Tag Archives: construction

unity makes strength

21 Jun

We did it folks!  After months of anticipation, weeks of preparation, too many errands and pesos spent on phone minutes, and numerous days of tough physical labor in the hot Caribbean sun, Pescadería has a basketball/volleyball court.

the court!

the court!

I’ve always been one for challenging myself, but these last few weeks were hands down some of the most difficult, high-pressure moments of my life. In the end though, it was more than worth it.  I shared my new home with 22 Americans who ate Dominican cuisine, learned how to dance bachata and play dominoes, and helped hundreds of local athletes realize a long-standing dream.  The people of Pescadería who I thought I might never have the opportunity to work with are now some of my closest friends.  

As I continue to relish and celebrate this huge accomplishment, I can’t help but marvel at how various of groups of strangers came together to successfully create memorable friendships and moments, not to mention build a freakin’ basketball court!  While the extensive amount of work, effort, resources, passion, and perseverance put in by both the local community and the Courts for Kids group is not done justice, the video below portrays the construction process from start to finish.

The court was inaugurated on June 14th, 2014 and immediately celebrated through numerous games of pick-up basketball and volleyball.  With memories, sweat, frustration, and passion engrained into every inch of cement, our court is now used by basketball and volleyball athletes from dawn until dusk.

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Many thanks to Courts for Kids for facilitating such a positive experience (read about their time in Pescadería here), and to you all for your continued support.

Courts for Kids group

Courts for Kids group

Go to the people, live with them, learn from them, love them. Start with what they know, build on what they have. But, with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say “We have done this ourselves.” ~ Lao Tzu

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me with some of my basketball guys, without whom this project would have been impossible

 

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blocks, crocs, and doñas

31 May

I want to thank all of those who responded to my desperate pleas for donations towards our basketball/volleyball court because we’ve raised $400 dollars over our fundraising goal! In addition to what the town mayor is offering towards the project, we have about US$6000 to work with. Our Courts for Kids group is scheduled to arrive in Pescadería June 8th. They will sleep in the local school, and will have their daily meals prepared by two gung-ho doñas. We plan to work June 9th through June 12th, mixing and pouring cement alongside the multitudes of jovenes that will very soon benefit from the court’s completion – who are also in charge of planning various cultural activities for our visitors. If all goes as plans and we finish the court, we’ll head Friday to celebrate at San Rafael beach and then inaugurate the court the morning of the 14th. The group will then go to the capital on the 15th, stay the night at another local beach, and head home to the States on the 16th.

the team on one of our first days of hard labor

the local team on one of our first days of hard labor

materials arrive and cement is mixed

materials arrive and cement is mixed

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the court with the base dug and rebar set

the court with the base dug and rebar set

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Genesis, Lopez, Mayimbe, and Geudy

Genesis, Lopez, Mayimbe, and Geudy

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Regino

Regino

Genesis

Genesis

taking five

taking five

blocks being laid!

blocks being laid!

The excitement and energy of the local athletes is motivating– I can’t tell if they are more anxious to meet our visitors or to play on the court. Before the group comes we need to have the base finished, columns built, and ground leveled. This way, we’ll have four days to pour the cement, put on the backboards, and hopefully get the court painted. I’m relieved to say that we’re making good progress.  From the pictures above you can see that we’ve got the base built – just have to pour the cement for the columns and then level, compact, add, and re-compact the sub-grade.

La unión hace la fuerza

Unity makes strength

the team after a long day of work

the team after a long day of work

During my shrinking amount of free time, I joined up with a group of PCVs and went to Lago Enriquillo – a confident check off my growing bucket list to complete while on the island.  Lago Enriquillo is salt-water lake located close to the Dominican Republic’s border with Haiti.  As the largest body of water on the island, it is also known as the lowest point in the Caribbean.  Due to its unique habitat, the lake is home to a number of species that aren’t found anywhere else in the world, drawing both national and international tourists to experience birding and boat tours.

We strategically planned our regional PCV meeting close to the lake :)

We strategically planned our regional PCV meeting close to the lake 🙂

Lago Enriquillo

Lago Enriquillo

Lago Enriquillo

Lago Enriquillo

Lago Enriquillo

Lago Enriquillo

Baby crocs!

Baby crocs!

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Mama croc keepin' a look out

Mama croc keepin’ a look out

Interestingly, Enriquillo’s water level is growing (there are multiple theories why, but it has still yet to be solved), meaning that overtime the lake’s salt concentration is decreasing.  This occurrence is both good and bad.  Because the water is not as concentrated, more species are able to survive in the lake.  However, the rising level of the water is encroaching on locals’ farm lands, and the last of three islands located within the lake (nesting grounds for flamingoes and home to a unique species of iguana) is in danger of being submerged.

