Tag Archives: diagnostic

3-Month Mark

12 Aug

The first stage of my Peace Corps service is complete!  Tuesday through Friday we had our 3-month In-Service Training (IST), where all of the Community Economic Development volunteers presented their community and organizational diagnostics alongside their project partners.  It was awesome to see where my friends are living, and to learn about some of the projects they plan to execute during their service.  All of our assignments are very different, but in many ways similar; I’m excited to learn from and collaborate with my fellow PCVs – an awesome support system of some pretty creative, adventurous, and intellectual people!

As promised, here’s a very brief synopsis of how and what I’ve learned about Pescadería since my arrival in May  (the essay I handed in to Peace Corps was over 20 pages written in Spanish!):

  • To get involved in my community and to obtain information, I completed written and oral interviews, did lots of observing, and participated in various community activities: visited four out of the five churches, went to the beach with a church group, celebrated Mother’s Day and Patronales, went to baseball and softball games, learned how to play cards, Dominican bingo, and dominoes, bought used clothing at weekly ‘market’, cooked espaghettis with various groups of friends, helped in the alphabetization class, started my own English class, got my nails and hair did, and joined a group of doñas that walk every morning.
  • In Pescadería there are over 4600 inhabitants and 530 houses.   The majority of people live in houses made of cement blocks, or otherwise wood or a plaster-like material; floors are generally concrete.  Many people have bathrooms inside the house, but few actually have running water; others use either individual or collective latrines.  People cook using gas stoves or charcoal pits/stands; trash is normally picked up by a garbage truck, but also burned and/or thrown in the river.
  • Main sources of income are agriculture, dairy farming, fishing, and motoconcho (motorcycle “taxis”).  Incomes range from below RD$5000 to RD$60000 monthly ($125-$1500).  Main crops are plantains, yucca, bananas, peppers, tomatoes, and cilantro.
  • Pescadería has paved streets and electricity for about 8 hours/day.  There’s a school up to 8th grade and a high school (currently held in the elementary school while a new one is being built), primary care clinic, national police station, and a gym.  There’s also 15 colmados, three butchers, an informal eatery, three furniture makers, three carpenters, one auto and four motorcycle repair shops, three beauty salons, four barbershops, five seamstresses, a place to make copies, three bars, one discoteca, a place that sells electric appliances, and a pigeon in a palm tree.  All other services/errands that one can’t do in Pescadería can be done in Barahona about 20 minutes away – hospital, post office, telephone services, Internet center, library, university, supermarket, pharmacy, hardware store, etc.

Primary projects – how I plan to help my community, CED style:

  • Start a women’s group or association – there isn’t one in Pescadería, and the doñas need to be heard!  Once started, they’d have a place to discuss community needs and development, plan social activities and services, start a savings group, and simply have fun.  As a business volunteer, I’ll also be able to offer the Somos Mujeres initiative to the women that are interested in learning how to generate income, start a business, and/or manage their finances.
  • Teach Construye Tus Sueños – entrepreneurial skills for youth.  Seeing as there are various types of businesses that Pescadería is lacking (bakery, clothing store, pharmacy, deli, fruit/veggie market, cheap eatery, hardware store, etc.) and lots of educated and motivated but jobless youth, there are plenty of opportunities to create a successful business.
  • Support FUNDEPE – local development association that is essentially the umbrella organization for La Cabrita.  They have brought numerous NGOs including UNDP, AMCHAM, AECID and Oxfam International to Pescadería, and currently operate a rotating fund to provide loans to community members.

Secondary projects – out of Community Economic Development framework, but just as important:

  • Help build a basketball/volleyball court – lots of sports teams and kids but no place to play!  Applying to the program Courts for Kids that sends a group from the US to help build and offers $5000 towards construction materials.
  • Chicas Brillantes – literally “brilliant girls” this Youth initiative strives to promote and enhance self-esteem, teamwork, inner beauty, and respect among groups of adolescent girls.
  • Find space to build/create community center – this is gonna be a tough one…
  • Strengthen the school library – unfortunately the mayor is no longer paying the two people that were helping supervise the library, so it’s currently not in use.  There are plenty of educational resources that could be used to transform the space into a functional library and learning center.
  • Paint a World Map Mural!
  • Plan a Field Day for kids
  • Plan activities for Earth Day and International Women’s Day
  • Better the trash service, or at least find activities to do with recycled material – there are women here that make flowers and art from trash, plant fiber, and recycled goods.  I’d also love to start a garden behind my future house, and line the perimeter with glass bottles.

…and that’s just with the community!  Here’s how I hope to help La Cabrita:

