I realize that most of my blog entries aren’t about my project or all the “good” I am trying to do in the world and are really just about silly things that happen to me. I figure that for once instead of writing about something ridiculous that happened to me over the past couple days, like when I accidentally bought women's pants from my buddy’s mom or when some lady offered me her screaming child as I walked past, I would fill everyone in on my project and what I am working on right now. I think this will be good just in case, God forbid, someone looks at my blog to know what my professional status is.
Ok, so for starters, I am a CEDE volunteer. CEDE stands for Community Environmental Development and Education. The CEDE sector was started last year when we swore in; it was formed from the remaining Agro-forestry sector and the Environmental Education sector. In theory, every CEDE volunteer is trained to both work with schools and youth groups to teach about the environment and also to improve farming and agricultural techniques in small communities. I don’t live in a small community so I am definitely more on the Education side of things vs. the agriculture side of things.
My original project was to work with the youth of Constanza through an environmental youth group called the Ecoclubes. When soliciting to the Peace Corps, the Ecoclubes was described as a youth movement of about 100 kids. The reality is that they are about 12 kids. And instead of being a “movement” they are more of a small group of 13-20 year olds who sit around and yell at each other once a week for about an hour. I dedicated several months to these kids and reached my wits end about 3 months ago when I could not get them to participate in the community trash pick up, give a charla (lecture) to the school or help me to raise funds for a field trip. These kids are so hard to deal with that I want to master the Spanish language just to tell them eloquently how ridiculously frustrating they are.
Regardless, I was put into my assignment in Education because the administration felt my science background and “light hearted” attitude would make me good with youth. So instead of trying to motivate the kids in the Ecoclubes to give charlas, I just gave the charlas myself. That meant that for the past couple months I have been giving 1 hour lectures to the Sophomore science classes 3 times a week. The Peace Corps stresses that we should be striving for sustainability but instead I opted for more of a shotgun method. I figure it is like this; I am presenting to 150 kids every week in the high school and if 1 out of 10 kids learns something from the lecture then I can say I reached 3 more kids than the 12 Ecoclubes kids I was pulling my hair out dealing with before (which for the record, I am still working with).
Also, I decided it might be a good idea to start dealing with adults in the community and the local government. Not only because they are much more capable of making changes on a larger scale but also because there is considerably less handholding and dramatic phone calls during the meetings. A few members from different environmental groups recently formed an Ecological Society of Constanza where we have been deciding where and what types of trees to use for the reforestation program that is in town, the next step is to mobilize a group to begin planting. Over the past month, I have been working with the presidents of the 7 neighborhood associations and the Ayuntamiento (local government) to clean up the main river that passes through town. This is more something where I attend meetings to fill roles when they come up. There has been a great showing the past three weekends (I have only been there for 2) and people have been pushing to make a difference and clean up the badly polluted river. People of all ages from within the barrios are coming out to help with the project (everyone except the Ecoclubes, they are abstaining from the river clean up for political reasons… did I mention these kids make me want to pull my hair out). Luckily there are other youth involved in the clean up and they have offered to help me take readings of the water quality in the rivers around Constanza, the CEDE volunteers are trying to gather information on the water throughout the country (because right now there isn’t any) in order to better understand where contamination is coming from and what can be done to prevent it.
Other than that I just try to be of service to whoever needs a random white guy that speaks Spanish. The Harvard Engineers without Borders come down every 6 months or so and try to build a well or fix an aqueduct. A couple weeks ago Bryant and I helped some missionaries build a couple houses and play some baseball. In about a month I get to help out with my first Medical mission, where we interview patients and translate for doctors (I hear Med missions are the quick fix for making you feel good about helping people, however, I think I’m in it more for the nurses). The Dominican Sustainable Tourism Alliance, a group that is funded by USAID to set up economically responsible and environmentally friendly tourism is trying to get a project going at a waterfall 45 minutes out of town, they want to use me as their “point man.” I agreed to do it immediately after the term “point man” was used. I’m supposed to help the DSTA to set up committees in the nearby towns to manage the vendors and the maintenance of the site.
I think that sums up what I am trying to do around here these days. I hope it wasn’t as boring to read as it was to write about! As for the lady that offered me the baby yesterday; I laughed and told her that you have to give away children when they are doing something cute, not when they are doing things like vomiting, crying or other gross baby things.