August 7, 2016- Kaira

This trip’s overarching theme: You can’t plan for everything. 
I packed my bags with bug spray, sunscreen, and clothing for work and play. I translated information about emergent literacy to share with Kendys, glued it to colorful paper, laminated it, and placed it nicely in a folder. On each and every page of the children’s book I planned to use as an example of Dialogic Reading, I placed detailed post-it notes. I had just completed the second semester of a six semester graduate program for speech-language pathology, and I was ready.  
Since I met Sarah and learned about her work in Cuesta Arena, I yearned to come here with her. Until recently, I felt like I had no useful skill to bring with me…nothing of much benefit to contribute. I felt like a trip to the Dominican Republic would be more for myself than for the people here, and that it wasn’t right to come unless I had something to offer. So, once I got some experience in early literacy development, I felt like finally I had a skill of some use to bring along. I spent so much time thinking about what I would teach and how I would teach it. I planned every last detail.  
Naturally, Kendys knew about every single concept I brought along. Even the information I figured I would explain “if I needed some extra material” was familiar to her. My “special skill” was of zero use to her, so I we just started to talk. We began to discuss Filomena, a four-year-old girl who speaks using various combinations of “be,” “ma,” and “pa.” I learned that she doesn’t attend school “because she doesn’t talk,” and I explained how important it is for her language development that those around her respond to her, even if they don’t understand. Kendys is well aware that Filomena should be assessed, and will advocate for her to receive additional services.  
Back in Santiago, Sairy asked me about her nephew, Denaury. She was wondering about his speech. I did a quick assessment, and found out he was misarticulating the /s/. I have only read about articulation therapy, but I gave it a shot. Within 10 minutes he had it! Since, I’ve caught him practicing by himself and with his family, and it makes me so ridiculously happy!   
I didn’t plan for either of these moments, but I was still able to use what I knew to make the tiniest difference. I’ve since given up on my structured lesson plans, and have been living in the moment. I’ve used my experience working with children to help with Sunday school, break up some toddler arguments at the school, and love on the little ones like crazy! I realized that I should never have put a restriction upon myself to come here. I didn’t need a formal education in emergent literacy to contribute. All that I needed was my particular brand of “good” to bring and share in a way that no one else can. We all have special skills, talents, or character traits that can make a difference in the world if just open ourselves up to the experience.  
(Shout out to Kelly, Jen, Shelby, and Kelfi)

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