Dominican Republic 2010
mber Garner is a 2010 Belmont University graduate who earned a degree in journalism. She is passionate about serving people and ready to see what God has in store for her on the island of Hispaniola. Read More About Amber →

I’m Home!

Well I’m back! Stateside again and acclamating very well.  I would like everyone to note in the minutes that I am a very skilled airport-er now and can handle the airport like a big kid. Customs was still very scary. Saying goodbye at the airport to the poeople that had become my adopted mom and dad for three months was sad, but not as sad as you would think. It’s not because I don’t love them, it’s because I know I will see them again. They are in my life now, a permanent part of my journey (as is Dove) and it wasn’t goodbye just see you soon!

I am forever grateful for the things I have learned and experienced in the Dominican Republic. I am so thankful for Lumos and Cynthia and Dr. Monteverde for providing me with the support  I needed to make this happen.  I am thankful to Nini, Dea, Marlenis, Terry and Demaris for taking me under their wing and allowing me to be apart of their families. It wouldn’t have been the same without them. I am thankful for Liz, James, Chulo and Bella my family who loved me through all of my moments and created a billion memories with me. I am also so thankful to every little face that let me be apart of their lives for three months, they let me teach and they taught me, I am so grateful. Lastly, I am thankful for my family and friends stateside that supported me in this adventure and welcomed me home with open arms.

I have learned so many things from this experience, but one of the biggest things I may have learned is that you can live that life you want. There is a plan for you and it is a huge adventure that you can make happen. This trip seemed crazy last December when I started thinking about going and one year later  have come and gone there.  I am now even more excited for the next amazing thing I will get to do.

I would also like to leave a challenge. If you are reading this you have more than most. You have been blessed by being lucky enough not to be born in a third world country. Use that blessing to help someone else. You don’t have to travel like  I did, but you do have a gift that you can use in some way. I would encourage you (whoever you are) to find that gift, tap into it and use t to help someone else!

I’m not sure if this will be my last blog so check back. I will def be giving a convo at Belmont in Jan. so more info to come on that 🙂

Moto Mix

I realize this may be coming a little late, but I wanted to share this with everyone. When I became a very skilled moto rider I started listening to my ipod as we drove through the city. Here is my play list for a most excellent moto ride.

Hey Monday  I Don’t Want to Dance

All Tme Low  Stella

B.O.B  Magic

Half Priced Hearts  Summer of Love

Half Priced Hearts  Tell Me So

Ellie Goulding Lights

This mixtape also works for most excellent car rides!

Mustard Seed

Mustard Seed is the name of the very first pre-school I ever attended. It was a great experience. I only went for half a day and some days (most days) my grandmother would stop and get me lunch at this little local place called Jinny’s. It’s one of my first memories.

Mustard Seed  also happens to be the name of a home for disabled children here in the DR. We spent the morning there today and it was fantastic. I have often found that I can be sort of ungraceful in situations where I’m not sure what to do and today I was fumbling. What was amazing was that the people that run Mustard Seed were so wonderful and helped me to just jump right in talking to the kids and just giving them hugs. Sometimes, especially here, kids are cared for but don’t get a lot of physical attention because parents are so busy doing other things. Just the human touch, rubbing there hands, holding them, made a difference. There were so wonderful and it was a brilliant experience.

The Mustard Seed was started years ago by a Jamaican couple who had already started a similar program in their home country and wanted to start one in the DR. They literally started in a hut with a dirt floor just taking in kids that they found or were dropped off at their door. They really had no means to be undergoing that kind of endeavor, but they made it and saved the lives of so many kids. It has now grown to the home it is now with special chairs built just for kids with special needs, a full staff and a safe loving home.

I am so glad I got to go today!

Salsa, Bachata, Merengue

I’ve heard people say that dance is art in motion. Well, this is not the kind of art you would find in a fine gallery in some swanky down town area. This is the kind of art you see in someone’s home and have to ask “Where did you find this?” Then you they tell you, “Oh, my daughter, she does this and her grandfather before her and it’s just  in our family.”  You leave their house feeling like you have shared something special and that they have given you a gift.

