KINGSTON, R.I.-October 27, 2016- As the sun rose on a quiet morning, the peace and tranquility of the Dominican Republic was interrupted by the sound of U2’s “It’s a Beautiful Day” blasting through the mountains of the Valle Nuevo village. University of Rhode Island senior Elizabeth Malloy got up, got ready, and started her day. The Dominican Republic is one of the top tourist destinations in the Caribbean, but Malloy was not there over the summer for a luxury vacation. Instead, she was embarking on a project to build a sustainable water system for the people of the village.
The Wareham, Mass. resident’s passion for change and service is not something that happened over night. In high school, she was involved in her school’s theater program where she helped with set design and construction. She has always felt comfortable building things and even occasionally helped her brother with his home renovation business. Throughout her time at URI, Malloy realized that she wanted to pursue a major in journalism with a double minor in wildlife conservation biology and sociology.
In her junior year at URI, Malloy went on her first service trip with the University’s Winter J-Term program, a three-week academic program offered during winter break that allows students to complete coursework on campus and take advantage of study-abroad options for credit. The class was called Social and Political Change in the Dominican Republic and provided her with her first chance to travel out of the country and her first trip on a plane. She and her fellow volunteers worked on a sanitation project, building 18 latrines for families in a village five hours North of Santo Domingo.
That intense and very enjoyable experience inspired her to seek even greater volunteer opportunities, choosing to enroll in the first class of URI’s Peace Corps Prep, the only such program offered at any college in Rhode Island. It also led to her summer trip to the Dominican Republic, this time with Blue Missions, a service organization based out of Miami that brings students and volunteers to needy villages.
Once in Valle Nuevo in the north-central section of the country, she found many families who work together toward a sense of community. Conditions in the village are primitive and the homes did not have running water.
For the summer project, the objective was to help bring sustainable, flowing water to villagers who once had to hike for two hours over mountainous terrain carrying water in containers. The village once had a water pump, but it required electricity, which was unreliable. So, the volunteers developed a gravity-based system.
Over the course of her nine-day trip, Malloy and her team installed pipes that would bring water to a tank, which the volunteers also built. Laying the pipes was a grueling task. The volunteers connected the pipes to the water source in the mountains. Once the pipes were laid, it took the team three days to build a massive holding tank out of concrete on a plot of land donated by a family in the village.
Throughout the course of the trip, the volunteers were not alone. “The children in the village were as involved in the project as the volunteers and they helped every step of the way,” Malloy said. “Their curiosity and eagerness helped inspire us to keep working hard.”
On the final day of the project, what the villagers and volunteers called “Water Day,” the team turned on the water to make sure there were no kinks in the operation. The water flowed freely through the pipes, cleaning them out and bringing water into the homes of the villagers.
“This was the first time most of the children saw clean, flowing water, and they ran from their homes to the water tank to make sure that everything was working properly,” Malloy said.
Along with the water, a definite sense of accomplishment flowed through the village that day as well. Malloy and the other volunteers had helped bring something so valuable to the lives of the people affected.
As she approaches graduation in the spring, Malloy said she “hopes that this story will inspire others to become involved with service work, at any level. Helping others is invaluable because the smallest thing, even just making kids laugh, can make an entire world of difference. But of course, there’s something to be said about working your butt off and going to bed at the end of the day with the feeling of accomplishment, and that’s something that I had there.”
She hopes to complete a volunteer stint with the Peace Corps after she graduates from URI. Then, Malloy hopes to use her love of service and her broadened worldview at National Public Radio or Public Broadcasting Service.
“I hope to work with and report on injustices at the national, global, or environmental level,” Malloy said. “I believe that getting involved as a global citizen is a pivotal part of being a good journalist. My service work has helped me gain critical understanding about issues on a global level, not just those right outside my front door.”
For more information on Blue Missions and their service work, visit bluemissions.org
This release was written by Olivia Ross, an intern in URI’s Department of Marketing and Communications and a public relations major.