner city children as well as youngsters who attend a one-room school on a mountain in the coffee producing section of the island nation.

The Dirigo International Service Club will then begin an eight-day adventure helping the less fortunate and seeing a different world. The trip for students, teachers and parents has been planned for nearly a year.

Jason Haynes, a Dixfield sophomore, plans to make a video of the trip. He’s excited about the chance to go.

“I know it sounds corny, but I want to give back. We take everything we have for granted,” he said. “I also want to use my Spanish.”

He said his friend and fellow traveler, Justin Mackin, wants to learn about the culture of the Dominican Republic as well as its natural resources.

Sophomore Jessica Sattler of Canton, the designer of a T-shirt showing symbols for the club and the Dominican trip, said she looks forward to giving filled backpacks to the 16 K-3 children who attend a one-room schoolhouse on a coffee plantation.

“I want to see their faces when we give them the backpacks,” she said. She’s also looking forward to spending some time on the beaches.

T-shirts will be given to the island youngsters, as well.

The journey has been organized by Spanish teacher Amity Beane, assistant DHS principal Charlie Swan and district social worker, Jessica Swan.

Beane said each Dirigo student has been raising money for the trip since last June. Some have held bottle drives, some have worked part-time jobs, others have held food sales. Each person, student or adult, must pay $1,100 for the trip.

Besides giving backpacks to young children, the group has gathered other school supplies and a large amount of sports equipment for the inner-city youths. All came from students and other members of the community.

Beane said the trip combines language, history, science and service. This will be her 14th trip to the island. She “scouted” out the destination in February, following the Haitian earthquake, to make sure it was safe for the students to go.

The students will stay in the dormitory of a Catholic retreat center. Besides the humanitarian goals, the group will visit the beach where Christopher Columbus first set foot in the New World, take a boat trip to a tiny island, camp out on the beach as well as clean it up, visit museums and get to know the Dominican people.

While some of the teachers will make a Web presentation at Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra, the students will participate in a lab experience that will document the flora habitat.

The students are required to keep a journal, then to make some kind of presentation to the school or to a local civic group about their experiences when they return.

“This will be a team-building exercise. We’ll bring things back to our school,” Haynes said.

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