Lago Enriquillo

Lago Enriquillo

Lago Enriquillo

Lago Enriquillo

Fishermen avoiding the crocodiles

Local fishermen avoiding the crocodiles

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Lago Enriquillo

Lago Enriquillo

Lago Enriquillo

Lago Enriquillo

Iguanas next to our 13-passenger van

Iguanas next to our 13-passenger van

Me with the 'guanas

Me with the ‘guanas

PCVs and Staff at Lago Enriquillo

PCVs and Staff at Lago Enriquillo

Another recent accomplishment was our Somos Mujeres Regional Conference. Spearheaded by a fellow business PCV, about 10 other volunteers and I planned and organized a conference dedicated to women’s empowerment. The two-day event emphasized two Peace Corps sectors – health and business. Over 20 women from the southern region of the country attended the conference, where we covered topics including the importance of savings, how to set goals, what it means to be an entrepreneur, healthy home and business practices, and how to discuss sensitive topics like condom use and HIV/AIDS with your children.

Getting to know one another :)

Getting to know one another 🙂

 

Savings activity

Savings activity

My colmado dinamica about the importance of savings

My colmado dinamica about the importance of savings

Characteristics of an Entrepreneur

Characteristics of an Entrepreneur

Banco Representative Denny sharing the importance of savings

Banco Representative Denny sharing the importance of savings

Somos Mujeres with Banco Ademi representative

Somos Mujeres with Banco Ademi representative

Health Promoter on how to talk to your kids about sex

Health Promoter on how to talk to your kids about sex

Goal setting and dream catcher workshop

Goal setting and dream catcher workshop

One of my favorite parts of the conference was when two health volunteers explained how germs are spread, then taught the group how to make hand sanitizer. The women not only understood the importance of safe hygiene practices within a home and business, but also left the conference with a potential income generation activity.

Health PCVs Liz and Yvette

Health PCVs Liz and Yvette

 

Germ cycle

Germ cycle

Making hand sanitizer with one of our Health PCVs

Making hand sanitizer with one of our Health PCVs

Though I had intended for my project partner and two women from La Cabrita to join me as well, my friend Silvana and I represented Pescadería appropriately.  Plus, no matter if you have participants from your own community or not, attending conferences are always motivating and reinvigorating.  Dominicans are selfless, energetic, and resilient people.  They are masters of conversation; on the other hand they find it not the least awkward to sit in prolonged silence.  They are not embarrassed by silly ice-breakers, and know how make the most out of something small or simple.  Silvana and I plan to share our motivation and knowledge gained from the conference with a group of local women who are attending a weekly course in which they are learning skills they can potentially use to generate income (i.e. how to make a wide assortment of household cleaning products).

Silvana and I :)

Silvana and I 🙂

Somos Mujeres graduates

Somos Mujeres graduates

And lastly, a belated mother’s day to all my doñas out there! Here mothers are honored on the third Sunday of May, and to celebrate the women of my neighborhood threw a party. Just about all the attendees received a letter and at least one beer from their husbands – they even gave one to me!  They had a gift exchange, and as per usual, a tasty Dominican brindis.  Oh there was a doña booty-shaking competition too, but that should go without saying.

Neighborhood Mothers' Day Celebration

Neighborhood Mothers’ Day Celebration

 

Reina, my most reliable Dominican mom :)

Reina, one of my many Dominican moms 🙂

My project partner, Nibia, who helped organize the event

My project partner, Nibia, who helped organize the event

table of gifts for the ladies!

table of gifts for the ladies!

My neighbor Delly receiving her husband's card

My neighbor Delly receiving her card (and beers!) from her husband

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party crashers

party crashers

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what's a Dominican party without a booty shaking contest?

what’s a Dominican party without a booty shaking contest?

Without a fuss or question, the women (and men too! – those that don’t hit on me anyway) of Pescadería have taken me in as one of their own daughters.  This whole Peace Corps thing wouldn’t be the same glorious adventure or experience without the doñas’ cushy hugs, brutal honesty, or dirty humor.  And while striving to remain humble, I continue to be thankful for it all, down to the last grain of their customarily bountiful rice offerings.

I was even honored at the Mothers' Day Celebration!

celebrate we will

27 Feb

Happy Dominican Independence Day!  Led by national hero Juan Pablo Duarte, the Dominican Republic gained its independence from Haitian occupation on the 27th of February in 1844.  Given its historic importance, February is also the month of Carnival.  I haven’t seen fireworks yet, but this little country sure knows how to party and Dominicans seem to always be looking for an occasion to celebrate – Christmas, Kings Day, Independence Day/Carnival, and not too far away is Semana Santa!  Hopefully next year I’ll be able to write a more descriptive and first-hand account of the locura that is Carnival.

