Last week I was in the capital with the rest of the education volunteers who were in training with me. It was a lot of fun seeing everybody, hearing about their sites, speaking English, and eating something besides rice and beans. We stayed at a Jesuit retreat center, which was beautiful and peaceful and had real toilets and showers (although no hot water, not that you want it during Dominican summers). It felt like quite a luxury!
The occasion was our 3 month In Service Training, which wasn't just for us to get more training, but also for us to present our community diagnostic. My presentation was well received, largely because I kept it under the 12-minute limit and included plenty of pictures of cute kids! Honestly, though, it wasn't a high-pressure presentation, because nobody had to approve anything or give me a grade; it was really just to prove I was making progress in my community.
Some of the interesting things I learned about my community in the diagnostic were:
- The #1 cited problem in the batey is the muddy street, which is already being repaired! (Progress is slow, but it is moving along.)
- The #2 problem is the lack of employment, which is truly the bigger issue. There was some interest expressed in a Peace Corps microenterprise club/class, so I'm going to find the documentation for that and hopefully help some people start there own small businesses.
- The #1 reported benefit of our community is the 'tranquilidad' (tranquility). With so many people up in arms about crime rates and delinquency, it's nice to know that our batey is relatively safe.
- 70% are legally documented, and most of the remaining 30% are already in the process of getting their papers. (Without documents, they lose a lot of rights, such as schooling for kids and the use of public transportation.)
- Only about 21% of the batey speaks Haitian Creole. Bateys are associated with Haitians, but this appears to be a very 'Dominican' batey.
- Everybody and their brother wants to learn English and computers (but nobody actually wants to show up for class...).
None of my plans really changed after my diagnostic; I've known from the beginning that I would be teaching English and computers, and that's still going to be my main focus. I also have plans for the small business club, helping kids with reading and math, and trying to teach effective parenting strategies (i.e. not beating your kids again when they didn't learn from the first beating).
Despite having to sit through more presentations and classes (I thought I'd left college and the corporate world), I had a lot of fun at the IST, and it returning to the batey was a little disappointing. The average Peace Corps volunteer is a lot more...um...peaceful than the average bateyano. Although the IST suffered from a severe lack of cute kids!