Thursday, June 6, 2013

Happy Birthday Jesus, Happy New Year, DST Our Centennial Year! Inauguration, Happy Black History Month, Happy Resurrection Day.....

Yes all of these holidays passed without so much as a blog, photo, peep, or whisper from me on here. Well, that's about to change as this is my current attempt to resuscitate my blog. Long story short, everyday has been jam packed since November, days became regular (as in while many things have happened but they were difficult to describe/didn't seem blog worthy), and regular access to internet allowed me to connect with close fam and friends thus lessening my motivation to track my service here. But many of you have begun to ask me to blog and so here I am again, trying to sum up the past 6 months. I will fail but trying is whats important here right?

Major events that have happened: missed Founder's Day at Howard (ooooooo-ooooop!) to send people from my organization (Accion Callejera) to an education conference....which goes back to personal sacrifices for the betterment of others.....attended some camps (Chicas Brillantes Mi Futuro Brillante, (Committee of Youth Leaders for our girls gender empowerment initative/Comite de Consejo Training, Chicos Superman Regional Conference, Deportes para la Vida Regional Conference, Dominican/Haitian Relations Conference) with awesome people, coordinated some camps (Chicas Brillantes Western Regional Conference , Children and Youth in High Risk Situations)  with amaziing, resilient and selfless people. I learned to seperate myself from a very toxic project partner and I surrounded myself with the amazing youth I've been blessed to meet yet.

In my community, my youth grew into the leaders they were always supposed to be, just blessed to have been a support in their process. Some leaders were not ready for the responsibility and left, but that ended up being a necessary and important lesson for the rest of us who stayed dedicated to Wandy (my youth leader who passed away in November's thunder storm flood while trying to save a young girl's life )

The Chicas Brillantes Western Regional Conference solidified some things for me so I'll be blogging about that soon, let's just say the events that happened at that conference inspired my next steps. (BTW check out our page on facebook:

I recently attended a Dominican-Haitian Relations Conference that allowed me to facilitate a lot and it took me back to my College Summit Rap Director was tiring and fulfilling...creating intentions and striving to meet them, even if you have to adjust your charla/presentation in the very moment. That conference (which just happened this past weekend so some of this is very timely haha) just reminded me of the fact that whatever my next step is after Peace Corps; youth development/facilitation/mentoring of youth has to be a component; they make it all worth it!

So to be clear, in this Peace Corps volunteer journey you will have ups and downs. I heard that the ups and downs happen when you first get to your site, at the one year mark, and when you debate whether to extend or go home.... Yep they were right. Major emotions I've experienced: every last one over the past 6 months. In November I was absolutely devastated and overwhelmed after my brother (real) was in a nearly fatal car crash, my youth president dying in a flash flood storm while trying to save a little girl's life while also being recognized as the Featured Volunteer of the Month and presenting the story of my youth group to the entire PCDR administrative office. In December I was stressed with having jam packed activities, but blessed to have celebrated my birthday like 3 times with 3 different and special sets of people, gone to a resort with my triplet, and I got to go home and spend quality time with family and friends. In January I wanted to extend, in February I wanted to go home and started making plans to do such, March I was all over the place, and in April I finally found some peace....but I promise an extended story about that is coming soon :)But something that I learned in the journey is to enjoy every moment while I'm in it, make sure that any professional goals find a way to line up with personal happiness, and wherever I may find myself I already am all that I will ever need. These lessons alone, with the additional blessing of all the amazing people I have crossed paths with has made every moment where I doubted myself along this journey worth it. I am so much more resilient than I was when I came here in August 2011!!

