While many college students choose to spend their spring break relaxing with friends and family or wracking up the hours at their job, 17 female Eastern students and Dr. David Unander left for the Dominican Republic on March 1 for a week of service in the community of Sabaña Cruz.
Eastern has been sending student teams to the DR for the past 10 years. After taking a team in 1999 to help with rescue work caused by the destructive Hurricane Georges, Eastern adopted the community through Food for the Hungry, an international Christian rescue and development organization.
“We’re working in that community, building relationships with the people,” senior student leader Rachel Schmitz said. “It is truly our community.”
In 2006, Eastern joined forces with Goshen Baptist Church, marking the first time other adults went along, besides Eastern advisors.
While there, the team spent the majority of their time either building latrines, leading a vacation Bible school for the children or going into the community on house visits.
This year, the team built eight latrines but left enough supplies for the people of the community to complete four or five more. Showing the people how to build latrines is just one way Eastern seeks to achieve Food for the Hungry’s mission of empowering people to recognize their needs and teaching them to solve their problems.
The vacation Bible school served as a way to both evangelize and share the good news with the community and allow the team to get to know the children on a more personal level.
“At the end of one afternoon, my buddy Miguel asked if I knew who my dad was,” junior team leader Tabby Zug said. “He told me that he didn’t know his dad, that he had run away and he never knew him. At first I didn’t know what to say, but then I thought what an opportunity. I said, ‘You know who your father is, our Father God, that we share.’ He smiled and got excited. Then I asked, ‘Do you talk to that Father?’ And he said, ‘Yes, I pray every day.'”
In addition to the children, the team goes on house visits to connect more deeply with the families in the community.
Before leaving for the DR, the team collected supplies such as shampoo, soap, basic medicines and craft materials to create packets for the families. They would then go and visit people, sitting down in their homes and sharing with one another.