During the first week of May, Univera Associates and Corporate Staff accompanied Serve First’s partner, Vitamin Angels, on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. Though Univera has assisted Serve First on several of these trips, the DR was a first for Univera. While there, the Associates witnessed the mission of Serve First played out in real time, as the lives of some very deserving children were impacted with the gift of essential, life-giving micronutrients.
Below, is a summary of one Associate’s experience:
Upon arriving, the first thing I noticed was how curious and well behaved the children were, not to mention their big, bright, smiling eyes. They seemed so innocent and showed an unmistakable acceptance and love for each another. Conflict was rare between the village members and starting at a young age, they looked out for one another, caring for them as their parents do. Mothers let us hold their babies and the children quickly challenged us into playing games with them. I absolutely loved playing with them and wanted to take some of them home. Not for the children and not because I felt like they needed what I had to offer, but more selfishly for myself. When asked “how long have you lived in this village,” some replied by saying “kind of forever.” Four generations of one family has lived here and they continue to live a simple yet happy and serene lifestyle.
Vitamin Angels’ contribution makes the perfect impact in their world because they help with the developmental stage from conception to the first few years of life. Our focus was to distribute vitamins to pregnant and lactating women and children under five years old. As vitamins were placed on the tabletop covered with a colorful cloth, the kids sat quite patiently for some time. I’ve never seen anything like it. I hardly saw any squabbling, except when we opened the truck and bestowed upon them our gifts from the U.S. The results of the mothers and children who had been on the program for a while and those who hadn’t were truly significant. The vitamins made a noticeable impact on the health and well-being of these families. Mothers reported that their appetites had increased since being on the vitamins and there was less sickness.
The children and their families didn’t need rescuing, only support which they received so graciously. I am grateful to have witnessed the simple necessities required by mankind and by contrast how far we have come to complicate matters.
Everyone in the village seemed at peace while the kids played together, running from one dwelling to the next. Every adult seemed pleased to take care of any and all of the children visiting their homes, whether they were their kids or not. I felt an intense emotion of love emanating out of everyone’s glimmering eyes and that presence makes one wonder who is the privileged; it suddenly became clear to me. I witnessed first-hand the understanding that I have always had: we are healthiest living in tribes, remaining connected as a community. When asked “what is your dream for the future,” they replied by saying “that their children be healthy and receive education, just like any other mother in the world would want.”
The children and their families didn’t need rescuing, only support which they received so graciously. I am grateful to have witnessed the simple necessities required by mankind and by contrast how far we have come to complicate matters. Am I ready to give up all of my technological gadgets and the many comforts of my home? No, but I will never forget what I have learned from visiting these villages and the differences I have seen in relation to our culture, especially with how open and affectionate the children were with us. This experience will help me remember from time to time what is important and what isn’t.
Thank you Vitamin Angels, Bill Lee and Ralph Bietz.
With love, Angelyn Toth