The Reality of Voluntourism

A multimedia video blog about the benefits of “Voluntourism” in the Dominican Republic. Music by Jack Johnson
Video, photos, text by Annie Freyschlag
Students in this film were participants in the 2011 ISV Project in the Dominican Republic

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The Science of Drinking Too Much Coffee

Since I was little, my mom always used to say to me, “Annie, you are such an Annie.” I never understood what that meant, but I always knew hearing her say that made me smile. The other day a good friend of mine told me the exact same thing- Quote, Un-Quote- “Annie, you are such an Annie.” This time, the phrase was spoken to me after I told my friend about all the activities I have going on in my life right now- running Coloring Countries, finishing my senior year of college, interning with an Electric Car Coalition, volunteering for several non- profits in town, AND I am leaving the country tomorrow for two weeks.

One of my professors my Sophomore year of college gave extra credit at the end of the semester to anyone who had kept track of all the countries she had traveled to (we had to listen to her stories very closely). I never got the final tally, but I do know she had traveled to at least fifty countries, and was still traveling strong! My professor’s advice for people who want to travel was to never turn down an opportunity to go somewhere. When I met her I had already traveled to Australia and the Dominican Republic a few times, but still had the infallible urge to continue traveling. It seems that when I sit in one place for too long, I feel like my insides will explode if I am not exposed to another culture. **Ding, ding** I think that is the root cause of my “Annie-ness” right there… culture.

I long for languages, Flamenco, Bachata, Seviche, Habichuela, Naan, Moussaka, and more importantly, the faces and souls I meet by experiencing these things.  A few months ago when I was in Spain, I tried to explain to my mom and Grandpa why I am constantly traveling around the world. It doesn’t quite make sense to them why every penny I save goes strait to another plane ticket, and why I work my little buttootee off to do so. My explanation (a bit less drawn-out) was that I live for the smiles I receive when I successfully communicate with someone who speaks a language I don’t. My heart is full when I learn a dance, to which an entire nation knows the same steps. I get goosebumps when I help make a traditional dish and my new friends are excited to write down their top secret family recipe just for me. I explained to them that it’s not about the plane ride, or the photographs, it’s about the experiences that change who I am, and write a piece of a culture into my soul.

Needless to say, my over-dramatized version of my travels, scared them a little but ultimately changed their views of my crazy life (I think). I will never stop traveling, and I will never stop overloading myself with things to do. I don’t know very many things for sure- but I do know that the ability to enjoy life on this earth is a precious blessing, and I will not waste one moment of my gift. To me, that means volunteering every moment I have, traveling when I am provided the opportunity, doing my best in all of my activities, and waking up each morning with a smile on my face because I am able to do these things.

Tomorrow I am heading to Seoul, South Korea for my first trip to South East Asia. In the last year, I have traveled to five countries- South Korea will be my sixth. This takes my total life traveling score to nine countries (and I just turned 21). My mother and my grandpa think I’m crazy, but I still feel that I don’t travel enough even though I just returned from spending five months in Europe, only to turn around two months later and head out to South Korea.

It’s part of my soul to have the overwhelming urge to travel the world while overloading my life so the word “Free-time” is non-existent… or maybe I just drink too much coffee. =)

There is a prospect for a thrilling time ahead of you.

There is a prospect for a thrilling time ahead of you.

Words of Encouragement from a 10-year-old

A letter from a 10-year-old

A different kind of love letter

I received this letter from one of the students I visited at the school in El Mango, Dominican Republic. Volunteering is difficult my friends, but it is little acts of love like this that make a life of service totally worth the trials.

Have you ever received a gift so beautiful? Please share any similar experience in the comment section below, I would love to hear about the beauty that exists in this world.

 

 

 

As Promised, Photos From my Trip

The school in El Mango, DR

The school in El Mango is as happy as before!

 

The inside of an El Mango classroom

The inside of an El Mango classroom

The Dominican Republic students smile

A group of happy students

A large group of DR students swarm the two Americans

Our first moments in El Mango. We were immediately swarmed with children giving us gifts and asking us about our lives.

A group of students holding the new shoes they recieved

A group of students holding and wearing the new shoes the Coloring Countries provided.

Holding a one year old baby

Holding the principal's son during the school day.

The students reading their letters from their students in the U.S

The students diligently reading the letters they received from their friends in the U.S.

A female students reading her letter

A student extremely captivated by her letter

A few El Mango boys reading their letters

The boys reading their letters

Female students smiling as they write their new friend

Excited to write to our new friends!

Me standing with a few of the students in the school

With my babies at the school in El Mango.

A picture of the sun behind clouds with rays streaking through

Even on the cloudiest days I am always finding sunlight.

 

If you would like to learn more about my trip, feel free to leave me a comment or email me at afreysch@rams.colostate.edu

Thanks for reading, you wonderful people!

 

Smuggling Guanabana and Complete Imperfection

I owe you all a huge apology for missing Two Hands Tuesday this past week, but it was indeed for a glorious reason. I spent the past week in the Dominican Republic working out logistics for the Coloring Countries program. My trip was wonderful, I even had the opportunity to squeeze in some beach time for a bit of peace of mind. I want to share a bit about what I learned on this trip because as always, international adventures are extremely educational. I learned much about myself as well about working with others.

