Tag Archives: education

Mio, my!

12 Oct

Government in any country can be a touchy subject.  Take for example what’s happening in the US.  It’s been important for me to demonstrate to the people I’ve met here that even the most developed countries have plenty of problems to sort out.

Here, as a representative democracy, there are two main parties – the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) and Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD).  Aside from the fact that the PLD party is represented by the color purple and the PRD by the color white, few people know the fundamental differences between the two; people are generally loyal to the party to which their parents supported.

Unfortunately, almost every aspect of this country is affected by political corruption.  Take teacher employment for example.  Given that the current president, Danilo Medina, belongs to the PLD party, it’s nearly impossible for any PRD teacher or school staff to find jobs (unless they’re already working there).  If and when the next president is PRD, the current PLD janitors will lose their jobs and will be replaced by PRD janitors.

Given my limited Internet access, I’ve had very little contact with the ‘outside world’ and learn only through news snippets or town gossip what’s happening on an international level.  However, when someone told me the other day that the United States had formed two new states or that Angelina Jolie had been murdered, it confirmed that I seriously have to filter and think twice about any information I’m told.  Anyway, there are lots of things here that needs fixing (government being one of them), but as my own mother put it, most days I feel very lucky to just be eating rice and beans and watching cockfights.  Long story short, the closure of various government agencies and such should not effect my stay here as a volunteer with Peace Corps (ironically, a government agency).  It does however affect funding and the opportunity to access and apply for grants, which I will explain a bit later.

http://files.peacecorps.gov/multimedia/pdf/documents/Peace_Corps_Operations_Plan_in_the_Absence_of_Appropriations.pdf

And so, in addition to eating rice and beans and watching cockfights, here’s some pictures to show you what we’ve been up to in Pescadería…

I got a kitty!  Mio keeps me company, and also helps me keep the creepy crawlies under control.

Mio - playing with a cockroach and a tarantula

Mio – playing with a cockroach and a tarantula

I attended a local religious celebration called ‘Los Palos‘.  A group of guys were playing drums, doñas served yummy snacks, and people danced, offered food/drinks/cigarettes to the saints, and got lost in trances.  I didn’t participate in the dancing per se, but it was certainly interesting to witness.

cake and offerings to saints at Los Palos

cake and offerings to saints at Los Palos

my neighbor Reni, her son Omeilin, and me at Los Palos

my neighbor Reni, her son Omeilin, and me at Los Palos

I went to the San Rafael beach with a large group of people from my community.  Of the four guaguas that took people back and forth, I was of course on the one with the live band.  Going to the beach with Dominicans is a big to-do.  They make tons of food (we brought moro de guandules y coco, chicken, potato salad, coleslaw, and homemade passion fruit juice) and get all dolled up.

San Rafael - fresh water pools with the ocean at the bottom

San Rafael – fresh water pools with the ocean at the bottom

We harvested fallen coquitos (literally, little coconuts, but they’re almonds!) from the beach to make a delicious almond dulce with milk, sugar, cinnamon, and star anise.

Juana cracking coquitos

Juana cracking coquitos

Coquitos (almonds)

Coquitos (almonds)

Finished almond dessert

Finished almond dessert

I’m finally doing laundry on my own.  My neighbor Reni was helping me before, but now that I’m comfortable with the Dominican way of washing my clothes, I’m my own doña.  

Laundry + tubie = full on doña

Laundry + tubie = full on doña

I’ve had two very successful Chicas Brillantes meetings.  We have one group that meets in the morning and another in the afternoon to accommodate the half-day school schedule.

first Chicas Brillantes meeting

first Chicas Brillantes meeting

We plan to continue meeting weekly, and will cover topics such as leadership, team work, body image, sexual education, healthy communication, personal and professional life planning, and so on.  We also do fun stuff, like draw and play Peso Caliente.

Chicas Brillantes group

Chicas Brillantes group

Peso Caliente - a race in two teams to see which can get the peso through their clothes first

Peso Caliente – a race in two teams to see which can get the peso through their clothes first

This week I had 51 seventh and eighth graders participate in a savings class.  I taught the class in the library of the school with the help of a local savings bank, Banco Ademi.

Banco Ademi savings class

Banco Ademi savings class

We discussed the history of money, the financial system, the importance of saving, and the advantages of saving in a bank.  10 of the students won the opportunity to go on a field trip to the local Banco Ademi branch to get a tour of the bank and to open their very own savings account.

25 of the 51 students that participated in the Banco Ademi savings course

25 of the 51 students that participated in the Banco Ademi savings course

Since February, La Cabrita has been in the process of applying for government funding via FEDA (Fondo especial para el desarrollo agropecuario – Special Fund for Agricultural Development) to be able to expand the infrastructure and milk production of their project.  Last week, their proposed budget was approved, and they will eventually receive a loan totaling over RD$11,000,000.00.  They are required to pay these funds back within two years after their business starts earning profit.  Needless to say, a lot of my time with them will spent helping to plan payments, manage funds, and assure efficient scheduling/development of funded projects.

