Looking Back on Service Projects of Significant Impact

How A VISIONS Service Project Moved A Family To Their New Home Just In Time

If you were a high school participant or leader in the Dominican Republic in 2005, you might remember this event, which we’ve drummed up from the archives.


By: Max Savishinsky

Summer 2005

In the last 12 months, Mother Nature has made the world pay attention to and respect her
power. While the work accomplished by VISIONS participants is substantial, rarely does it occur in such a dramatic context as last July in the Dominican Republic. VISIONS participants, their leaders, and community members shared a powerful experience after a potent rainstorm. Here is an email that Max Savishinsky, DR Program Director, sent a few days after the event.

“As you know, we were just put through the ringer by Hurricane Dennis. Not sure how much of the constant rain that explains, but it has been powerful.

After we demolished one of the shanties we are rebuilding as a house, we left behind a very tall cinder block wall (at least 25’) that was a retaining wall for the hillside on which this former “house” (shantie) had been built. We stripped it down so that there was nothing left but the back wall and the floor.

Then we started clearing and rebuilding. Late Wednesday night, the worst of the rains were upon us, fierce downpours, winds and lightning. While we were huddled in our homebase at Escuela Melvin Jones, the retaining wall at the worksite gave way and a landslide of wet dirt and cinder blocks smothered the space, and a few days of our own work was lost.

When the family of the house woke up in the morning in their temporary shelter, they found the wreckage, as did our worksite crew when everyone arrived on site to work yesterday. It was day 3 of work for us. The mother from the house took one of our leader’s hands and walked her over the mud pile to the highest point and told her that this was where her bed used to be, and that right next to it, that of her daughter. 

While holding her hand, she explained that had we not been building her a new house, and had we not started when we did, she and her family would have been laying in those beds under the mud and rubble.

The neighbors and local partners were profoundly affected, and there was a lot of talk of Divine Providence, coincidence, blessings. People kept saying that VISIONS saved lives this week, although fate and serendipity could obviously take the credit just as well.

Nevertheless, it was a deeply moving thing to experience, and no matter how one might try to explain it, I think that despite the luck and chance in this particular case, the indisputable truth is that we are building houses that will withstand the next storm, and the storm after that, and that the work we are doing isn’t leaving things like this — things like people’s lives — up to chance.”


VISIONS in The New York Times