For IWA students on Spring Break, the mission is ‘service’

April 11, 2023

Ten high school students at Incarnate Word Academy (IWA) in Houston used their spring break week and visited the Dominican Republic for a mission trip with Teens 4 Unity, alongside several chaperones. IWA has participated in the program since 2010. (Photo courtesy of Incarnate Word Academy)

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — Over Spring Break, 10 students at Incarnate Word Academy (IWA) who are members of Teens 4 Unity, a global organization rooted in the act of serving others and making the world a more beautiful place, went on a mission trip to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

The trip, called “People, Planet and Our Ecological Conversion,” was chaperoned by science teacher Cristina Dimatulac, campus ministry director Brianna Amaya, and former faculty member Ana Paula Pauzarini. As part of the service mission, the students taught at a local school called Cafe Con Leche.

“IWA has participated in this program since 2010,” Dimatulac said. “This was our fourth trip to Santo Domingo, and it’s great to see the volunteers’ impact grow with every visit.”

During the March 11 to 18 mission trip, they kept one phrase in mind: #daretocare.

“That meant we had to be the first to love and give back rather than wait for someone else to do it,” said Angela Benny, sophomore at IWA. “The experience was an eye-opener for me and impacted me in such a positive way! It made me realize that not everyone is as fortunate as I am.”

Benny said working with the kids during classes, workshops and activities moved her because she saw how happy they were to learn and have fun with the workshops they came up with.

“It also impacted the kids because they took the initiative to try and understand a different language while getting to know people they had never met,” she said.

Tania Rodriguez, sophomore at IWA, said the purpose of this mission trip was to give of themselves to teach kids in Santo Domingo English, have dance classes, arts and crafts, and have recreational time to play with the kids.

“I realized how happy they got when we would do the simplest acts of service for them,” she said. “You don’t see the same amount of gratitude coming from the majority of the young kids we encounter nowadays. We all learned that simple acts of kindness can have a lasting impact on everyone involved.”

Maria Conde, sophomore at IWA, said the children were a joy to be around, and together the IWA students were able to help them on their educational journey in a way that made learning fun and exciting for them.

“It helped me recognize my gratitude and humility for what I have because many kids and families were less fortunate and did not have nearly my group’s opportunities back home,” she said.

Conde said she noticed their presence affected the kids at Cafe Con Leche because it is rare that they see people outside their country visiting and serving them. Despite the language barrier, the students at the school took the initiative to get to know the IWA girls and even formed friendships with them.

“My mission group and I achieved our goal of using #daretocare and exemplifying the expectation of that idea to the children in Cafe Con Leche during our short period,” she said. “I am grateful to have shared this experience with the girls who also participated in the mission group, and I know that the memories we made there will last us a lifetime.”

Teens 4 Unity is comprised of individuals varying in religion, denomination and color. It started in 1984 with the Gen 3 (a branch of the Focolare Movement); they share the ideal of fraternity and try to make it happen by following all the possible “pathways,” aiming to knock down all barriers of hate and indifference.