Saturday, January 26, 2013

Work reminds me of the Dominican Republic

Upon arriving home from my time with Not For Sale I had to find a job.
Hello, stating the obvious.
After being unemployed for five months, and with big adventures coming our way, the decision to "apply everywhere" wasn't a hard one to make. The same day I emailed a resume and cover letter I had an email back from a chain restaurant in my local area. One interview, and one shadow shift later, I was employed-- within a week of returning home.

I started as a hostess and am now a waitress. I had worked in the kitchen of a restaurant before but this whole "front of house" stuff was brand new to me. I like chatting with people, I can joke around, I smile quite frequently. It seemed like it was going to be a natural fit.

As a server, and as I'm sure you know, we take your plates once you are done with them. We dump your leftover food into a garbage can and put the dishes into the "dish pit" to be cleaned. Who knew this simple, 2 minute or less task would have me constantly thinking about my time spent in the Dominican Republic...

Putting food into the garbage. The amount of food. The food that you don't eat. The portion that was too big for your stomach to handle. The food that you are paying money for and throwing away. This is heartbreaking. This simple act of throwing food away constantly leaves my own stomach turning...

When on a Hero Holiday with Live Different in the Dominican Republic, a portion of one day is set aside to go to the Garbage Dump. Yes. That's right. The Garbage Dump. That mystical place that we put a side thought towards every week because our garbage is taken away by the big trucks and they leave the now empty cans at the end of our driveway. We know it exists, yet we rarely ever think about it. In the Dominican Republic, people live at the garbage dump. Mostly stateless individuals and families who are considered by government to be neither Haitian or Dominican. Those that live at the garbage dump spend time opening up the trash that is sent there and doing a few different things:
1) Compiling the food that people throw away into containers to eat later
2) Looking for items they can use that people carelessly tossed away
3) Finding recyclables they can bag to redeem for money.

None of those things sound appealing. Not one. We can all agree on that. If life were a movie this is how a scene would play out: I would collect dishes from a table with the food you are "too full" to eat and walk up to the trash bin. The camera shot would now be from inside the trash bin and as I dumped the food in the screen would go black, showing just how much food I casually tossed in to pile up. Next, from the black screen, it would open to a blue sky overhead, and a small Haitian child would be looking in. He would dig something out and the screen would open up to show where he is. This child is in a garbage dump, taking that food-- that half a hamburger, the extra chicken finger or two, baked potato, french fries, and would be transferring it into a bag that he is going to keep for later. Dinner is served.

While on a Hero Holiday we work alongside those who live at the garbage dump (It really is taking the concept of "working from home" to a whole new perspective). We lend our hands to them to help them  sort through the incoming trash and find the recyclable materials they can use to make at least a little bit of money. It's hot, it's smelly, it's unthinkable unless you have been there for the experience. The day we went we had the opportunity to hand out care packages of food to those that call the dump home. It was a life changing experience unlike anything you can think of-- Just look at me. I work a "normal" North American job and I can't spend a day at work without thinking of the woman I helped one morning almost two years ago.

How much has a humanitarian or missions trip changed your day to day life? Are there tasks you complete that during the day that remind you of where you have been and the work you did? Comment below.

At the garbage dump.

Talking about tattoos at the garbage dump.

To learn more about Live Different and their Hero Holidays visit their website, and experience how you really can change the world and be changed by living different.


  1. Aelea - I don't know you but I've read through your blog, I love your heart and I've definitely connected with what you're writing about. You're living your life the way I dream about living mine. I have not been on a humanitarian or missions trip - leaving for my first trip on February 15. I'm looking forward to continuing to read about your experiences.

  2. Mandy, that is SO WONDERFUL you are about to leave for your first trip! I would love to hear about it when you return! I trust God is going to use you in absolutely amazing ways-- more amazing then you could even think of now! :) Have an awesome time!

  3. Hey Aelea, thanks for bringing this heart-wrenching memory back to the forefront of my mind. Our time spent at the dump that day really tugged at my heart. It is difficult to come back to our western world and see all the waste and gluttony etc. I always remind myself that I have to live in this world but I do not have to be of this world. God Bless you!

  4. Hey Aelea! Matt and I went on a missions trip to the Dominican in 2010 and I will never forget it. We stayed on a school property and had the opportunity to help build a kitchen for the children that need breakfast in the mornings before school. The school had a water treatment plant on the property and we had the privilege of bringing water out into the community to the local pastors who would then sell the water to make a living. Coming home was very hard because we have so much and only complain and want more. They are so joyful with so little. I had a hard time seeing fresh water run down the drain and be waisted. It's also hard to go into stores and see isles and isles of soap and shampoo to choose from when they had nothing to clean themselves with. I will never forget the dominican and they will always be in my heart. I think of them often and get upset when its so easy to come home and get back into our routines of greed, always wanting more and complaining. Thanks so much for your blog. It inspires me to make a difference and keeps the experiences that i have had fresh in my mind.


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