A developing service program called the Dispatch Project recently made its second trip, this time to Jamaica.
Its goal is to create a culture of service among businesses by encouraging employers to send workers or others to serve, but project leaders have a vision for Dispatch to expand.
An obvious goal on a service project would be to serve. But on the Jamaica service trip where team members distributed shoes to deaf kids, you didn't need to understand sign to see there was something bigger going on.
"This is my first mission trip and I'm hoping it's the first of very many to come," Tracy Kuipers said.
"We have so much; we take a lot of it for granted. We need to appreciate what we have and give back in any way we can," Jen Schaefer said.
That's the attitude and mindset organizers of the Dispatch Project, which brought the service team together, wants to spread through the business community in South Dakota.
The project launched earlier this year when it sent a team to the Dominican Republic to help build a church. And there are plans in the works to send another team to that country next year.
Nine people participated in that trip. Fifteen people, mostly from South Dakota, joined in the most recent one.
"There's a spark of interest with people here to do another trip and that's exactly what we hope, is that we create a spirit of service amongst business people in our community, to carry that torch and run with it for future projects," Paul Ten Haken said.
As an original leader of the Dispatch Project, Ten Haken has a vision of the program eventually zeroing in on three to five core locations. He and others are optimistic the project will continue and grow.
"Absolutely, I think it's going to keep growing and I hope it keeps growing," Ten Haken said.
And reaction from people who went on the trip suggests it will.
"It was so much fun getting to know their language, their culture, hanging out with them, associating with them and I definitely want to do it again," Tania March said.
"I don't want to see the world from the resort perspective where it's Americanized; I want to see how the people live," Kuipers said.
The project encourages employers to send employees or clients on a trip or take part in a trip themselves. Some businesses covered all or part of team members’ costs, others didn't.
Jen Schaefer's boss jumped on board with the Dispatch Project for the first time, sending Schaefer on the Jamaica trip. And the company hopes to continue sending more. Schaefer says she appreciated the experience.
"I knew I wanted to help out however we could, but being here just loving on these kids," Schaefer said.
She's confident the business she works for will benefit when others have that same experience. So Schaefer now joins in the Dispatch leaders' desire to see the program move forward.
In its beginning, the project had been reaching out mostly to the Sioux Falls business community. But Ten Haken would love to see business owners in other parts of the state jump on board as well.
"Sending employees, sending themselves as business owners, sending clients,” Ten Haken said. “But just providing a way for, an outlet for service amongst their staff or clients or whatever."
That's an investment Ten Haken has made in himself and in two of his employees so far. And he says it's paying off.
So he'll continue to add trips like this to the expense column of his business with the payback being larger than anything he'd know to record.
The most recent team served a week in Jamaica through an organization called Samaritan's Feet. The previous group served a week though an organization connected to the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee.
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