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West Jordan Journal

Elementary vice principal gets her hands dirty on life-changing trip

Mar 16, 2020 03:12PM ● By Jet Burnham

Amy Adams gets her hands dirty on a life-changing trip to the Dominican Republic. (Photo Courtesy Lifetouch)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Vice principal Amy Adams helps students every day at Riverside Elementary, building relationships and improving behavior. In January, she helped build a school in Constanza, Dominican Republic, as part of a Lifetouch Memory Mission.

“Lifetouch has a long legacy of giving back, and the Memory Missions exemplify that spirit of community, giving and shared experiences through photography and a commitment to education,” said Greg Hintz, president of Lifetouch.

More than 500 volunteers have devoted 100,000 hours during 17 Lifetouch Memory Mission projects over the last 20 years. Adams was part of a group of 50 educators and Lifetouch and Shutterfly employees who volunteered a week of their time to build a second-floor expansion at Cecaini School, which volunteers built in 2011.

Adams said volunteers worked together as a team to accomplish a lot in the week they were there. She said it was physical work.

“I don't do a whole lot of manual labor,” Adams said. “It was hard, but I came away with a much greater appreciation of what it means to make cement. We built walls upstairs, and we built rooms downstairs, and it was all done by hand.”

Principal Ronna Hoffman said everyone at Riverside Elementary was excited for Adams to be a part of the trip. Through a Facebook Live event, Adams spoke with students at Riverside, gave them a tour of the village and showed them what work she was doing at the school.

“The students were very excited to see Miss Adams on Facebook Live,” Hoffman said. “It was good for our students to see how truly fortunate we are here.”

Since the trip, many students have talked with Adams about her experience. They’ve asked her about the school, the country and the children. They asked her why there was no grass around the school and why the playground was so small.

Children in the village were just as inquisitive, gathering to watch the volunteers work each day.

“The kids there were the same as the kids here,” Adams said. “They wanted to know what was going on on their playground.”

When the volunteers walked through the village, the children would grab their hands and walk with them. Adams said while they didn’t speak the same language, they found ways to communicate through gestures and facial expressions.

Volunteers were encouraged to bring toys for the village children. Adams played with the children and their new basketballs, jump ropes and coloring books. She said the most popular items were bottles of bubbles and cheap plastic sunglasses.

The villagers were also excited about the portraits Lifetouch photographers took of the students and of their families. Adams participated in some community events and was impressed by the people’s kindness and humility.

“The community was very grateful that we were there,” Adams said. “They recognize the importance of education.”

The contrast between life for students in Constanza and West Jordan was extreme, said Adams.

“We here in West Jordan are very, very blessed with all of the things that we have,” she said. “I think that we try to find happiness in stuff. The people in this little village don't have much, and they had pure joy in everything.”

Adams came home with just one mosquito bite and a whole new appreciation of simplicity inspired by the people she met.

“It just made me realize that you don't find joy in ‘stuff’,’” she said. “You find joy in relationships, and you find joy in working with people and hard work.”