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Photography by & Amy S. Martin Photography & Briana Marie Photography.

Una Vida Alumni In Their Own Words...

We work to affect change in the Dominican Southwest, but we are often the ones most changed. Our vision is for our alumni to do great things, to be engaged in the issues, serve others, and affect their own change in the world. Here are some of their stories, in a way fragments of our own.

Rachel Manning

Years traveled to the Dominican Republic: 2017

Current Occupation: Una Vida Board Member

On her memories from the DR:  "Every person and every place I met is special to me. I was there for only one week and I know that I have new friendships that will last a lifetime. My favorite moment: we walked to the Toma and some kids walked a few of us further down the creek bed. I thought we were just exploring, but they had made a giant mud slide and were taking turns sliding down!  Jakob jumped right in line and took a turn down the slide, no hesitation at all. The smiles and laughter, cheers and excitement were contagious and stayed with me. Even now in typing this, I can't help but wear a giant grin. The extension of the invitation to Jakob and others to join in the fun, and the acceptance of strangers is not something that comes easily here at home. It was refreshing and reminded me of what it was like when I was a child, back before we behaved out of fear and instead were much more in touch with how to live out of love."

On who inspires her: "I would say that I am currently most inspired by the women I met in the Dominican Republic. I balance work, family and community every day, but the women in Los Pinos and La Descubierta balance work, family, community, natural elements and limited resources every day (se fue la luz). They showed me just how resourceful and resilient women can be, all while remaining compassionate, loving, kind and optimistic. I am most inspired by people who make the ordinary extraordinary with their attitude of gratitude, their willingness to work hard for others, and their capacity to push through barriers (of all types) to provide a better life for those around them, and the madres I met exemplify those values."

John Busick

Years traveled to the Dominican Republic: 1998-2004

Current Occupation: Father, outdoor enthusiast, VP of Business Development, Down Syndrome activist

The DR for John in one word: Compassion

On seeing the world differently: “My expectations were to essentially change the world in two weeks: leave my mark on the map, build a home for a ‘poor family, learn a little Spanish along the way, and offer up all of my extensive wisdom and knowledge to the ‘uneducated rural children’. Yeah right. Instead, that “poor family” subconsciously gave me a crash course in family values, friendship, and love.  I found myself working next to one of the smartest and most innovative building contractors I have ever met; a man who didn’t have the most effective tools nor excuse for not having them.”

Advice on your trip to the DR: “Enter with open arms, mind, body, soul, spirit, heart and you will never forget this experience.”

On being a father: “The trips have shaped who I am today as an employer, husband, and father.  My wife and I were blessed with our son Jack, who has Down Syndrome.  Due in part with my experience with Una Vida, I value community involvement and have taken it upon myself to be active not only in my son’s life, but the entire special needs community.”

Sarina Consulter

Years traveled to the Dominican Republic: 2008, 2009, and 2011

Current Occupation: Student, Santa Rosa Junior College

Known for: Providing on the street manicures and pedicures to anyone who wants one in La Descubierta.

On authentic connection in the DR: “As a result of going to the Dominican Republic, I see my world through new eyes.  The Dominican Republic has taught me to see people for who they are, not by the things that they own or their appearances. In La Descubierta, everyone hugs or makes some sort of contact with the people around them on a daily basis, even when they just run into each other on the street. It doesn’t matter what a person is wearing, or how they smell, or what kind of education they have – the Dominicans always make contact with each

Meg Healy

Years traveled to the Dominican Republic: 2008, 2009

Current occupation: Student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying Geography and International Studies

The best part of her trips to the DR: Her Dominican family.

On making a difference: “My two trips to the D.R. impacted me on many levels, but most significantly was the dedication to public service that I returned home with. Since traveling to the DR I have developed a passion for international development, and particularly for addressing urban poverty.”

On a new perspective:  “This is an incredible opportunity to see the world from a perspective that most Americans never experience. I learned more about the world in four weeks in the DR than I did in a year in many of my high school classes. Everyone should have an experience like this!”

On the Una Vida experience: “These trips are unique because they are organized and led by people who have years of experience in the DR. It is not a company looking to profit off of your travel expenses, but an organization of individuals who have an abundance of knowledge of and love for Dominican people and culture.”

Erica Sedlander

Years traveled to the Dominican Republic: 2000, 2003, 2010

Current Occupation: Grad student at UC Berkeley’s school of Public Health, bike-rider, and traveler extraordinaire.

On seeing herself: “My trips to the DR as a student and then as a leader made me feel empowered.  Not only did I succeed in a challenging environment but I was able to point to tangible differences that I made in the Dominicans lives or in my students lives. As a result, I have felt more confident tackling challenges in my life back in the States.”

On growth: “The trip will stretch you more than you thought you could stretch both physically and emotionally. This is the feeling that you get right when you begin to grow as a person. Go for it!”

On cross-cultural exchange: “The Dominicans make you feel like family and there is no other trip that will give you a real, meaningful look into the lives of others. Dominicans open up their homes and their lives to you. This trip will make you question previous assumptions and reflect on our American values.”

On finding her passion: “I have decided to dedicate my life to reducing health inequities. There are many experiences that have led me to where I am now but the Dominican Republic specifically left me feeling empowered to make change back at home.”

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