Thursday, September 23, 2010
I just moved from the capital Santo Domingo to a small town in the countryside for “community-based training.” In Santo Domingo all 59 of us volunteers learned the basics regarding health and safety, geography of the country, and Dominican culture and language. Now the 11 other health volunteers and I are located in a small campo, which is similar to where we will be living once we are at our permanent sites. Here in Las Tablas we have had the privilege to learn Spanish in very small groups with a handful of Spanish teachers that came with us. My class has only 2 other volunteers and I am definitely starting to notice my Spanish improving. Finally, I have overcome my habit of saying “oui” in lieu of “si.” Coupled with the Spanish I am learning lots more about what I will actually be doing here to promote health as well as the resources and tools available.
One of the main objectives of my service is to start two committees in the community that I will eventually be living in. The first is a youth group called Escojo mi vida (I choose my life) that focuses on making healthy sexual decisions. The other is an adult group called Hogares Saludables (Healthy Homes). Both are designed to follow a "trainers of trainers" model to promote sustainability and to help spread the information to more ears and in the voices of Dominicans themselves.
For Escojo I will be leading a youth group through a series of charlas (interactive lectures) and then will be choosing the star students to become multiplicadors or multipliers of the information. They in turn will lead their own charlas in the future and participate in national conferences for the Escojo program. Also, when I leave regional Escojo coordinators are available to support these groups. Hogares Saludables is similar but I will be working with a much smaller group of women and training them as Health Promoters. After training them, the goal is that they will act as heath resources for the community and lead health charlas themselves.
Here in Las Tablas we have formed both groups and are taking turns giving charlas for practice and to benefit the community as well. It is a struggle in Spanish but we are always reminded by our supervisora Ann, “Fake it until you make it.” So far I am very impressed by how interested and respectful our Dominican groups are.
Apart from work, I have been enjoying life out of the busy city. A normal day consists of the following: I wake up at 6:15 for a run the local sanctuary before the sun is too hot, I get home and eat two rolls of white bread with big pieces of avocado (lucky me it’s avocado season). Next, its off to four hours of training with Ann, followed but a two hour lunch, just enough time for a siesta and to eat the hefty Dominican mid-day meal of rice, beans, fried platanos, chicken, yucca and if I’m lucky a vegetable or two. Next we have another 3.5 hours of Spanish class. After I get to play dominoes and cards with the local kids, talk in Spanish to my new family, and occasionally dance bachata and merange with them. I eat a simple dinner, today it was a big bowl of oatmeal and then usually shower by candlelight since the electricity is so sporadic. Sleeping can be tough since I’m almost constantly sweating under my mosquito next and if there is not power, there is no fan either. Overall though I am really enjoying this cultural immersion and getting to learn about the tremendous amount of opportunities and resources I will have to work with when I am at my permanent site.
A la prochaine