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A spring break to remember for years to come

Samuel and Savannah Hilgendorf in the Domincan Republic

By Liz Jurkowski with photos courtesy of the Hilgendorf family

It takes a couple of special kids to devote their spring break to helping others. Most relish the opportunity to sleep in, watch their favorite morning shows or go skiing over the break from school. Samuel and Savannah Hilgendorf travelled to a third-world country, became immersed in a completely unfamiliar culture, and found themselves deep in a dirt hole!

Savannah (grade 2) and Samuel (grade 5) both attend Buffalo Ridge Elementary. Their church, Castle Pines Community Church (CPCC) has a relationship with a church in Villa Hermosa, Dominican Republic. This spring, members of CPCC travelled to the Dominican Republic to help to expand the small parish.

Savannah helped mostly with the kids of the community. She took pictures, played games, and was involved in arts and crafts with the local churchgoers. She says it was fun to “experience a different culture and see the way they live.” Savannah admits the rough conditions that people live in are very different than here in Colorado, but says, “Everybody is really happy, with smiles on their faces!”

Samuel found himself getting sweaty and dirty digging huge excavation holes for the new pillars of the expanding church. “It was hot and moist and sweaty,” he admitted. Samuel had small blisters on his hands and admits that it was hard work, but knows he was “doing something very good” for the people in Villa Hermosa, a village that is now enveloped by the capital, Santo Domingo.

Savannah described a fun tradition the children of the community have with the foreigners who visit. When the CPCC group would get on their bus to go on a city tour or back to their hotel, the locals would gather behind it and catch candy thrown from the inside of the bus. “The toss candy tradition was fun, and the kids just want to play.”

A young boy took quite a liking to Samuel. “Amigo Junior,” Samuel calls him, was a lot of fun. On the last day in Villa Hermosa, they played a hot-potato type game with a large local fruit. Both Hilgendorf siblings realized then that kids are all the same around the world, playing fun games and getting along, even with a language barrier and cultural difference.

Upon returning to Castle Pines, Samuel and Savannah look at their life a little differently. Samuel says he is “more grateful for everything,” happy to have sidewalks and paved streets, his own bedroom and a solid house. Savannah, who was concerned about the sanitation and diseases in the Dominican Republic, admits she was a little scared before she embarked on this trip, but returned from it admitting it was “awesome and adventurous.”

“Awesome and amazing,” Samuel agrees. For sure, a spring break to remember.

Samuel hard at work digging a pit

Savannah and Samuel playing “hot potato” with their new friends

The Hilgendorf children pose next to a Dominican with a gun!



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