Post written by Scott Budlong, Financial Associate with Thrivent Financial
I recently got back from the Dominican Republic. I’m blessed and grateful to be a financial representative for Thrivent Financial which is the largest non-governmental donor to Habitat for Humanity in the world. So, when I went down to the Dominican Republic to partake in a Thrivent Worldwide Build, I didn’t quite know if it was going to be work, a vacation, or a little bit of both. To be honest I still don’t know what it was, but I do know it blew my mind and was deeply meaningful.
The first step for me was to decide to take a risk. I could have gone to Jamaica and used my money to buy piña colada’s and enjoy the beach. It’s difficult for me to get away from the office, but Thrivent Financial encouraged me to take a week with a church leader. A full week with 12 people I’ve never met?! Sure! I’ll risk it.
Secondly, I choose to get to know the local community. Spanish is the predominate language in the Dominican Republic. Having lived in Central America for four months (14 years ago), I had the vocabulary of a preschooler. With patience, genuine smiles, and the Google Translate App, the language gap was bridged. It took me two days to build enough trust for Jeffery, a child in the village, to share his name with me. After that, I learned that Jeffery is 13 years-old, loves to throw Frisbee, and will take advantage of any opportunity he can to watch the Teenaged Mutate Ninja Turtles. We helped Jeffery’s aunt with installing a cement floor to replace her old dirt floor. Dirt floors are responsible for 85% of the sicknesses in Jeffery’s village of El Capa. She literally danced on the cement floor when we were done. Smiles all around.
Finally, I was open to the community getting to know me. I was not the only person in the Dominican Republic who knew how to use a shovel or wield a paint brush. In fact, I suspect I not even in the top quartile of brush and shovel wielders. But, I was present. There every day for a week. Smiling and full of concern. At the end of the week, the village of El Capa along with the Thrivent Worldwide Builds Team came together for a celebration. Long after I leave El Capa, the families won’t just be grateful for a new roof, a low-interest loan, and a cement floor. They will remember that someone cared enough to make their life a little better. They won’t likely remember my name, but they will remember that a group cared. It’s hard to overestimate the special addition of care and concern that Thrivent and Habitat build into each project.
I was blown away by the relationships I built in my trip, the meaningfulness of the experience, and the depth of impact on lives. I will be going back again in 2018 to lead a trip. (Also, I will want to see how my friend Jeffery is doing in school.)