I am finally taking a deep breath this morning after running around for the past month. The running around started with bringing my host family and Topito (the little neighbor who is as much a part of the host family as I am) to Family Camp. The camp was organized by volunteers and led by Vicky who did an amazing job! Themes of the camp centered around forming healthy habits: nutrition, hand washing, healthy communication, to name a few.
A few pictures from the camp, including kids eating gummy worms out of pudding cups without using their hands, Topito eating his first pancake ever, doñas bobbing for apples, playing basketball and partaking in other activities outside their daily routines.
After 5 days at Family Camp I returned to my site for less than a week before heading to the Mi Futuro Brillante conference in the capital. I brought two of the brightest young women from my community to the conference, where they practiced professionalism skills, toured the oldest University in the Americas (UASD) and had the opportunity to interview and shadow a female, Dominican professional in the capital. This conference was a huge success, as it was nice to work teaching more concrete skills which will serve the young women well in helping them achieve their future goals.
Once back from Mi Futuro Brillante, we had planned to host a Deportes Para La Vida Sports & HIV/AIDS prevention camp. However, due to a mix up within the Peace Corps office, our grant was submitted late and I was told that the funds wouldn’t come in until another 3 weeks after our event was scheduled to start. While initially disappointing, this mishap combined with a last minute need for translators allowed me to participate in what has been one of my best experiences in country thus far: The Geraghty Medical Mission. The setback in our camp date will also allow us more time to plan and organize the mothers’ group who will be learning healthy recipes to prepare for the kids during the camp.
Having only been back in my community a few days between the Mi Futuro Brillante Conference and leaving for the Geraghty Mission, I was able to get in a Chicas Brillantes meeting where we discussed stereotypes and beauty standards (why is straight hair or lighter skin commonly viewed as more attractive? Why are nearly 100% of telenovela protagonists and news anchors white Hispanics? etc.). I don’t think the chicas really got as much out of the talk as I would’ve liked, but we will definitely return to the issue again as a main objective of the course is improving self esteem, an integral part of which is understanding perceptions of beauty and each girl being proud of her individual, unique look. We had a Chicos meeting the following night where the central theme was the relationship between one’s thoughts, actions, and emotions. The goal of this charla was to get the boys to think about the consequences of fighting and choose to avoid the fight before it takes place. On the way to our group, we passed two of the group members just coming home from school. Alejandro had a stick in his hand, a scowl on his face and was being restrained from attacking Guanel. I figured the whole group could learn from this experience, but neither boy attended the meeting that night. The lesson was just as appropriate for the boys in attendance who continued to fight themselves throughout the meeting which was orchestrated to teach them non-violent habits. As our boys group is still recently formed, we are still figuring out which boys will continue with the group and which we will have to cut to maintain order, as openly allowing every boy to participate results in constant chaos and deprives those who want to learn. Also, some of the boys who are prone to act out in certain situations, will benefit by being surrounded by more well behaved boys and a more structured environment. On Wednesday, I met with the Escojo Mi Vida / Older Youth Group, The Junta de Vecinos (neighborhood association) on Thursday and then left Friday for the Geraghty Mission.
I will relate my Geraghty Mission experiences in a separate post, as I’m still processing the experience some and there was a lot to cover.
After returning from the Geraghty Mission, I was in my site for a few more days before heading to the capital on Sunday, to get one of my neighbors who had been operated on by Geraghty Mission doctors last October, checked out by the doctors who were just finishing up their final week in the country. Later that day, while looking for one of my other neighbors who has a keloid on her ear, I ran across about 10 members from my community selling flowers for valentine’s day in prime territory just outside Independence Park.
Yulissa was told that they couldn’t operate on her ear, since the keloid had already been operated on and grown back 4 times. Later on I found out that she could have an injection done to reduce the size of the keloid. However, she does not like needles and did not want the injection which she felt would be too painful.
This past weekend (my fourth consecutive weekend out of my site) I attended my first Chicos Superman camp. Chicos Superman is a relatively new initiative which works with boys primarily 10-14, trying to reach them while they are still in a formative stage, to develop healthy habits, positive communication skills, avoid HIV/AIDS, and overall develop into caballeros (gentlemen). I’ve enjoyed working with my boys group so far and for obvious reason feel like I have more to offer in teaching boys how to be respectful men, then I feel I can offer in teaching girls how to be women. Hopefully, some of the older girls I have been working with will be willing to take my girls’ groups over themselves, which will allow me to work more with boys and sports teams in the community. Sports are a huge part of daily life for both boys and girls here (as I write this, an informal game of baseball is going on in front of me). However, there are few coaches and little formal sports organization here in the community. Baseball, basketball and athletics in general is a passion of mine, through which I feel I am most effective in teaching the same lessons which I learned through sports: how to be an effective teammate, leadership, respect, dedication, persistence, etc.
The Superman camp also touched on many of these same themes – teamwork, positive communication, respect – and all three of the boys I brought really enjoyed themselves. I had a tough time deciding which two boys I would bring in addition to Natanael who not only does not look 12, but also has a maturity level much more developed than even most teenage boys in the neighborhood. My host brother, Jalen, is also incredibly mature for his age and has been one of the few non disruptive members of the group, but he had already been to two other camps and I wanted to give another boy the opportunity to go. In the end, I decided that since Jalen is always paying attention and listening, he would get more out of the lessons at the camp than anyone else would and deserved the opportunity to go. The last spot was a close call between ñingo and Domi, but I ended up going with Domi as I have a stronger relationship with him and knew I could reel him in easier should he happen to get too excited or disruptive.
A few of my favorite pictures and moments from the camp:
During a charla about constellations one of the newer volunteers, Alex, asked the kids to name some planets.
Muchacho 2: “Jupiter”
Muchacho 3: “Singapore!”
Also, during his presentation of the constellations and telling of the story of Orion’s belt (Orion is pronounced “Oh-ree-ohn” in Spanish) one of the kids raised his hand and in all seriousness asked “Doesn’t Orion have a cookie named after him too?” … “No, that is Oreo. The constellation is Orion.”