By ABBY SLANKER
Nothing could stop the 12 youth group members and 9 adult church members of Canfield Presbyterian Church from reaching their destination of the Dominican Republic on a mission trip, including mechanical difficulties with their plane on the first leg of their trip to Atlanta. The group included Julie Angelo, Isaac and Dylan Bowald, Paige Brucoli, Jacqueline and Zac Gierlach, David, Sherry, Danielle and Amy Goddard, Doug and Natalie Hagy, Jeff and Jill Jones, Tyler Heintz, Matt Moore, Christian O’Neil, Susan McCurley, Andy Schrum, Aimee Williamson, and Mallory Zimmerman.
According to Angelo, youth group leader, it was an adventure, to say the least.
“After more than 43 hours of travel, we arrived around 11 p.m. in our hostel Pendernales, DR. Our flight to Santo Domingo was not without adventure. It turned out that we did not actually have tickets on the flight to Santo Domingo, and the flight was overbooked. Shortly before we were scheduled to leave, we still had six of the group without seat on the flight.
“Thanks to one of our group for doing a great job selling other passengers, we all got on the flight, although the final seat was not available until the plane was almost done boarding. We arrived in Santo Domingo and began the eight hour drive to Pendernales,” Angelo said.
The group was working with Foundation for Peace and mission trip participants were busy helping thousands of people.
“We spent the morning and afternoon of our first day working on construction of a local school. The concrete block walls and roof were already constructed. We were responsible for moving large piles of gravel and dirt to fill in the school rooms and hallway in preparation for the construction workers to pour cement. The difficult part was that we were moving it with shovels, picks and buckets,” Angelo said.
Within a couple hours, the group noticed some extra workers.
“By the end of the afternoon the Dominican kids, ages 2-10 or so, were shoveling like crazy and it was all we could do to convince them we were done for the day. Some of us were also helping mixing and filling buckets of stucco for the interior walls and ceilings.
The group completed another full day of construction work at the school on their second day. They continued moving gravel and rock help from the Dominican children.
“There were even more Dominican kids at the worksite that day, and they were waiting for us when we arrived. Our younger folks have been able to build great relationships with many of the younger Domincan kids,” Angelo said.
On the group’s third day of their mission trip, they attempted to travel to Haiti, but ran into some travel difficulties.
“It turned out that there has been some recent disputes between the Haitians and the Dominicans, which resulted in the Haitians imposing new requirements for Dominicans to enter the country. The bottom line is that our Dominican security and staff members were not permitted to enter Haiti without a special visa and payment of a fee, so we were unable to cross into Haiti for church, and were not able to head to Haiti as scheduled for vacation bible school,“ Angelo said.
As a result, the group was able to enjoy some extra time at the beach in Cabo Rojo and changed the location of vacation bible school to the Dominican church.
The group’s fifth full day in the Dominican was a medical clinic offered at the church.
“We had 10 doctors from Santo Domingo. Each doctor has a consultation room, and each saw families of four or five. We were runners for the doctors, bringing them families and getting the medications the physician ordered.”
The group also handed out health kits with personal hygiene item. Many of the contents were donated by friends and church members.
The group’s final full day in the Dominican was an all-day work session at the school.
“We mixed cement and then hauled it bucket by bucket up stairs to the roof to start the floor of the second story. Once the floor for the second story was completed, we continued leveling the dirt floors in the rooms we had not completed the other days in preparation for the cement floors,” Angelo said.
Angelo concluded that the mission trip was a life changing experience.
“We were very sad to say goodbye to the friends we had made, young and old. While it may seem trite to say so, the experience was been life changing for all of us. It is our hope that we can keep the enthusiasm for helping others, including the people of Pedernales, DR, and share it with our family, friends and church,” Angelo said.
Members of the mission trip group will have a presentation at 10 a.m. Aug. 25 at the Canfield Presbyterian Church and invite everyone from the community to attend the event to hear more details of their trip to the Dominican Republic.
For more information, call Angelo at 330-301-0664.