  • Complete a priority matrix – we did a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats), but because the project has so many different areas, we need to prioritize activities.  Divide and conquer.
  • Go over project plan – although La Cabrita is over two years old, they just started making cheese and yogurt three months ago, and they seemed to have rushed into the process without a formal plan.  It’s important that where their project is headed is in line with their original mission, vision, and objectives.  Seeing as they eventually want to build more structures to be able to accommodate more goats, it’ll be useful to draw a map of the whole project too.
  • Capacity building – they’ve received various courses, but a few more couldn’t hurt.  I hope to give charlas regarding organizational structure, publicity and marketing, accounting, customer service, and planning skills, but there are plenty of other options too – product, inventory, market/demand, quality control, credit, fixed and variable costs, control systems, sales, resource management, price and profit margin, and competition.  The more business skills the better, and their profitability and business know-how will increase.
  • Improve control systems – currently all of the records that La Cabrita keeps are done by hand.  In the hopes of buying a computer, I’ll teach them computer skills and help the members develop a more effective way to keep track of milking, cheese and yogurt production, inventory, bloodlines, medical records, sales, expenditures, and so on.  A computerized system will also allow La Cabrita to more easily monitor and evaluate their progress.
  • Complete cost analysis – this people work their butts off.  We want to make sure they’re making money!
  • Develop marketing and publicity – consuming goat cheese and yogurt is not part of Dominican culture, or not yet anyway.  First, I hope to help La Cabrita find a stable market where they can sell their tasty products – hotels, fairs, supermarkets, etc; and second, to enhance their delivery, publicity, customer service, and product value.  We plan to open a professional email account, improve their current brochures, and create a web page.
  • Plan a community activity to visit the project – improve and increase community support, sales, knowledge, and nutrition.

Plenty of opportunities to keep me busy, but nothing will be possible or sustainable without the support of my community.  Through the diagnostic, I’ve made lots of friends and have learned priceless information about my community, La Cabrita, and myself.  Can’t wait to get started!

Diagnostic and Discrimination

19 Jul

Saludos!  Long time, no blog.  The past few weeks have flown by – 10 days of Patronales festivities, celebrating 4th of July in Samaná, lots of walking and talking for my diagnostic, waking up early to exercise with a group of women, helping La Cabrita with various projects, getting my hair did by various niñas, and even house hunting – hard to believe I’ve been in country for nearly 5 months already.

my girls Cristi and Peque dressed up for the Reinado during Patronales

my girls Cristi and Peque dressed up for the Reinado during Patronales

Like I’ve mentioned before, Peace Corps requires volunteers to live with a host family for their first 3 months of service.  I think it’s a valid condition – it’s the best way to integrate into your community and its culture; it’s a smoother transition into your new lifestyle, as opposed to immediately going out and living on your own without knowing anyone.  I’ve been very lucky.  All three host families that I’ve stayed with (one in training, one in Peralvillo, and one in Pescadería), have been more than supportive and welcoming.  I’ve gained quite a bit of confianza with my host parents here, Eufemia and Reyes, and truly feel like their daughter – my host dad even showed me the kidney stone he passed (so yeah, maybe too much confianza).  Around the 4th of July, I was giving Eufemia examples of some typical American cuisine.  I explained coleslaw, and mentioned that sometimes we make a similar salad with chicken, egg, or tuna.  She got the idea, more or less anyway, and made coleslaw with bits of chicken in it. 
La Playita, Samaná - 4th of July trip

La Playita, Samaná – 4th of July trip

While I’ve enjoyed staying with them, the 3-month mark is approaching, and I’m excited to start living on my own (and for people to start visiting me!).  There’s over 4000 people that live in Pescadería, and very little housing options.  From essentially the first week that I arrived, I’ve been planting the idea that I’d eventually be living by myself.  It’s common for an entire extended family to live under one roof, so I often get funny looks when I tell them that I’m not afraid to sleep alone.  Regardless, through word of mouth, I found a house located quite close to La Cabrita, and about a 7-minute walk to where I’m currently living.  It’s a great spot – made of cement, two and a half bedrooms, kitchen, living room, and an indoor bathroom – an option that won’t come around again.

Cooking with Peque, Topazio, and Anita

Cooking with Peque, Topazio, and Anita

Rent here is normally paid every six months, and usually costs no more than RD$1500/month (about $40) including water and electricity, because nobody pays that anyway.  While being American in a third world country has its perks (lots of juice, hugs, and people wanting to be your friend), there are also downsides.  It is assumed that because I’m white, I’m rich.  Though my volunteer salary would tell you otherwise, the rental price of my future house unfortunately fell victim to this prejudice.  Although we explained to the landlord that I’m a volunteer, get paid very little, and am here to benefit the community, he upped the price to nearly double what I should be paying.  We were able to talk him down a little, but he’s fixed at RD$2500/month, which I’ll pay every six months.  Being charged so much simply because of the color of my skin disappointed me, but after weighing the pros and cons, I’m left with no worthy alternatives.  Ultimately, the house is safe, surrounded by lovely neighbors, in a quiet part of town, and still within my budget.  I plan to move August 15th, after someone from Peace Corps comes and gives final approval.

Dancing during the Reinado, Patronales week

Dancing during the Reinado, Patronales week

Until then, I’m working on finishing my community and organizational diagnostics.  We have our 3-month In Service Training (IST) August 6-9th, for which we go to the capital with our project partner and share our findings in a 20-minute presentation in Spanish.  Like living with a host family, the diagnostic has helped me to integrate, and lets people know why I’m here.  It also has allowed me to better understand Pescadería – what services and businesses exist, how people earn money, its history, the living conditions and education levels of its inhabitants, what kind of groups or associations are active, what the community lacks, etc. – and La Cabrita – project history, plans, financial situation, organizational structure, etc.  After interviewing numerous community members and key contacts, and sitting in on various meetings and activities with members of La Cabrita, I’m starting to develop a better idea of how I’ll be able to help.  Once my diagnostic is complete, I’ll share what I’ve learned, and ideas of how I hope to serve Pescadería and La Cabrita over the next two years.

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Group at La Playita, Samaná