I have always viewed myself as a person who emphasizes equality in this world, but I found a hidden obstacle to this belief on my trip (I’m not perfect, who knew?!). I have spent infinite hours and countless days working to develop a strong Coloring Countries program outline and program description for the U.S. students, teachers, and parents who participate in the pen-pal system (to learn more about the program, click on the Coloring Countries tab at the top). I have outlined the topics to write about, possible problems with the program, topics the students should refrain from writing about, and much more. While I spent time developing these documents it did not even cross my mind to translate the documents to Spanish to give to the principal of El Mango or to the parents of the Dominican Republic students. As a person who considers myself a humanitarian who emphasizes equality and peace, I have found myself displaying double standards. Subconsciously I did not view the people connected with the program in the Dominican Republic on the same basis as I viewed the participants in the U.S. This was very embarrassing for me to discover about myself. From this experience I have learned to look at each situation I enter through the eyes of the individuals who might be impacted. The teachers, principals, students and parents at the school in El Mango are just as deserving to have the resources that I provide for the individuals involved with the program in the U.S. A little self discovery for Annie on this trip!

In previous blogs I have spoken about asking communities we enter about their needs before attempting to provide resources or financial assistance. It is easy to enter an impoverished community and see the countless needs that are not being met. What we do not think about after seeing these needs, is asking the community what THEY think their immediate needs are, or even IF they would like financial assistance. Peripherally off topic: when I visited the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation a few months ago, I discovered that even though it seemed they needed assistance with basic living necessities it was disrespectful in their culture to simply “hand over” used goods (makes sense, right?). Anyway, when I was visiting with Dionicio, the principal of the El Mango school, I made a point to ask him how he thought the school could benefit from the Coloring Countries program. He listed countless needs that had not even crossed my mind! I asked him to write down the school’s needs so I could remember them when I returned to the U.S. I also made a point to ask if he thought the pen-pal program was beneficial for the school, and I saw him smile after this question, which was an extremely rare occurrence!  He reassured me that the objectives which I had embarrassingly scribbled on a yellow legal pad (see above paragraph) would be extremely beneficial for the students of El Mango.

Here’s my third lesson, are you ready? It’s a doosy. I brought down 20 pairs of shoes with me for the students of El Mango because when I met with Dionicio in August he told me this was one of the main needs of the students. I anticipated a feeling of volunteer euphoria that I have experienced previously when I give my time away; but this is not what I felt. I brought with me as many pairs of shoes as I could stuff into my two suitcases, but they were simply not enough. I found that I did not have the sizes to fit most of the children who greatly needed a new pair of shoes. It was heart breaking to shrug my shoulders and turn these children away. My lesson here is to not expect anything when living for others, it is contradictory to have expectations of reward, even a reward as small as a good feeling. I am not living to make myself happy, although much of the time that is a side benefit, I am living to make others happy.

My recommendation for myself and everyone who wants to work in international development- remove yourself from the situation completely and place your eyes and heart in the body of the community. Giving is an infinitely complicated occurrence.

As for the smuggled guanabana mentioned in the title of this post… I may or may not have smuggled a guanabana across U.S. borders; but that was pretty much just to get you to read my blog =).

 

Holding a Guanabana

How in the World Did That Get Here?!


Photo blog soon to come- Keep your eyes peeled!

My Two Hands in March

AAAHHHHH!!! I am way too excited for words. I just booked my plane tickets back to the Dominican Republic for March. I get to spend a week with my favorite people in the world! My two hands will be teaching English and helping the children write letters to their pen-pals here in the United States through my Coloring Countries program. What a beautiful world we live in!!

If you would like to donate to the program, or support us by purchasing a piece of art work, please visit http://www.coloringcountries.org.The proceeds help purchase shoes, vitamins, and books for the children.

Please, please, please contact me if you are interested in the program, want to learn more, or have any comments about the program! afreysch@rams.colostate.edu

Thanks for reading, my wonderful followers (and new readers)!!


Colorful Bracelets to Fund Education

Check out our new product at Coloring Countries. These colorful bracelets are made from glass beads and safety-pins. Help us fund education in El Mango, Dominican Republic with this purchase, and be reminded of the little faces you helped every time you look at your wrist.

Crayon Products For Sale to Fund Education!

New Crayon art for purchase to help fund education in the community of El Mango in the Northern Mountains of the Dominican Republic.100% of proceeds help fund education.

Place an order on the website to receive your custom piece of art! Please don’t hesitate to email with and questions about the products or with any special requests. I make all the products myself, so I would be happy to add anything in for my followers!

Thanks for reading today! Here is the link to the ColoCo site:

http://coloringcountries.org/products-to-fund-education.html

Custom Crayon Canvas available for purchase

Hanging Wall Art! Order in a variety of shapes and colors!

Recycled Crayons… I Need Ideas!!!!

I’m not sure that I have let you guys in on the program I have been developing. When I spent my summer to the northern mountains of the Dominican Republic this past year, I found a huge need for educational assistance within many of the communities. During the three weeks I spent in the DR, I taught an educational summer camp for the children, and has the chance to see the conditions of the school the children attend. After speaking with the principal of the school, I was informed that the teachers attempt to education mass numbers of students each day, with minimal resources. Thinking of all the resources we waste here in the US, I knew I could help with this issue. So I began to develop a program that would provide teachers with resources to educate, and students with shoes and vitamins so they can better learn.

Here is our web-page at the moment (please be patient, it is still in progress). Coloringcountries.org

Today, I need your creativity and ideas! In order to send the recourses that we gather, and have donated, we need roughly $90 per box to be sent. My idea is to use the old, broken crayons that we have collected through various drives, and make products that we can sell at very low prices.

Here are some ideas I have already covered:

1. Crayon candles (don’t burn very well)

2. Crayon jars (melt in the sun, but work very well otherwise!)

I need more ideas!! Anyone? Comment below and help us out!

As always, thanks for reading!