Irrigation system at La Cabrita - part of the loan funds will go towards the construction of a reservoir

Irrigation system at La Cabrita – part of the loan funds will go towards the construction of a reservoir

Lastly, about a month ago my youth/sports group and I applied to the program Courts for Kids to see if they’d help us build a basketball court in Pescadería.  Courts for Kids provides $5000 towards construction costs and sends a group of about 20 students down to help build the court.  Good news is, we’ve been approved!  Other news is that we have loooootttsss of work ahead of us – preparing the land, raising the rest of the funds (court will end up costing over $12000), planning logistics/activities for when the group comes in June, keeping the community involved, etc.

Pescadería from the highway

Pescadería from the highway

As a Peace Corps Volunteer, it is my job to coordinate the project, but to also ensure that my community is involved every step of the way.  So you ask, how on earth are we going to raise over $7000?  Good question.  At this point we need to start on a local level by talking to the mayor and reaching out to national institutions, programs, and foundations.  Additionally, as a PCV, there are international funds that I can tap into aka YOU J  Because Peace Corps is a government agency, they prohibit us to receive donations directly, but rather offer a grant called PCPP (Peace Corps Partnership Program), which allows us to funnel donations towards any project we’re working on, like building a court.  We, alongside individuals from our community, must apply for the grant in order to start receiving donations.  By helping me complete the application, local community members will learn all about the grant process including project planning, recognizing beneficiaries, monitoring and evaluation (a requirement for receiving a grant), and budgeting.  BUT, as I mentioned towards the beginning of the post, given the government shut-down and lack of Peace Corps funding, the grant office is currently closed and is not receiving any applications for new projects.  Regardless, I plan to start putting together the application with my group so that when our government gets itself sorted out, we can submit it and we can start fundraising immediately.

Lastly, I’m feeling very well adjusted in my new home – I’ve been here for almost two months now!  I soon plan to buy an Internet stick (so I can update you all more than once a month) and also another bed (so my visitors have a place to sleep!)  I will keep you all posted on the grant and how you’ll be able to help.  I thank you in advance for your interest, advice, and support.

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plagiarism, shmagiarism

19 Jun

Oooooh the hypocrisy of calling me fat and then shoving food in my face, or getting offended that I didn’t try your version of fried plátanos.  Unlike us in the United States, Dominicans do not take offense to getting called fat – it’s often taken as a compliment because it means that you get enough to eat.  You might not even be fat; maybe you just put on a few pounds, or are simply bloated.  But from what I can tell, there is no perfect medium – you’re either fat or skinny.  Here, if you’re skinny, you’re said to have AIDS…

Furthermore, Dominicans are all about nicknames, especially when they have to do with your personal appearance.  For example, there’s a cute little old man that lives down the street from me who’s called Senón.  In English, this would probably translate to ‘man boobs’.  Nicknames like these, though they may seem harsh, are not meant to hurt any feelings.  They simply call it like it is, which I guess I can appreciate, especially now that my skin is getting thicker in both the literal and figurative sense.

In other news, I survived my first English class!  On Monday, over 50 niños ages 7 to 14 showed up at the school to witness the americana in action.  Here, classroom behavior, teaching methods, and the education system in general are quite poor.  There are normally way too many kids crammed into one classroom.  Teachers expect the children to learn, retain, and understand the given material by copying it directly from the board.  Classroom and teaching materials are scarce.  Many people become teachers not for their love of the subject or for interacting with kids, but rather because they’re guaranteed a job.  When I decided to start this class, I promised myself that my teaching methods would not reflect what the kids might be used to.  I’m striving to create a fun, dynamic, and interesting class, not only so they can learn English, but also so that they have an alternative outlet for their energy and free time.  Over all, it went really well, though I think they were disappointed that I didn’t teach them the entire English language in their first class.  This afternoon I have my jóvenes class – let’s hope it goes just as well!

Having seen how poor the education system is here, I’ve realized how thankful I am for the schooling I’ve had the opportunity to receive.  Context: La Cabrita is currently enrolled in a class taught by an organization called INFOTEP, in which they’re writing manuscripts regarding supervision, delegation, responsibility, and how these relate to their association.  Sounds like it could be useful, right?  But how does one go about writing a 20+ paper when you’ve hardly been taught writing skills, grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, or even spelling?  Well, you copy it all from the Internet of course!  Each member found various books or web pages, and copied the material word-for-word by hand so that they could then type it up and put it into their own paper.  Given that the members of La Cabrita don’t really own computers (they use the Internet on their phones), or know how to operate Word very efficiently, I took the liberty of typing up their papers for them.  My moral gears were grinding throughout this entire process; but, seeing how plagiarism laws don’t even exist here, for them, it was the obvious way of going about writing a paper.  Ultimately, the fact the INFOTEP assigned this workload was silly – they could have easily demonstrated their knowledge of the material in a different manner, because with this method, they learned nothing except how to copy and paste, and that Americans can type fast.

In short, I’m thankful for all the annotated bibliographies I was forced to write; for the writing workshops that seemed painful at the time; for the computer literacy classes that we started in elementary school; for libraries; for the principles that encourage and laws that protect an individual’s intellectual property; for educated, dedicated, and motivated teachers; and most importantly, for parents who make sure their kids go to school, do their homework, give 100%, and never stop learning.