THE KEENE STATE COLLEGE MAGAZINE SUMMER 2008
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"Go Forth to Serve" with Global Village
Some KSC alums count for double. They also "graduated" from life-expanding Global Village trips. This year, they reconnected to build houses – and friendships – in the Dominican Republic.

Global Village group photo

The Habitat group with local children and masons on the site
Talk about the ultimate alumni reunion gathering!

Since 2002, teams of students and staff from KSC have participated in Habitat for Humanity Global Village (GV) trips to build homes in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Guatemala. Past participants have always talked about a "KSC GV alumni trip," and this past January, 11 of us formed the nucleus of a 20-person GV team that traveled to the Dominican Republic on a 10-day adventure.

Laura Hannum photo
Laura Hannum '08 setting cement blocks
Don Hayes, retired Community Services Coordinator at KSC and a member of five trips; Anne Mullane '05, a student leader on the 2005 Guatemala trip; and Mike Ward from the Student Center, veteran of several GV trips, led the team. Don initiated the GV experience at KSC in 2002 with a trip to Costa Rica "… to provide an opportunity for students to combine Habitat's home-building efforts with international travel and exposure to foreign cultures as part of their college education." Of this year's trip, Don said, "It was wonderful to reconnect with students who had graduated and moved on in their careers but who were still involved in the work of Habitat."

Our team spent the first two days in the Dominican Republic in the capital city of Santo Domingo immersing ourselves in a different culture with unusual January heat and humidity, merengue music, Spanish spoken at warp speed, and a dizzying array of new smells and sights.

Global Village worksite photo

The GV team on the worksite, doing the groundwork for a new home. This Habitat enclave will eventually provide homes for nearly 50 families
For the next five days, we worked with the Dominican Habitat affiliate in the town of San Francisco de Macoris, located in a mountainous area three hours north of Santo Domingo. The affiliate was building an enclave of Habitat housing that would eventually provide homes for nearly 50 families. We spent five days in the hot sun and tropical rain moving cinderblocks, mixing concrete by hand on the ground, laying blocks, digging drainage canals, and moving wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of wet clay – hot, dirty, exhausting, exhilarating work to help families improve their lives. We did have help, though, as each day the local children swarmed over the work site, excited, curious, and willing to help.

Don Hayes photo
Don Hayes presenting school supplies
We stayed in a Catholic retreat center that provided three meals a day, brisk cold showers, and eerie nighttime sounds and creatures. We filled our evenings with group reflections about the day's activities, planning for the following day, and engaging in enjoyable conversations enhanced by an occasional cerveza. Kelly Sullivan '05, who served as one of our translators, said she "… felt a common understanding among us all. I don't remember the last time I laughed so hard for 10 days straight!"

As part of our cultural experience we spent one evening out dancing to a live marimba band and another taking in a game in the Dominican major-league baseball playoffs. Our adopted team, the Licey Lions, won, starting a streak that culminated in capturing the Caribbean Series championship!

Kara Roach photo

Kara Roach '06 digging with the team
The highlight of our cultural exchanges was a visit to a local elementary school, where we delivered several suitcases of school supplies the team brought from New Hampshire. Our Spanish speakers read the older children an entertaining book about Habitat, while the rest of the team helped the younger children make funny origami dog faces out of construction paper. It was a stark learning experience for the team to see how few resources Dominican schools have. The children were full of curiosity about their visitors and sang us a spirited song in appreciation for our donations.

Nancy Haggarty photo
Nancy Haggarty '03 and friends
Our final days in the DR were spent at a remote adventure ranch, where we traversed zip lines, rode horses, hiked to a remote waterfall/swimming hole, and fought our way across a raging river. Nights were filled with lively games of pool and quiet conversations around bonfires.

K. J. McCrann '08, who was on the 2006 GV trip to Guatemala, enjoyed hearing stories from earlier KSC grads about the campus as it existed in their time. "I had no idea that Appian Way used to be an actual Keene street or that there used to be a lot of homes where campus buildings now stand," she said.

School children learning origami photo

School children learning origami

Brenna Leveille '05, one of the 2005 trip alums, stated that GV trips "… have allowed me to get outside of my personal comfort zone, to recognize the myriad challenges faced by millions, and to understand my role in the reparations of the world. KSC first offered me this opportunity as an undergrad and the perspective gained can never be reversed."

Waterfall photo
A cool waterfall at the end of a warm day
Anne Mullane summed up the trip well. "Now that I have left Keene State and am in the working world, it's sometimes hard to stay on track with the causes that were important to me during my time there. This trip to the Dominican Republic helped me to connect with other alumni and do something out of the scope of my everyday life. Interacting with the Dominican people and knowing that we were making a positive impact on their country was an incredible experience. I encourage other alumni to take advantage of these trips in the future. I truly value the friendships that have come from my trips, the memories I have made, and the outlook it has given me on the world."

While common themes of excitement, fulfillment, self-discovery, pride, and the life-altering experience of these GV trips were common points of discussion between members during the nightly discussions, each individual came away from the trip with additional layers of memories.

K. J. McCrann, Mike Ward, and Hannum photo

K. J. McCrann '08, Mike Ward, and Hannum at a baseball game

Everyone on the team agreed that they would love to do future trips. While nothing is definite, we discussed a possible trip to Guatemala in the summer of 2009, when teachers might be able to participate. We also discussed the idea of expanding the trip to include any KSC alumni.

Anyone out there interested?
Please write to Mike Ward at mward@keene.edu.

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