Patrick Newell has a new tattoo and he is not alone.
The nine Algonquin students and two staff members who participated in the Alternative Spring Break trip decided to commemorate their life-changing experience by getting new tattoos outlining the community in which they volunteered.
“It was so good – we got tattoos,” said Patrick Newell, clubs and communities coordinator for the SA and one of the organizers of the Alternative Spring Break trip to Monte Cristi.
“I feel like I’ve changed a lot. I found that we all learned a lot about ourselves as well as the people we were helping,” said Merissa Reed, a third-year interior design student. Reed was one of the nine student volunteers who travelled with the organization Outreach 360 to teach English from Feb. 13 to 20.
“I loved seeing the kids faces light up when they started to get it,” said Reed in terms of the most rewarding parts of her experience.
The volunteers spent the week working one on one with children in a classroom. Algonquin volunteers taught the students English, but also learned a lot of Spanish from the children in the process.
“During the week you hope that the kid your working with is understanding what you’re saying. At one point, I even thought he honestly didn’t get it and he didn’t want to get it,” said Newell, about the Grade 1 student he was working with.
“But on the last day the class had a test and he was getting all the answers right,” said Newell.
Julia Marin, a volunteer who went on the trip, was born and raised in Nicaragua. As a native Spanish speaker, she helped the group translate throughout the week.
“There was never any negative from the local people, they were always very welcoming,” said Marin.
Next year, Newell plans to bring students to the Monte Cristi community again. In the past, they have alternated between communities in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, but Newell says that they plan to return to the same community in order to build a continuous relationship with them.
“This way, volunteers who have gone before can go back and we are hoping to see a lot of the same students in the community again.”