Lisa Kelly, PhD, is a Saybrook University graduate, a member of the Saybrook University faculty, and the Director of Instructional Excellence in the School of Mind-Body Medicine. In November of 2012 Dr. Kelly returned to Puerto Plata, in the Dominican Republic ,to work with the children sponsored by the Dove Mission Youth Development Center (https://dovemissions.org/). This was Lisa’s sixth trip to work with the disenfranchised children of Puerto Plata. Over the past seven years, Lisa has served as an outreach volunteer, board member, and in 2009 as the Executive Director of this small grassroots organization.
The mission of Dove Missions is to improve the lives and futures of children at risk and in crisis in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The goal of the youth development center is to provide a safe place for kids to have fun, develop English speaking skills, cultivate self-esteem, and foster an appreciation and commitment to education. Since children in Puerto Plata only attend school for half a day, the Dove Mission Youth Development Center provides them a safe place to socialize and learn new skills while preventing drug abuse and prostitution.
Lisa loves working with the kids at the Dove Mission Youth Development Center and over the years has cultivated deep and loving relationships with many of the children. This year she took a number of the most impoverished children to Ocean World where they shared a joy-filled day together.
Two of the children she has worked with every time she has visited the DR are Richard (16) and Domingo (17). Lisa met both boys 7 years ago, when they were working the streets as young shoe shine boys. Now, because of the Youth Center, both boys (along with their friend, Junior) are off the streets and working to help other kids at the Youth Center to create healthy and empowering futures. During this trip to the Dominican Republic, Lisa and her partner, Marc, rewarded these three boys for their dedication to the Youth Center by taking them and some of their friends on a couple of exciting adventures, including a zip-lining activity and a waterfall excursion. Lisa is also Richard’s sponsor, and purchased him a bike this year to help him get to and from school and work.
This year Lisa also spent a day at the Youth Center teaching the younger children a number of mind-body skills that they could use in their daily lives to decrease stress. She led the children in a soft-belly meditation, and then facilitated a lively “shaking and dancing” session. Teaching the children these skills provided them with tools they can take into their daily lives (lives filled with hunger, addiction, poverty, and anxiety) to help them manage their stress. These tools are the kind of resources that the Youth Center makes available to these children — resources they would never have access to without Dove Missions. Lisa is dedicated to helping children at risk, and is interested in what motivates people to help those less fortunate than they are. Her dissertation research was on the Lived Experience of Altruism. She continues to be fascinated with the experience of compassion and is now starting research on the role that psychological courage plays in pro-social behavior.