RBR Student Returns to Latin America with Friends to Help Students in the Dominican Republic
For fourteen years, Mara Campolattaro of Rumson watched her dad take mission trips to the Dominican Republic to perform surgery as a pediatric ophthalmologist through ILAC (Institute for Latin American Concern). In 2015, she had the idea to start a father-daughter mission and made her first humanitarian trip to make her own contribution to the underserved in Latin America. She brought along her dad and her six best friends and their dads and built an aqueduct to bring clean water to the Dominican Republic village of La Piragua Abajo for the first time.
In November of 2016, during a high school break, Mara returned to the same country for her second mission, this time to help finish the construction and refurbishment of several buildings in the village of Comedero. Returning with her were her friends Maddie Orr, Olivia Turi, Paige Borden, Hannah Horan, Caroline Healey and Annabel Morris and their fathers. The girls, who call themselves “HeretoHelp”, raised over $15,000 to finance the projects. They also collected nearly 700 pounds of donated school supplies for the children of the village. To get the supplies to the island, each member of “HereToHelp” used carry-on luggage for their own belongings and checked a bin holding 50 lbs. of everything from pencils to backpacks.
Regarding the work they did, Mara explains, “The organization that my dad has worked with for fifteen years, ILAC, recommended projects in the Dominican Republic that would be appropriate for us to do. This year, we provided a follow-up mission that the Chicago Cubs had began. We helped to complete refurbishment of a schoolhouse, medical clinic and church. Because of generous donations from family, friends and the community, we were able to finish all of the projects that we set out to complete. The kids at the school now have fans, indoor plumbing and a concrete patio to play on instead of dirt and mud. We painted the inside and outside of the school, repainted the inside of the church and painted the outside of the village medical clinic.”
The team worked on their mission for about 9 or 10 hours for each of four days. They were aided by some of the men and boys in the village and some of the “HereToHelp” funds sponsored local expert consultations when needed.
Mara states of the condition of the buildings before they brought their paint, plaster and tender loving care, “The buildings were all really run-down. By completing the work on the school, we felt proud to know that the children would now have a clean, safe environment where they could feel comfortable and happy while learning.”
On their break time, they girls were able to visit the children in the school they were improving and distributed the donated school supplies they had brought with them. On their last day on the mission, the girls visited the refurbished medical clinic where they were able to meet with patients. A small celebration was held in their honor with music and dancing.
Mara comments, “We have met and bonded with so many amazing people during our missions. We hope to have the opportunity to go back and work on more projects in the future. All of us of “HereToHelp” hope to work to improve the lives of as many people as possible. And while we may call it work, it is truly so much more than that to us. In the end, we are the ones who leave with an incredible gift.”