Lessons from the DR: Reflection by Former Trip Participant, Alexis Halstenson

September 16th, 2014

Former trip participant, Alexis Halstenson, took a moment to share with us a heartfelt reflection from her experiences with Una Vida in the Dominican Republic.

“After going to the Dominican Republic with Una Vida in high school, I went three more times while in college as a nursing student. Spending time in the Dominican Republic during nursing school was a critical part of my college education, without a doubt. It allowed for real life application of the lessons in compassion we learned on campus. Spending time living alongside people who live passionately, love actively, and care selflessly gives college students inspiration and passion to do something really incredible with their lives. I’ve seen this time and again. Students realize how connected the world is while in the DR, and get excited to become a part of it. An experience like this is the perfect pair to go with the in-class lectures as we realize how much more exists outside of the classroom. I know I have been a better health care professional because of the lessons I learned while on Una Vida trips: for that I am forever grateful. 

My favorite story from my trips to the Dominican Republic is one that I will not ever forget. Una Vida’s health focused trips have a special place in my heart as I saw them grow from the ground up. During one of these trips, a pregnant woman came to see us with no idea how far along she was or worse, how sick she was. She had a common yet preventable complication of pregnancy called pre-eclampsia– basically dangerously high blood pressure that compromises both the baby and mother. Recognizing she needed medical attention immediately, we used an Una Vida vehicle to drive her to the closest hospital. After a long couple of days not knowing what happened, the participants and I got the best news. The baby was born by emergency C-section, and both mom and baby were doing great. If that wasn’t enough, we were able to visit the hospital on our way home on the last day. Because we happened to be in town that day, we saved two lives in a situation that could have had a devastating outcome. We learned that simple maternity health education, something we take for granted, is lacking in many parts of the world. We also learned how big an impact each of us can make on others and on the world.”

–Alexis Halstenson

International Literacy Day: Una Vida’s Contribution to the Cause

September 9th, 2014

In honor of the International Literacy Day, we take a minute to fondly look back upon those special moments in which Una Vida trip participants were able to teach someone (young and old alike) how to write their name for the first time– such an enpowering action!

Throughout our times at the schools in La Descubierta, Los Pinos and Barahona, at the orphanage in Neyba or even just around the neighborhood or with their homestay families, many participants have sat down and engaged with children encouraging them to develop their reading/ writing skills.

Over the past years, we’ve had the great privilege of bringing down thousands of books to donate to the library and schools in La Descubierta and Los Pinos, and have painted the alphabet and vocabulary words on classroom walls in the elementary schools that otherwise lack even the most basic visual aids to help kids learn how to read.

We look forward to many more of these special moments and to continue to advocate for literacy and learning in the future!

If you are interested in hosting a book drive (or a drive for other learning materials/ school supplies), or would like to join us on a trip to experience these joys first-hand, please email kylie@una-vida.org.




A Buen Tiempo: Join us! There’s always room for one more!

September 5th, 2014

” A buen tiempo.” This simple phrase speaks volumes about Dominican culture. Anytime you walk in on someone (or a group of people) eating, snacking or even just drinking something, it is common for them to greet you with “a buen tiempo” (“you’ve arrived just in time!”). This simple little phrase invites you to sit and join them– to share in whatever they are eating or drinking– no matter how fancy or simple, or even how much food is available (if no extra remains, they will gladly share what’s on their plate/ in their cup).

With Dominicans, there is always room for one more, and what’s mine is ours. Dominican generosity and hospitality is beyond compare. Imagine if we were all to apply this attitude towards others in our everyday interactions. What a different world this would be. May we take note from the Dominicans, and invite others into our lives, generously sharing with them, that they may feel sincerely welcome and loved.


“I want to share my time with people of this island.”

May 22nd, 2013

The above quote comes from Kylie Culver, a former Una Vida trip participant who picked up and moved to the Dominican Republic after falling in love with the island on her university’s Spring Break trip with Una Vida.  With her permission, we’re sharing her insights and response to this New York Times article.  Thanks for the food for thought Kylie!

“What a great piece that describes my frustrations with aid workers. This is why i have chosen to live in rural, remote environments, renting a room from locals. living and sharing in daily life with them, using public transportation, hanging out in the xenophobic-foreigner-labelled “unsafe” neighborhoods with “dangerous” people, suffering days on end without power, water, cell coverage.

I want to be here. I want to share and spent time with the people of this island. I didnt come here to sit in a big, fenced-off compound with foreigners, ac, wifi and american food. I love this island. I love the Dominican and Haitian people– their culture, their land, their traditions, their faith. They have taught me so much.

This is why i love organizations like Una Vida, that dedicate their work to establishing deep, personal relationships with the people of small towns of La Descubierta and Los Pinos, and invest in projects that improve the quality of life for individuals, families and communities. But first and foremost, the organization exists to share, learn from, and participate in the wonders of the Dominican and Haitian people; the joys and blessings, but also the struggles and hardships of everyday life in a rural, impoverished area; the beauty of the cultures and the land, and the kindness of the people.

I love this place! I am so blessed to have the privilege of being able to live here and share in the lives of Dominicans and Haitians.”


Kaitlin arrives in the DR

May 22nd, 2013

Here’s a sweet little note from Kaitlin O’Donnell, our new Madres Manager, who has arrived safely in the DR:

“And so it begins! I’ve arrived safe and sound. A friend just asked me how I’m doing. My response: ‘The humid air hugs my skin, comforting and constant like a mother’s embrace. Sweet, round, Spanish syllables and traffic sounds hum out in the street. Merengue glides over the balcony from a vecino’s open window. I’m surrounded by the hot smells of tropical fruit bathing in the sun on Duarte…’ I’m taking everything in and feeling FULL of joy and gratitude. The photo is from the apartment roof where I’ll be staying for this first week in Santo Domingo. Wishing you all joy and (in good Dominican fashion) peace.”