The Little Things Can Mean The Most

The Little Things Can Mean The Most

By Liv Woodruff

Marine Life and Coastal Restoration, Dominican Republic 2019

Liv is a student at St. Luke’s School who will graduate in 2023. She hopes to pursue her love of the ocean and community service in college.

All photos have been provided by Liv. Read her story below!

When arriving at the small town of Bayahibe, a beach town in the south part of the Dominican Republic, all I could feel at first was nerves. I had just spent the night in a random hotel in a country with a language I could barely speak, with people I had met only hours before.

Looking back, these nerves were only natural as I was out of my typical and unexciting habitat of Connecticut, and was instead placed into my short term replacement of the Dominican Republic.

After entering my program’s base house, my group and I sat underneath the overhang of the porch, finally getting a chance to see the place we would spend the next week and more importantly, each other. As days slowly melted together, so did we. My group slowly became a family, as late night games of Spike Ball and bilingual Bananagrams became our nightly rituals. The boats we rode on and the turquoise blue waters became both our playgrounds and projects, as we attempted to do our part to save the ocean.

Looking back on the trip, it was genuinely hard to pick out a few main lessons which I learned over the course of those exponential sixteen days. After a long and thorough stroll down memory lane, I settled on one of my favorite memories of the entire trip. This was our first day working with a group of kids. Once we loaded off the buses and sat down with them, we went around the circle and introduced ourselves with our names and favorite animals.

After that, us and the kids scattered, eating lunch and playing. I ended up in the courtyard after an exciting game of hide and seek, sitting with a few young girls. One in particular stood out to me, and I even remember her to this day.

Maybe six years old, she was the only one who could speak any English and was desperate to show off her skills. She came up to me and my friends introducing herself in english. We took turns giving her and other kids piggy back rides, running as fast as we could while gripping the younger kids to our backs.

While giving the English-speaking girl a piggyback ride, she noticed my many bracelets which surrounded my wrists. Most of them are just the simple beaded ones I make myself, but she was fascinated with them. Gently, she took my wrists and turned them over and over with her hands. After about a minute of pure admiration, she pointed to one bracelet on my left wrist. It had a simple pattern of alternating rows of light blue, orange and white. “Me gusta” or “I like it” she told me, sliding her tiny finger underneath the string and circling my wrist with her pointer finger. I removed the bracelet and slid it on her wrist while telling her “por tú”, or “for you.” She looked up at me, her eyes wide and gave me a big hug.

I think about this moment almost once a week, and often think about this girl whenever I hear about a natural disaster, good news, or another event which is happening in the Dominican Republic. I hope she still thinks about me, the short red-headed girl who gave her a bracelet, whenever she hears something about the United States.

Out of all of the things I learned on that Rustic trip, the main thing I realized is how both your and others actions can have effects on people, big or small, even when they are halfway across the world.

Learn more about Rustic Pathways programs in the Dominican Republic, or view more Alumni Stories here