Back-to-School Student Spotlight: Sofi Castellanos '18

This summer Sofi Castellanos '18 led a nine-day community service trip to the Dominican Republic. The trip marked Gulliver's first partnership with BLUE Missions, a non-profit organization focused on building sustainable water and sanitation projects. Sofi was one of 19 Gulliver Prep students on the trip, chaperoned by alum Andres Pumariega '08 and the BLUE team. Read on to hear more about Gulliver's first BLUE Missions trip.

Q: How did you get involved with BLUE Missions and how did you bring BLUE to Gulliver?

A: For my sophomore year of high school, I attended Our Lady of Lourdes Academy, where BLUE was extremely popular. I had heard about the trip and how impactful it was to each and every participant, and that is what initially got me interested in joining the BLUE family. After going on my first trip last year, I was impacted in a way that I was not expecting. Knowing that I was going to be transferring to Gulliver for my junior year, I knew that I had to share this life-changing experience with my new peers. Being the impatient person that I am, I presented my expansion idea to my BLUE leader before my first trip was even over. She was on board with my proposal and right after we got back to Miami, a BLUE/Gulliver trip was in the works for summer 2017.

Q: Out of all the available service trip opportunities, why BLUE Missions?

A: I chose BLUE mainly because I knew more about it than other service trips, due to the fact that I knew many of the people who had previously gone on a trip. On a wider spectrum, I chose BLUE also because of its impact on underserved communities.

Q: What activities did you do on this trip?

A: With Gulliver this year, we built VIP latrines for 16 families in the town of Guanabano. What I mean by VIP latrines is that these latrines we built allow for privacy while using the bathroom. Prior to us going in and building these bathrooms, the people had to use old, smelly, run-down bathrooms with no doors. We wanted to fix this by giving them the privilege of privacy and bathrooms with ventilation. It was a heartwarming experience to be able to bring such happiness to these people with such a simple and common thing – a bathroom.

Q: Describe one or two of your most memorable moments from the trip.

A: I can go on and on with memories from this amazing trip. Two unforgettable events that we experienced happened on the first and last days of the trip. First, when we arrived in Guanabano, about 20 people from the "campo" were waiting for us in our living quarters. I have never seen such happy people in my life. They instantly started giving us hugs and kisses and making us feel more at home than we could have ever imagined. Later they performed a dance and song for us where all I could do was watch them with a gigantic smile on my face and tears of joy streaming down my cheeks. It was beautiful. Secondly, the day before we left, every BLUE trip hosts what they call "dedspedida" which is basically a goodbye party for the volunteers. This was my favorite and least favorite day of the trip. We spent the whole night dancing with friends we made from the campo. It was pure happiness until we had to say goodbye. I could not help but cry throughout the whole process. One of the little kids that I got way too attached to, made me a bracelet and gave it to me that night. I will truly never forget it.

Q: What do you hope your fellow students took away from this trip?

A: I hope the students that joined me this year will take away that we must always be grateful for what we have in front of us, and to always remember to live in the moment.

Q: What did you personally learn from this trip?

A: From this trip I personally learned that kindness and love are truly what brings us together. I also learned that I need to realize how blessed I am at home and that I should stop sweating the small stuff and be happy in the moment with what I have.

Q: How do students get involved with BLUE at Gulliver?

A: To get involved, students can sign up for the BLUE Club at Club Rush, and from there, they can decide whether or not they want to go on a BLUE trip.

Club Rush will take place on Wednesday, September 6 during both lunch periods and the afternoon break (11:20 a.m.-1:45 p.m.)