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HRA students make a difference during spring break

Mixing concrete, moving piles of dirt and building walls are not on all students’ spring break to-do lists, but 16 selfless Hampton Roads Academy students traveled to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic for a week-long service learning experience to do just that.
The group worked with The Batey Foundation ( ), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to raise the living standards and promote community developing in impoverished bateys; rural communities of sugarcane workers, many of whom are Haitain and receive no aid or support from the government.

Hampton Roads Academy students worked on a school building in the batey of San Luis, moving dirt for the floor of the school (with only a few pickaxes, shovels and buckets) and building school walls.

“Our students quickly grasped the concept that any small task can make a difference,” said HRA teacher and trip chaperone Alissa Manthey. “Their hard work was visible on the work site after day one, along with their willingness to cooperate with one another and form new friendships.”

In addition to working at the building site, the students had the opportunity to explore the history and culture of Dominican Republic through a walking tour of the colonial zone in downtown Santo Domingo, visiting a local market to buy food and learning how to dance bachata, merengue, and salsa. The students also practiced their Spanish skills by talking with children that lived near the work site and in the Elio Franco neighborhood.

“The most memorable part of this trip was watching our students realize that there is another way of life and just how lucky they are to be able to have a roof over their heads and not worry about when their next meal will be,” said HRA teacher and trip coordinator Sarah Andersen.

Click here to view more photos of the trip.