Caroline's Story

Meet Caroline Kelley

Year: Sophomore
Major: Social Work
School: Miami University
Loves: Reading, writing, yoga and kids

"The children taught me that joy is something that cannot be taken away.  It is everlasting and it triumphs over any and all bad circumstances."

I had the opportunity to study abroad in the Dominican Republic in January with JOY.  I was there for two weeks and we traveled to both Jarabacoa and Santo Domingo to help out with projects within the schools and play with the children.

One of the kids I really bonded with in Jarabacoa was a boy who we'll call "Joseph".  When I met Joseph, we instantly connected; I'm not really sure how to describe it.  He was around everyday after school, talking to us and teaching us Spanish (he knew some english so that really helped!)  He taught me to roll my r's and laughed at me when I tried and failed.  He seemed very mature for a 12 year old, and the instant I met him, his sweet soul just struck me as different.  God gave Joseph a radiant soul, one that shines from the inside out, and it was evident to everyone.  The day I had to leave Jarabacoa was surprisingly struck me that I might never see Joseph again and I had to hold back tears that were rushing in.  That day, I gave Joseph a cross silly band (anyone remember those?!)  I wanted to remind him of God's love and eternal peace, and even though I was leaving, God will never leave him.  His face lit up, it looked like I had just given him treasure.  I will never forget Joseph and his sweet soul.

In Santo Domingo, we worked on construction to help build the new Miancerg school in a nearby community.  During one of our breaks, I had the opportunity to play on the soccer field next to the construction site.  The sand was bright red and it just rained earlier that day, so I was covered in red dirt.  The man that owns the construction site used one of the construction site buckets as a drum and started singing worship songs in Spanish while the children were playing soccer.  After about 20 minutes, he came down in the middle of the soccer field during their game.  The kids went crazy and gathered around him in a circle, dancing and singing to the songs that he was playing.  Some kids used sticks as microphones and tree branches as guitars.  They belted out the song, "Mandelo a mandelo...aqui aqui aqui" (Submit to you!)  During that time of worship, I was overwhelmed with how much God surrounds us, wherever we go, no matter what language we speak.  He hears us, He understands us, and He is with us.

Now that I'm back on campus, I am involved in starting up the JOY student organization.  Our main goal is to spread the glory of God across campus and other countries, such as the Dominican Republic.  We want to connect students with our organization and with children around the world.  We hope that the students feel like they are apart of a supportive community where they can truly be themselves and share their ideas.  I hope to go back to the DR soon.  The children taught me that joy is something that cannot be taken away.  It is everlasting and it triumphs over any and all bad circumstances.  The light of joy cannot be quenched and the love of God crosses all barriers.

For more stories like Caroline's, follow us on social media @spreadJOYnow

Want to #spreadjoynow in a different country? On your campus? Contact us!