The Her Initiative

The trip to the Dominican Republic a few weeks ago was life changing. These kids taught me so much. Their joy and love was so evident and I am already ready to go back.
I went with the Christian company Healing Waters – they make it their mission to set up clean water filtration systems in 3rd world countries where they are needed most. Then they teach the community how to run them properly. It’s a real-life example of “give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.”

On the first day we loaded up in the 16 passenger van and headed out to Villa Hermosa, a community that is on the outskirts of Santo Domingo.

When we turned onto the dirt road of Villa Hermosa for the first time, kids were on the corner looking back at us smiling and waving. My heart instantly gained ten pounds when I saw how happy and curious they all were about who was visiting. That was the first thing that surprised me – no matter what village we went to, the children of the Dominican were all so freely loving. They all wanted to play with you despite not knowing who we were or where we came from… not to mention our poor Spanish skills.

At first I didn’t know how to communicate with them, but one of the people with us had a harmonica and began playing a tune. Instantly 3 of the kids starting dancing and then everybody joined in. It was such an impromptu dance and a celebration of life. It really highlighted the fact that we weren’t different at all. It was a moment I’ll remember the rest of my life.

The personalities of these kids were one of the most beautiful things to see. Despite not being able to speak their language, to see them laugh, smile and have such a pure joy was so inspiring and humbling. These kids who in our eyes have very little were so happy and care free. They are deserving of so much more than they have access to. Because many of their parents are from Hati and don’t have Dominican papers, they can’t get jobs. No matter how hard they would like to work and make a better life, they don’t have a way of doing so.

One of the many little kids I loved being around and still miss is Union – he was vivacious, full of energy, and probably one of the best dancers I’ve ever seen. The moment we turned on music on our phones everyone formed a circle and began dancing. Union jumped in the middle of the circle, put his hands on his hips, and started shaking his hips side to side. He was so happy, proud and legitimately a great dancer. I love Union!

he also loved selfies!

next we walked around the community passing out flyers and letting everyone know that there would be a health fair the next day in the middle of the village

The second day, we returned to Villa Hermosa for the health fair. There was such an awesome turnout! This was a day where we taught the children of the village how to wash their hands, brush their teeth and wash their vegetables using the clean water from their water filtration system. Before the water filtration system was available to this village there were SO MANY health problems due to the contaminated water. Rashes on skin, diarrhea, and different sicknesses were all happening because of drinking unclean water.

Healing waters has helped this community so much. Because of the water filtration system now in place, all those health problems associated with drinking unfiltered water have gone down tremendously. It really is amazing how much life is affected by water. I never really noticed just how often I use water – but from the second I wake up, to the second I go to bed there are 1,000 ways we use water ever day.

At the health fair, I was placed at the teeth brushing station and equipped with hundreds of toothbrushes to give to the children. The first wave of children eagerly came to our station and were so attentive.

I handed a little 5 year old girl her new toothbrush with toothpaste on it and assumed she would just start brushing her teeth. She looked down at the tooth brush, looked up at me, then put the toothbrush in her mouth like a sucker and held it there. I suddenly realized it was this precious child’s first time to brush her teeth. She didn’t know how to brush her teeth because she had never had a toothbrush.

That one moment changed my life. So often we think of luxury as satin sheets or a penthouse suite or the grandest of cars. Seeing her brush her teeth for the first time instantly broke my heart. She completely redefined my understanding of the word “luxury” for the rest of my life.

we also had a raffle drawing where people of the village won 5 gallon water containers

Union was also the kid who, on the last day when the bus was pulling out, ran after the bus. I was on the very last row of our van and was waving to him from the back window. He kept running and waiving and smiling longer than all of the other children. He ran until we were almost to back on the main road. I still think of Union often and genuinely miss him. I miss his playful spirit and funny personality. He is one of the many reasons I know I’ll go back to Villa Hermosa. Because I want to help Union.

 Next we went to a day care center where all volunteers care for children 5 and younger. This school was amazing. The volunteers take it upon themselves not just to watch these kids for a certain period of time during the day, but to teach them things parents should be teaching at home too. Like how to brush your teeth, bathe properly, and take care of yourself.  It really was inspiring because – in America I feel like there is this discussion about teachers not being able to help the child to the fullest extent because things aren’t being re-enforced at home. But these volunteers essentially take on both rolls as the teachers and the parents. It was incredible.
they even had an hour for dance time! Who needs a playground when you can have a conga line!?
our last stop was at a village that doesn’t have a water filtration system yet – Here Jenna is passing our her beanie babies to these kids – Jenna is incredible by the way and took all of these incredible photos. I’m so glad I got to know her on this trip and can’t wait to see her in a few weekends!
the people of this village walk about half a mile to a spring and fill up 10 gallon buckets with water and carry it back. I still can’t believe that these people not only don’t have access to clean water, but have to walk half a mile and carry the unfiltered water back to their village.
 one of the most humbling parts of this trip was when the pastor of the village told us we were the answer to her prayers – that she had been praying for people to come and help her village and the people in it that she loves so much.
I am so thankful I got to experience Healing Waters first hand and even more excited to spread the word about this company and the good that they do. One neat thing we are doing, and we would love for you get involved too, is giving 25 dollars a month which provides 25 women with clean water for a year! So one woman here in the states can help 25 over there!
A few of us have decided to “pledge your pedicure” meaning instead of going to get my nails done every month, I’m going to put that money towards the her initiative, and providing clean water for women in the Dominican Republic. The Her Initiative website launched today and has all the information about the different ways you can help 🙂
Hope you have a wonderful and short Monday… and thanks so much for reading
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