Raeanne Colville with some of the children whom she gifted with soccer jerseys in the Dominican Republic earlier this year.

See real life beyond the vacation resort

Items that we take for granted are amazing gifts to children in Third World countries.

Items that we take for granted are amazing gifts to children in Third World countries.

Raeanne Colville, 23, learned that on her two trips to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, first in 2006 and again this year from April 26 to May 3.

On the first trip with her father and sister Rechelle, they went on a tour called ‘Outback Safari,’ which brings tourists out of the ‘resort life’ to show them a real day in a Dominican resident’s lifestyle.

That means going to a home to meet a family, see a typical workday, and also going to a school.

“We had taken a few things along for the kids, because my aunt had told us about doing that. Although I was only 16, the tour changed my life,” said Colville. “I always said I would go back there one day and bring everything I could for those children in need.”

When planning the family vacation for this year, they decided on the destination together and Colville was thrilled when everyone agreed on Punta Cana, she said.

Colville had been on the board of directors for the Terrace Youth Soccer Association in 2012 and 2013 and discussions kept coming up about the jerseys that weren’t used anymore and how they should be donated to a charity so children could get use out of them, she said.

“When we decided on Punta Cana, I contacted Outback Safari and asked if we could do the same tour again so I could show my mom, boyfriend, and his family how amazing it was,” she said.

The tour manager was thrilled and agreed to let them bring five suitcases of items on the tour.

The Terrace Youth Soccer Association agreed to let her take the 180 unused jerseys to the children.

“I can’t thank them enough for donating the jerseys,” she said.

Outback Safari put her in contact with the Dominican school teachers and, instead of the usual one school visit, they agreed that Colville could visit two schools.

She decided to make her own contribution to the kids.

“I personally made every child a backpack filled with paper, crayons, pencils, toys, hair clips, candy, and other school supplies,” she said, adding her mom and her boyfriend’s mom also collected items for her to take.

“I know how much these things mean to the children because last time we were there, the teacher told us at the end of each school year they erase every piece of paper in the children’s notebooks for the student coming along next year.”

After they gave the gifts to the children at the first school, the teacher gathered them in a group to sing a song to thank them. The second school was having immunization day and any upset children  felt better when they saw the gifts, she said.

“The children didn’t speak much English, but they knew ‘thank-you’ very well. One child grabbed me and hugged me for a long time and said ‘Thank you! Thank you! You are my very best friend in the whole world!’

“The kids were so happy when we asked to take a picture with them outside. When we had to leave the school, they proceeded outside and blew bubbles as we drove away,” she said.

“The things we take for granted every single day these children appreciate more than words can say. I will never forget the look on those kids’ faces when they received their backpacks and jerseys. They truly acted like they had won the lottery.”

She gave some of the leftover jerseys to the two tour guides for their children and grandchildren. And the rest went to staff, who had children, at their resort.

“One staff member was jumping up and down and ran to the staff room to put his daughter’s jersey away,”

Colville will be finishing her business degree at the University of Northern BC in Prince George in the fall and after she’s finished the two years, she wants to plan an annual trip to different places around the world to do similar work.

“I would recommend anyone to bring some little things along on their next family trip to a poor country,” she said adding the experiences gave her a feeling inside that’s “indescribable.”

“There is much more to see in these Third World countries besides the beach and the resort.”