Inspiring Community Service
Justin Lee ’08 studied in Barcelona during his third year at Redlands, and says that experience – along with his involvement in the diversity-based brotherhood RYG – captured his imagination and made him realize he wanted to share his talents within a dramatically different culture.
Justin is doing just that through his Peace Corps assignment in the Dominican Republic town of Bahoruco, located on the southwestern coast.
His primary assignment is to work with an artisan association that produces jewelry made out of larimar, a rare stone only found in the Dominican Republic.
“The mine is 17 kilometers from my site, and so I get to learn about the whole process from the mine to the workshop to the customers’ hands,” Lee explained.
In addition to his primary assignment, Lee also has had a chance to pursue other projects he feels passionate about, including teaching a youth business course, where students developed a business plan that was entered in a national Peace Corps competition.
He also has taught sex-education classes, taken local children to camps and conferences, staged an art camp, organized a medical mission, worked as a translator on another medical mission, and given English classes to interested locals.
“It’s definitely been an invaluable experience,” he said. “I’ve learned an entirely different skill set since being here. You really have to put yourself outside your comfort zone, but it’s entirely worth it …. I knew some Spanish coming in, but … I definitely know way more than I ever did. People in my community now say I’m Dominican. I even learned how to dance Bachata and Merengue!”
Justin hopes that his experience will inspire other Bulldogs to continue to serve the community as alumni of the universty. "I've always thought University of Redlands students and alumni should consider joining the Peace Corps because service is something that Redlands supports and prides itself on." While Lee recognizes the value of his efforts in the Bahoruco community, he says he has gotten back even more than he has given.