For ten Gonzaga Law students, the warm temperatures and long days of Spring Break were spent in the Dominican Republic as a part of the 11th annual Mission: Possible service trip. The group, which is funded through fundraising activities throughout the year, as well as individual contributions from the students, spent the week volunteering in the village of Altagracia, a small rural village about an hour away from the country’s capital, Santo Domingo.
Working With The Communities
The group worked on various community service projects, including repainting the village’s Community Center, a structure used both for community events and a hurricane shelter as one of two concrete buildings in the town, assisting elders with yard maintenance, teaching English in the Altagracia primary school, and working at the Luz Maria Education Center in the nearby town, Cruz Verde.
Eleven years ago, GU Law’s very first Mission: Possible group broke ground at this Education Center, and ever since it has served as a place for the community to go to learn important skills such as sewing and computer use in order to further local micro-enterprise projects and youth’s educational and career prospects. This year’s Mission: Possible group assisted in preparing a community garden and creating a concrete walkway to the building. In developing and performing these projects, Mission: Possible worked with Seattle-based nonprofit Sister Island Project.
Support From Gonzaga and Spokane
The students – three of them returning to Altagracia as members of the past two years’ trips (Katie Shircliff, Catherine DiSarno, and Luke Eaton) – brought with them nine bags full to the brim of donations ranging from school and medical supplies to sports equipment to clothing donations.
The group procured these donations through the help of local organizations and sports teams, including Gonzaga and Whitworth men’s baseball, Gonzaga women’s basketball, Sacred Heart Medical Center, and the law school’s own Women’s Law Caucus, Sports and Entertainment Law Club, Street Law, and Professor Cheryl Beckett.
An Immersive Experience
During their time in Altagracia, the group lived with host families who only spoke Spanish. This was made possible by 5 members of the group speaking Spanish. In particular, native speakers Diana Alvarado Chavez and Rafael Laue served as translators for the group.
Mission: Possible culminated its time in the DR with a visit to Universidad Iberoamericana (UNIBE) to meet with Dominican law students. The students attended a lecture given by a UNIBE professor and law students on the Dominican legal system, then had an opportunity to discuss legal education and the Dominican law school experience with students.
Members of the 2014 Mission: Possible group included: Katie Shircliff (3L), Catherine DiSarno (2L), Luke Eaton (2L), Diana Alvarado Chavez (3L), Staci Dixon (1L), Christena Georgas (1L), Rafael Laue (1L), Tonilynn Savage (1L), Maren Sorenson (1L), and Anna Timberlake (2L).