BRIDGES the Dominican Republic: May 2009

Participant Reflections

If you choose to go on this trip, know that from the moment you commit yourself to these children things will change.  It’s not the kind of change you read about in books or see on Lifetime movies.  The change that you will encounter is not something I can explain.  Put aside reality of the fast life and allow yourself to step into the life of La Cuchilla.

--Victoria Rodriguez

This trip taught me so much and was living proof of why we are called to serve.  My heart broke for the people of La Cuchilla, but in a good way.  The people there have it all; love, family, and a wonderful sense of community.  Through working with the kids, I learned about patience and the true meaning of laughter.  I smiled, laughed, and cried with my family and was always welcomed with open arms.  This trip is one I will never forget.  These people have become my second family and have stolen a piece of my heart.  I could never repay them for all they have taught me.  I could only hope that more students experience what I have because this trip is a life changing experience.

--Stephanie Sinck

Trip after trip the people of La Cuchilla never fail to show their kind heartedness.  The hospitality and the love they show to each one of us and each other is not something seen often at home in the United States.  They welcome us and shower us with attention as if we were one of their own.  Going to La Cuchilla with intentions of serving the people there is what my first thought was when I learned about the trip.  Going there for the third time, I have received much more than I have ever expected.  I have a renewed sense of being that I will stick with me when I return to everyday life.  Love, friendship, and relationships with people are what matter the most.  What lacks in materialistic things is made up for in a family oriented matter.

--Anna Kulacz

It was a privilege to be able to return on this trip and once again live with my loving family in La Cuchilla.  It was a nice reminder of how people that appear to be so poor are really rich with happiness, love, and faith.  I hope to keep that in my heart until the day that I can be with them once again, hopefully very soon!

--Danielle Pittaluga

Living at La Cuchilla for weeks has definitely been the most challenging but rewarding stay I have ever experienced.  I am glad I had the opportunity to attend and meet such great and joyful people.  The community is so welcoming and they all made me feel like I was part of their family.  I will truly miss from the bottom of my heart each and every person at La Cuchilla and will love to come back and continue my journey in helping out my people.

--Michelle Perez

Speechless--the only word I can use to describe this experience.  Coming on this trip was nothing close to what I expected (in a good way!).  The people you meet are life changing.  La Cuchilla has become a second home, a second family.  It’s a way of living, one that can never be experienced in New York.  These people are filled with such humility and have a heart so rich.  They live such calm, carefree lifestyles and are so appreciative of what they have and of what we have to give.  What they don’t know is what they give back in return. The gifts that they have to offer are something so precious--it’s priceless.  These people open their homes and hearts to each and every one of us, so freely.  Who would have thought that someone so poor could offer so much.  I wouldn’t give this experience up for all the money in the world.  I can only hope I will be back soon--si Dios quiere.

--Jessica Justiniano

The last two weeks I spent in La Cuchilla has been the most amazing two weeks I have ever experienced.  The community welcomed us not only with their open arms but also with an open heart.  They made me feel right at home.  I can only wish that my stay was longer so I can continue to help out the community.  This experience had opened my eyes and allowed me to see a different side of the world.  I will miss everyone’s laughter and joy.  I’m thankful for this opportunity and recommend this trip to anyone who is willing to help others.

--Tola Poole


This trip will take you on a journey to a place you will never feel the same leaving.  La Cuchilla means “The Knife” in English, but in my heart it means faith, love, and peace.  In the mountains, you learn that there is more to life than money.  You learn to love and cherish what you have.  One thing that will change your life on this trip is the people you meet, and see how they help you change your life as you help change theirs.  For me 2 weeks isn’t long enough but is well worth it, and I will very well recommend this trip to anyone who loves kids and seeing smiles on everyone’s face you pass every day.

--Tara O’Neill

My time in Dominican Republic as part as Dominican College’s “BRIDGES” project was very well-sewed.  Being placed with a host family in the rural town of La Cuchilla afforded me a rare opportunity to experience firsthand a different culture, away from the conveniences of modern society that can sometimes create gaps in interactions with each other.  This trip enabled us to bridge those gaps.  Our group, myself included, witnessed and built connections with the people in the area.  In this way, I was able to better understand the hope that stems from family and community bonds.  They help enable these people to live more simply in the midst of financial hardship and the relative absence of luxuries that many of us in developed countries receive easy access to and consider basic to everyday living.  “BRIDGES” planted me in a much different setting than I am accustomed to, a setting that can be harsh and challenging in the pursuit of prosperity.  We lived for two weeks as the people there do every day and the insight gained from being taken away from the comforts of my personal microcosm was invaluable.  I, like all the other members of my group, came away from my brief stay in Dominican Republic a changed person, embracing renewed senses of humility and giving myself.

--Timothy Morgan

I arrived in the Dominican Republic with an open mind, not knowing what to expect.  During the trip, I found myself reflecting about my life in the states, my relationships with family, friends and my relationship with the Lord.  Taking myself so far away from my life in the States, allowed me to find out many new things about myself.   I was able to learn more about where I stand in God’s will for me, and find a stronger passion inside of me to reach out and help others.  This trip truly opened my eyes to different facets of God’s beauty through my experiences in La Cuchilla.  I have never encountered a people so willing to open their home and hearts to me as did the people of La Cuchilla, and for all of their hospitality and the many smiles I am very grateful.

--Christopher Gonda


1.  Collected, transported, and distributed 1,400 pounds of new clothing, bedding, medicines, vitamins, and books, to various rural communities.

2. Collected and delivered 10 laptops to the Jagua school, together with surge protectors and extension cables and cords.

3. Contracted for the construction of 15 specialized tables to create “Subject Areas” in the 3 classrooms in the Jagua school.

4. Painted 20 large wooden benches in the La Cuchilla chapel.

5. Painted 3 cement benches in front of the chapel, and 2 speed bumps, in La Cuchilla.

6. Applied a protective varnish to two large and numerous smaller murals in La Cuchilla and Jagua; painted 2 chalkboards in the La Cuchilla school.

7. Provided a cement floor and a special food allowance for an especially impoverish family in Naranja Dulce.

8.  Provided $700 of food a month for the 30 students, from various rural communities, who live in La Casa Madre Maria in Juncalito from Monday through Friday, so that they can continue their studies.

9. Provided 50’ of cyclone fencing so La Casa Madre Maria can enclose its outside passageway.

10. Brought the students and staff from La Casa Madre Maria on a 4 hour trip from Juncalito down the central mountains for an all-day outing in Cofresi Beach on the north coast.

11. Provided special medical assistance for 5 rural people.

12. Paid the tuition for a college student and for a student in an English Institute, assisted 2 additional college students with transportation money, and provided uniforms and school supplies for a dozen rural students.

13. We arranged to have a very suitable plot of land legally donated for the construction of the high school in La Cuchilla, to serve students from 4 rural communities.  We have finally been able to secure final government approval for this “TV Centro,” and have left the community resources to begin construction.