By Christine Varoutsos, Spanish Teacher at Potomac School
It’s our first full day in the Dominican Republic, and we woke up feeling refreshed and excited to finally visit the Mariposa Center for Girls that we had read and heard so much about. After a short walk down Cabarete’s beautiful beach, we arrived and were warmly embraced by the welcoming staff. The center itself was also very inviting. Classrooms that walk out to a baseball field, a basketball court, a pool, and a garden are spaces where the girls can feel safe while they learn and play. As the girls started to arrive and excitedly mingle with each other, it was easy to see why they love coming here each day. In morning circle, we joined the girls in song and dance. A few Nobis World participants were brave enough to dance in the center of the circle when the Mariposa girls picked them as part of their game.
The girls then headed off to their day’s activity- a Friday field trip to a nearby waterpark- and we were able to tour the facility and learn more about the growing role that the Mariposa Foundation plays in its local community. The most incredible part of the day was our walk through the local neighborhood- called el callejón- where we witnessed the extreme poverty in which the girls and their families live. Back at the center for lunch, the conversation centered on firsthand accounts of the complex relationship between Haitians and Dominicans in the DR today.
In the afternoon, we gathered around the table on the hotel patio that experiences the most fantastic ocean breezes to reflect on the day and start to tie our experiences into Nobis World’s philosophy. Christen explained to us the five Nobis Big Ideas of Service Learning that will anchor our discussion work together this week: history, power, relationships, global citizenship, and cultural responsiveness. She also shared the inspiring Nobis Global Action Model, and a rich conversation around power and privilege ensued. Particularly interesting was a discussion about our conversation earlier in the day with the two women of Haitian decent. As a group we talked about what may have been lost when someone from the center translated what they shared. Christen challenged us to reflect on the idea of who has the power to tell their story. The discussion continued as we relaxed over dinner across the street. Even though we all just met yesterday, sharing ideas with this group of teachers already feels comfortable and empowering. As I reflect on the day, I can’t stop thinking about a quote that was beautifully and bilingually painted onto one of the center’s walls: “Yo soy la fuerza más potente para cambiar el mundo.” translated as “I am the world’s most powerful force for change.”