Education Without Borders
An international relations major puts her knowledge to work in the Dominican Republic.
By Linell Stabler ’05
In January of 2005, during my senior year at Bucknell, I traveled to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic to observe the activities and projects of Avanzada Comunal Enseñando y Sanando (A.C.E.S.), an organization I learned about from a colleague back in the States. In particular, I was to observe a one-day medical outreach activity in one of Santo Domingo’s many slums. As I prepared for my “observation visit,” I imagined sterile clinic exam rooms, orderly waiting rooms, and quiet professionals calmly dispensing their wisdom and treatments.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. In the first five minutes, I heard the screams of a young dental patient, as several of her teeth were pulled without the benefit of Novocain while three adults held her down in a kitchen chair. I watched a teenage mother cuddle a vitamin-deficient infant in her arms, and I smelled the stench of infection and the lack of hygiene. The “clinic” was a shabby concrete room where religious services were sometimes held, the “waiting room” was the busy street outside, and the “professionals” were harried doctors who struggled to consult with hundreds of impatient sick men, women, and children. The chaos was a far cry from the sane halls of Bucknell where I had planned this trip.
As an international relations student at Bucknell, I felt that I had the intellectual preparation for the poverty that exists in much of the world. But the reality in the Dominican Republic steamrolled that “head” knowledge and completely engaged my heart and soul. I knew immediately that this place, these people, and this organization would be part of my future.
On my return to the States — and before graduation — I became an advocate for my new friends in the DR and interested enough other Bucknell students in the A.C.E.S. projects to start an A.C.E.S. student organization. The idealistic energy of Bucknell’s environment was a perfect incubator for the birth of new health initiatives and classroom projects in those Santo Domingo slums. Not only that, the Bucknell enthusiasm sparked the beginning of an off-campus A.C.E.S. organization in Williamsport, Pa., my hometown.
Nowadays, students and professionals, business owners and residents are becoming inspired by the vision that I saw on that first observation trip in 2005 — the possibility of making a difference in quality of life for one community at a time in one of the poorest areas in this hemisphere. Service trips, fundraising, lectures, and donations are becoming habits as people are learning about the incredible potential of the combination of head knowledge and heart-centered compassion for the people of the Dominican Republic.
Bucknell made it all possible. As a Bucknell alumna, I will be forever grateful for the preparation that Bucknell afforded me — it provided a springboard for the work of my life.
Linell Stabler and her husband, Dan, live in Williamsport, Pa. They divide their time between their work in the Dominican Republic, their home and garden, and their fireplace business in Williamsport. For more information about ACES North America, go to www.acesnorthamerica.org, call 570-326-2961, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.