Beyond the Hill Service Trip

January 21, 2013
Donophan C. Price III '13

From January 7 to 17, a group of 20 dedicated students, alumni, and staff from Hampden-Sydney College ventured to the Dominican Republic. We were part of Beyond the Hill, Hampden-Sydney's adventure and community service group. We set out on the trip with the goal of enriching the lives of a specific community within the city of La Romana by building a church for Haitian Christians.

Time-lapsed photography from James Miller '05 of progress on building.

When we arrived at the location, we were surprised to find out that we would be building a church, which the Dominicans called La Iglesia De Ebenezer, since there was already a church right across the dirt and gravel walkway.  Arielle, our interpreter from the mission house quickly explained that the island, split between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, has an estimated 22 million inhabitants. While the countries are split, many Haitians cross the border to find work in the Dominican Republic. However, because of the clear language difference between Spanish speaking Dominicans and Creole Speaking Haitians, there still exists a cultural divide. That same cultural divide makes it hard for Creole speaking Haitians to practice their faith in a Spanish speaking environment.

For a week, we paired up with local volunteer workers from the mission house and the Rotary Club of La Romana to construct a concrete church in which Haitains in the surounding towns could worship. We built much more than a building.  Between children hanging on our arms, desperate for loving attention, and the smiles on the children's faces when we visited the orphanage and donated a sewing machine, we all were affected. The Principal of a small school was speechless when she received a camera so that she could take pictures of her more than 1200 students.

The most emotional part of our trip was visiting the Bateys.  Bateys are small sheet metal structures which make up tiny communities in such remote locations that living is barely sustainable. The residents in these communities are often people who can barely get enough to eat or provide for themselves and are trapped there due to low wages they receive working in sugar cane fields. The children were scantily clothed and the parents had a plain look of desperation. We donated baseballs and books in an effort to give the children something to do in the community.

Our spirits were picked up on our last day when we attended the church service in the actual church we had built with our own hands. The feeling was unexplainable, and the appreciation of the community touched each and every one of us. We left with filled hearts, opened minds, and a sense of humbleness. I left realizing that no matter how hard life seems, there is always someone who has it harder. I and many other students have come to appreciate what we have and what we are able to do here at Hampden-Sydney, including a chance to be educated at all. If I could sum up our experiences this year as the Beyond the Hill crew in one word, I would say "enlightening." The knowledge and experiences we gained as a group will shape who we become as Hampden-Sydney men. 

Time-lapsed photography from James Miller '05 of church service.


First Story

by Ryan E. Raybuck '14 

When I first decided to come on the "Beyond the Hill" trip to the Dominican Republic, I was somewhat nervous and didn't know what to expect. Not only was this the first time I was going along on a "Beyond the Hill" trip, it was also the first time I left the country.

Working on ChurchThis nervousness was quickly erased because, along with the nine other Hampden-Sydney students on the trip, when we were working, I felt nothing but joy. The ability to help others is one of the greatest feelings that you could ever receive because at the end of the day you can say that you helped to make someone else's life better.

The group I was working with was primarily placing cement and cinderblock for the top portion of a church. The hard work was extremely rewarding, and I am so incredibly glad that I chose to come along on this trip because the entire experience so far has been nothing but a blessing.

My favorite memory from the trip thus far has been when the children came and helped my group get water from the cistern to use in the cement mixer. The children were so anxious to help that they would meet us in the street and try to carry the buckets for us. One little boy was acting as the crew manager and wouldn't allow me or anyone else to take the water until he gave us the "ok" signal.  He was having so much fun just by helping out in a small way and it made me so happy to see someone get that much joy out of a simple task.

Because of this trip, I have truly realized how blessed and fortunate we are. Hampden-Sydney College has taught me that one of the greatest things we can accomplish in life is to help another person who is in need.

Editor's Note: The Dominican Republic trip from January 7 to 17 is part of the ongoing "Beyond the Hill" prrogram in the Office of Student Affairs. The Janaury trip was led by Dean of Students, Dr. David Klein. 


At work in La RomanaMichael  Van Reekum '13, Thomas Ewing '13, and James Miller '05 work on the electrical wiring at the church in La Romana. (1944)








At work in La RomanaThomas Ewing '13 screens sand to be used for the fine stucco finish of the chruch in La Romana.







At work in La RomanaHampden-Sydney Students work on the church at La Romana.















At work in La RomanaHolden McLemore '16 talks with Ariel, the local interpretor, working with other students in the Dominican Republic















At work in La RomanaHampden-Sydney students work on removing a large rock from the back courtyard outside a church in La Romana.