Watching people spin and dip to the sound of Dominican music was this art;this gift. We went to a Rancho Tipico, which is the common name for a dance hall. They play music very loud, so loud in fact you can’t talk to the person next to you. It’s ok though, you’re not there to talk, you’re there to dance. The worst dancers on the floor look like seasoned professionals and the best dancers perform with the ease and grace of someone who has been doing it their whole life.

These dances aren’t taught. Everyone here dances. It’s an expression of joy and a way to literally step away from the stressors of life. There was no fighting, no air of conflict. There were only people doing what these people have done forever and to me it was art.

Lola’s House

There is a grandmother here named Lola. Lola is not tall. I think in her younger days she must have been 5’4”, but time has pushed her down to 5’2”.  She has long brown hair that is mostly covered by the hairs that have turned snowy white that she wears pulled back in a bun. Lola is kind and loving and when she hugs you she makes you feel warmand safe like how a good mother does. At Lola’s house there are 16 children.  She is their protector, provider and teacher. Lola’s children are the most well behaved and respectful, yet their personalities are not stifled. They are the product of a loving home and a strong woman. Lola came to pick up her monthly food allowance last week and brought 6 of the children with her. They dance around Lola in the way Earth dances around the Sun. Orbiting in reverence and love. She is one of the most remarkable people I have met here and I haven’t even had a full conversation with her. I have grown to know her children very well and they are beautiful. There are 18 children in our orphanage in Haiti, in Lola’s house there are 16 children.

Christmas Time!

So, there is no holiday here between Halloween and Christmas. Halloween really isn’t that big of a deal anyway so people get so excited about Christmas. We have already started decorating at the club. Some houses here even have lights on the outside like in the states, I will try to get photos of these! We have the tree up at the club at stockings are hung everywhere. The kids even wrote letters to Santa and to their sponsors! The teachers have been wearing Santa hats its so funny. At La Syrena, the Dominican Wal-Mart, they have been playing Christmas music for the past month and all the cashiers are wearing Santa hats. Here everyone that has a good job gets the holidays off and double pay to have a Christmas dinner or maybe a few presents. It’s really just a good dinner though, presents may not make an

appearance.  The government has decorated all of their buildings with lights, garland and wreaths. There are even a couple huge public Christmas trees. Dove gives the families more food to have a big dinner for Christmas and we get every child a gift of some sort. This year we also have a church doing Angel Tree with our kids so they will hopefully have a little something extra which is fantastic! Here are some pics of us decorating!


We’ve been painting the club this past week and it has been so much fun! We had the kids put their hand prints on the wall and it was so cute! Here are some photos from that!


If you’ve been watching the news I’m sure you’ve heard about the Cholera outbreak in Haiti. Over a thousand have died and the border into the DR has been closed for the past two days. It is terrible and it makes me sick to my stomach. I just got off the phone with Father Andre, the priest that runs the orphanage in Haiti and it’s not good. People are rioting because the politicians aren’t doing anything to help and are instead spending money on their campaigns. They have burned down the police station in Cap Haitian and no one was allowed to leave their homes today. Please keep Haiti in your heart and on your mind during this terrible time.


Hurricane Tomas was more like a lot of rain here in Puerto Plata than a full blown hurricane. This means while it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, it still wasn’t good.  Water rose in the barrios as high as 3ft last night and it’s just now receding today. When this happens all they can do is try to keep their things dry and open their doors and windows. The reason for this is that if the water rushes in it could collapse the whole house if it has nowhere to go. Electricity is going in and out and it is still over cast. This makes it pretty hard to dry anything that got wet. It is a bit comforting to know that this isn’t the first time any of this has happened to these people and they know what to do in this situation. However, there are always the worst and best cases. The staff here is very small so it makes relief a hard thing to accomplish. I will still teach English tomorrow at the club and I will either have no students or a ton of kids just wanting to get out of the house for a bit. Please just pray for these families and the hard time they are having right now.