Through a partnership with Food for the Hungry, Eastern students have worked to build and maintain a relationship with the community of Savanna Cruz in the Dominican Republic.
Over Spring Break, a group of 13 students recently traveled to this community to further develop this relationship.
“Eastern has gone there for about 10 years,” senior team leader Jennifer Comer said.
Eastern originally started sending mission teams to this community in response to destruction caused by a hurricane. Since then, one of the main tasks of the mission teams has been to build latrines.
During Spring Break, the team built five or six latrines and left behind supplies for about five more to be constructed.
The community of Savanna Cruz lacks running water and struggles with poverty.
“Before Eastern went, a lot of children were dying from sanitation issues,” Comer said.
Eastern’s partnership with this community has improved the health of its residents. According to Comer, the children of the community say Eastern has chased away the witches.
“One thing that we were constantly doing was playing with the kids,” Comer said.
The mission team got to work with the children by holding a Vacation Bible School for them. “It’s a fun time to build relationships,” Comer said.
Junior Elya Troup enjoyed her time with the children she met on the trip. By the third morning of the trip many of the children knew her name and would call for her when they saw her.
“It’s awesome to hold kids in your arms and not want to leave them,” Troup said.
Children are valued in this Dominican Republic community because they are seen as the future of the community. Eastern puts on a Vacation Bible School within this community to communicate better with the children.
Comer formed a relationship with one boy during her first visit to the community four years ago. Since then she has been sponsoring him and visiting him every year.
The group also visited homes in the community where they were able to meet people and hand out care packages. “I definitely learned a lot from the community,” Troup said.
The people they met did not have much, but they were joyful and welcoming. “[I gained] a greater perspective of love,” Troup said.
Eastern will be ending its partnership with this Dominican Republic community in the next few years so that it does not become completely reliant on them. Before the team left, the community held a ceremony for them. The children sang songs and expressed excitement for Eastern’s return next year.
“Even though it was only a week, we formed so many close relationships,” Troup said.