Lots has happened since my last semi-chaotic and long post so I’ll do my best to keep this short and highlight the important (and positive!) stuff:

Chicas Brillantes Conference:

  • Invited 3 girls that participate in my Chicas Brillantes group to a regional 3-day conference in San Cristobal (How did I choose which girls to bring?  It was tough, but I based my decision on their ages, participation and attendance at meetings, maturity, and who I thought would best use and share the information they would learn at the conference back in Pescadería)
  • Over 80 girls and volunteers participated in dynamic and educational activities concerning HIV/AIDS prevention, nutrition, women’s health, self-esteem, team work, inner and outer beauty, sports, and so on
  • Many charlas were led by graduates of the Chicas Brillantes program – a group of adolescent girls known as the Comité.  This was SO important for the girls to see because a) they could look to them as role-models and b) it promotes and ensures the sustainability of this initiative
  • The girls got to meet many other girls from other communities around the country who are also participating in the program.  For my girls, they made at least 20 new friends that live within a 30-minute radius.  We’re getting together this weekend to plan how to incorporate what we learned into our meetings, and also which events we can plan to raise money for our group and/or activities with our new friends
  • A panel of professional Dominican and Dominican-American women came to talk to the girls –natural hair promoter (and fellow blogger: http://www.missrizos.com/2/post/2014/02/las-chicas-brillantes.html), architect, social worker, journalist, muralist (and fellow blogger: http://innovativeinitiativesblog.com/about/), and even the DR representative for Miss Universe 2013.  They shared their life stories, gave advice about how to plan and reach professional and personal goals, and promoted natural hair styles (a semi-controversial topic here because many women chemically treat their hair so it’s straighter and therefore ‘more beautiful’)
Mujeres Brillantes - our awesome panel of role-models

Mujeres Brillantes – our awesome panel of role-models

Girls practicing correct condom use

Girls practicing correct condom use

Two of the girls I brought to the conference (Grisele and Odalina) with DR's Miss Universe 2013, Yaritza Reyes

Two of the girls I brought to the conference (Grisele and Odalina) with DR’s Miss Universe 2013, Yaritza Reyes

volunteers with the panel

volunteers with the panel

Last day of the Chicas Brillantes conference

Last day of the Chicas Brillantes conference

Translating for Builders Beyond Borders:

  • Joined up with other PCVs to help out our friend Jim, fellow volunteer AND Vermonter, at his site near Alta Mira in the province of Puerto Plata
  • High school group came from Connecticut through the program Builders Beyond Borders to start construction of a local clinic
  • We helped with translating and some construction work, but also shared a lot about our Peace Corps experience and Dominican culture with the students and chaperones
  • BBB invited us volunteers to join them on a field trip to 27 Charcos!  Located on the Damajagua River and literally meaning 27 ‘puddles’ or waterfalls, it’s a beautiful and adventurous attraction for both locals and tourists alike.  Depending on the water levels/time of year, you basically hike down the river, jumping off or sliding down natural rock formations on your way (wearing helmets and lifejackets of course).  This adventure had been on my bucket list, and was certainly one of the coolest things I’ve done since arriving in country (it will be one year March 6th!).  We only were able to do 12 of the 27 falls/slides, so I’d be more than willing to accompany someone who wants to come and visit 🙂  Fun fact: Joe Kennedy III was a PCV in the Dominican Republic, and helping 27 Charcos develop a guide association was one of his assignments as a volunteer.  More info about 27 Charcos here: http://www.27charcos.com/index.php
  • Realized how resilient and not-awkward Dominican youth is
  • Gained some insight about how this court project is going to be – how I should organize accommodations, construction materials, plan activities, etc.
Fellow PCVs - Stanley, me, Laura, and Jim

Fellow PCVs – Stanley, me, Laura, and Jim

Speaking of which…The Court:

  • So after a few semi-heated meetings, we are going to build the court in the Pley
  • We will have the mayor’s support – has committed to leveling and filling the entire area; will build streets around the pley so that the people that live there are no longer trapped by mud when it rains
  • Today we measured the entire area and marked the court’s official location – PHEW
  • Working on creating a Facebook Page to share the progress of the court and to fundraise – will have a working link where YOU will be able to donate to this project soon 🙂
future location of court!

future location of court!

some of my guys bidding a hopeful farewell to one of their old basketball hoops

some of my guys bidding a hopeful farewell to one of their old basketball hoops

That’s “all” for now – off to celebrate!