An Ode to the Campo Hustle

As an engineer in the technology industry, I often find myself automating a large part of my work. I develop scripts, systems, and work-flows that take day-to-day tasks and automagically perform them so I can work on larger projects and initiatives. The less time I spend putting out fires, the more time I can spend building.

The building of gravity fed – and, in one case, electric pump fed – water aqueduct systems for towns in the Dominican Republic do not have the luxury of ever being automated. It is with creative engineering, robust construction, and by the sweat of BLUE workers and volunteers that we see blue prints (no pun intended) materialize into a source of life and sustainability in the form of trenches, water tanks, plumbing, and filtration in these communities.

Vince Lombardi once said “I firmly believe that any man's finest hour -- his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear -- is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause…”. This resonates with me because I have always appreciated the fulfillment that hard work and manual labor in the Campo has given me. Whether it was digging trenches with a pick, laying down and cementing cinder blocks, the furious pace at which we pass and toss “mezcla” buckets, the making of said "mezcla", carrying 100-pound cement bags up lengthy hills, or laying down and gluing PVC pipes, I enjoyed working on every aspect of the building process and knowing that I made meaningful contributions to every project we worked on. Albeit, it was looking at my clothes at the end of the day and seeing the sweat, cement stains, occasional cuts and bruises, and dirt, that gave me the most satisfaction when I laid in my mosquito net clad cot at the end of every night.

Every BLUE volunteer makes contributions in their own way. Whether it's building relationships with the locals, doing a great job of setting up and taking down for meal times, or making sure we have all the tools for the day’s mission, the hard labor of the Campo has always been what I appreciated the most. Seeing the projects I have put my time and efforts into go from concept to reality are why I felt I had earned every meal of the day.

There is virtue and indubitable self-reliance in working for the things you build. In the Campo, we don’t use machines or much technology; we use picks and shovels, buckets, planters, sifters, machetes, and ropes. And while we use these tools we build up an appetite that makes a simple meal taste like it came from a 3 star Michelin restaurant. Few things make me as happy.

I leave you with this: Richard Proenneke once said “To look around at what you have accomplished in a day gives a man a good feeling. Too many men work on parts of things. Doing a job to completeness satisfies a man”.