SNOHOMISH — In early December, Riverview Elementary School Principal Tammy Jones spent 10 days in the Dominican Republic.
She wasn’t there to enjoy sunny fun on the beach.
She was there to help build an elementary school.
Jones was one of 50 school administrators and teachers who went to the town of Constanza from Dec. 3 to 13. The trip was organized by Lifetouch, a national company that takes school and church pictures.
“It was incredible. There aren’t many words to describe it,” Jones said.
Jones said her group had to drive 4½ hours to get to the school. She saw people living in cars and cardboard houses, but they smiled and made friends with the volunteers.
Jones was selected in a drawing she entered through the National Association of Elementary School Principals in April. She considers herself lucky because she was picked on the first try. She says she’s heard of people waiting for years to be selected.
Lifetouch has been organizing these projects since 2000. All other schools built have been in Haiti. This is the first school being built in the Dominican Republic, corporate vice president Kelvin Miller said. Last year, volunteers built the first floor. This year, they added a second story to the school.
About 300 students are expected to attend the school, he said.
The organization took pictures of the volunteers and they also transmitted webcam conversations between the volunteers and their students back home.
“It was a cross-cultural experience,” Miller said.
Since it was a remote area, the volunteers had to use rudimentary tools to get the work done.
Jones had to mix concrete and mortar using a shovel. Since there was no running water, the volunteers had to carry water in buckets and with pulleys, she said.
Besides helping build the school, Jones brought with her $2,800 in school and medical supplies collected by her students and former students.
Jones said she would do it again if possible.
“All of us came back changed. I received a lot more than what I gave,” she said.
Alejandro Dominguez: 425-339-3422; firstname.lastname@example.org.