Four Days, Four Sites
By Anne Baker on Sunday, November 4th, 2012
A little rain shower brought an end to another day of learning and labors today allowing the opportunity to relax, reflect and catch up on news from home. (With most of our travelers’ homes in the path of Hurricane Sandy, our thoughts have also been elsewhere these last few days.)
Next Step Travel – Dominican Republic started last Saturday with the arrival of our traveling team and settling into our home base for our stay. As Hurricane Sandy blew the roof off of what was to be our home base here, we shifted to a new home for our stay. There is a lot to see, to learn and to do in the DR, so rather than focus on working in just one community, we spent much of the first few days visiting different ones, with different needs.
The Haitian batey of Ascension introduced us to the challenges of the Haitian/Dominican dilemma. Dr. Rousseau stopped to brief us before joining us for our trip to Ascension. We split into three teams, with one team helping to record symptoms and other data for patients coming to see the doctor in the clinic. A second team led some youth in conversational English, while the third worked to extend the irrigation system in the community garden. We were connected only by the sounds of singing from the church service underway.
The DREAM (Dominican Republic Education and Mentoring) Project demonstrates the belief “that quality, early and continuing education is the most effective way to break the cycle of poverty and change destinies.” The schools in four communities (including one we had seen outside Ascension the day before) educate Montessori preschool students and continue that education through such programs as the Young Stars At-Risk Youth Program and Deportes Para la Vida (DPV or “Sports for Life”). DREAM, which was started by an RPCV, is also the base of a number of PCVs, including Phoebe, who works with the Montessori program and Dan and Dominic, who led us through DPV games and lessons. We joined the preschool students for their learning circle, reading stories to them in Spanish and in English.
At Jardin de los Ninos, students can study outside when the weather is nice, but are otherwise crowded into a small school building – and there are another 40 students wanting to attend. The students and their teachers greeted us enthusiastically, leading us in songs and games and demonstrating their skills in the classroom. Their new school next door has been built, but now needs the many finishing touches required before they can move in. So, with paint brushes and rollers in hand, we painted away, stopping only when we ran out of paint.
The new school at Cano Dulce has classrooms, but not yet a latrine or kitchen. The walls of this school – built by the community with the assistance of other volunteer groups before us – are fortified by thousands of plastic bottles, which has the added benefit of cleaning up the community, too. (Read about Peace Corps and the use of bottles for construction in this Smithsonian article, How to Turn 8,000 Bottles into a Building) But the latrine and kitchen are of concrete block, hundreds of which had been delivered the previous day. Again dividing into teams, we transported blocks from the road to the work site, sifted the sand for the concrete and built up the walls. Many members of the community – from the smallest of children to the town pastor – worked beside us and taught us the methods of construction.
National Peace Corps Association Acting President Anne Baker is accompanying this trip as the NPCA Host. While the next trip to the DR in December has a waiting list, there are two more trips already scheduled for 2013. Learn more and sign up at travel.peacecorpsconnect.org.