Lauren is an AMIGOS alumna who spent last summer with AMIGOS in the Dominican Republic. After returning home to the United States, she was inspired to continue supporting her host community abroad.
What AMIGOS project did you participate in?
I went to the Dominican Republic last summer. I love sports and play basketball at home, so this project was the perfect fit for me. I also wanted to learn more about leadership! When I found out that AMIGOS had a sports-based project that fit perfectly into my schedule, I knew I had to go.
I had done other volunteer trips abroad, but they were only a couple weeks and not really immersive.
What were some of your favorite AMIGOS moments?
There were so many great moments! I loved the time I spent with my host family. We would watch telenovelas every night together, and I spent a lot of time with my host siblings. They worked with AMIGOS before, so they were incredibly welcoming and helpful. Every night we would play volleyball during sunset then eat mangoes from the trees. It was so much fun.
How did you feel after you returned from your trip?
It was weird to come home because I had been homesick when I was there, but now I was homesick for the Dominican Republic! I made sure that I was still talking daily to all my new friends, including my host family and my AMIGOS partner. My time there really opened my eyes to how happy you can be through connection and time spent together. I even was inspired to take a technology break when I got home!
After returning home, Lauren still wanted to make an impact on the community that was now close to her heart. She decided to support the community of Barranca by making dresses for the young girls and raising money to buy more sports equipment.
A lot of the clothing everyone wore in Barranca was heavily used and from the capital of Santo Domingo. To get this clothing, people have to travel all the way there and bring it back. This was a four hour car ride, but most of the people in Barranca didn’t have cars. I wanted the young girls to enjoy the experience of having brand new items of clothing. Now that I knew these children personally, it meant so much more.
I partnered with a local nonprofit organization that sends clothing to children around the world who need it. I recruited my friends and family to learn to sew with me. My goal was to send a few dresses to Barranca before Christmas time. We ended up making 30 dresses and they made it just in time!
I also knew how much sports meant to my community, and there was often not enough equipment for the kids to play whenever they wanted. I started making my famous peanut butter recipe and selling the jars around my city. I ended up raising enough money to send along 15 new sports balls with the dresses!
How has AMIGOS impacted your life?
I met such incredible people. The partner I stayed with in community is my new best friend. We are actually planning on going back to Barranca in the next year or two. We miss the Dominican Republic so much!
AMIGOS helped me make meaningful connections that I never would have expected.
What advice would you give to someone interested in doing AMIGOS?
Definitely do it! I was hesitant because it seemed scary when I didn’t know anyone, was new to Spanish, and was making such a big commitment. But there is absolutely nothing like it and you won’t understand the impact on your life until you go.
There aren’t a lot of opportunities like this for teenagers to be totally immersed and off the grid. It allowed me so much growth as I was constantly out of my comfort zone. There’s nothing like it!