Major lessons I've learned: Peace Corps is one big family, for better or worse...everyone will know your story even if they don't know you. I had to get used to the fact that people would come up to you and tell you info about you that you didn't tell them..... It's the way of life among PC Volunteers it's better to just embrace it and keep your sanity rather than try to buck against me on that one lrl. I also learned that I cannot give away my whole world and leave nothing for myself... I am someone who was placed with an NGO in a large city with an 8-5 work schedule. I also had very high expectations of myself, worked hard since day 1 and so their expectations of me increased (which has been great except in the fact that workaholics don't always rest!) In learning to make more time for me, some people are not used to that and so this transition is a little difficult for them, but very healthy for me. So some things I've done for me, workout at least 4 times a week (this can be harder than you think when battling no water, no electricty, and no space in which to work out), eat lots of yogurt and mangos, sit down to drink cafe with my dona (host mom) EVERY day, hugh my host sister tight everyday and ask her how her day is so she never forgets someone loves her, BE MORE VULNERABLE && OPEN and LAUGH. It's been going well, just the mentally freeing choice of choosing me at some points when I could continue working has been great!

What I'm looking forward to in the next month: Seeing my family in less than 3 weeks, being the maid of honor in my sister friend's wedding, and having an awesome GLOW (Girls Leading our World) National Camp thats filled with all kinds of Q.U.E.E.N. empowerment and U.N.I.T.Y. :) I'm looking forward to working with the amazing group of YFCD volunteers in country and the awesome group that is to come! Wait and see!

Next time, hopefully sometime this weekend, I'll post the best of the best in photos of my service from the past 6 months. And I have a huge surprise!

Nos vemos en domingo!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Visual View of what I've been up to

As most of you all, we recently lost a wonderful community member; I'm not quite ready to write about that, and I don't really want to write about what I've been up to, but I will post some photos of my life here since August =)

(p.s.thanks to everyone for your thoughts, warm wishes, prayers, phone calls, texts, hugs, messages, and support through this difficult time for my community)

Celebrando el Cibao conferencia in Jarabacoa

Deandra's visit to my site, out and about with my sister Mari

Accion Callejera professional development in Jarabacoa

on eof my Chicos groups

one of my Chicas groups

DPV training at my house

the beautiful view from El Moro in Monte Cristi

mini conference on HIV/AIDS and anti-discrimination

youth group swear in, rest in perfect peace Wandy

youth group in full, str8 from Wandy's vision

DPV training in Cabarete

mini conferencia leaders getting a little silly

my group 517-11-02, our 1 year celebration in San Rafael Barahona

my girls that I brought to the Chicas Brillantes intercambio

everyone who went to the Chicas Cibao intercambio

Krystle came to visit me in my site =)

the leaders I took to the Escojo mi Vida regional conference

my group 517-11-02 youth during our one year in country service training

I was translating during a medical missions in Monte Cristi

all that I want to do and remember throughout the rest of my Peace Corps service =) the rooftop pool with my girl Norma

me and my lifetimer James during Thanksgiving

my team! 517-11-02 youth after our performance during Thanksgiving!

my youth leaders...they are so resilient...after losing our President...they are still moving forward with our project for next Saturday =)

my sis Mari and I =)

Friday, November 2, 2012

My October Review

Now that October is over, I can officially give my review and it was definitely hands down one of my best months in country. Tambien, I can also officially say: Happy 1 year *volunteer status* anniversary to my team 517-11-02!! There are some amazing people in my group who have been fantastic support systems, kind listeners, allowed me to express myself freely, and they have challenged me to take risks and continue to step outside of my comfort zone. So, needless to say, I've been blessed to spend the 15 months with them and I'm looking forward to all of the adventures and fun we will continue to have in the 12 months we have left. Now, with that being said, I now have the opportunity to describe in detail my month of October, hope you enjoy =)

October been a very fulfilling month for me! I kicked off October participating in a gender study analysis for USAID. James (one of my fave volunteers and my soul chat buddy) came to my site to talk to one of my Chicos Superman groups for the gender study analysis. He asked my CS group questions while I took notes. They participated really well and afterwards, James asked them some questions about HIV/AIDS prevention in which they answered enthusiastically and correctly. It was a great moment for me because at times, it is hard to measure "success" as a youth development volunteer, but hearing their answers, I realized that they have now been equipped with the information they need to make sound choices in the future. Then, I headed to James' site which I was very excited about because he lives in a campo in Dajabon. This would be my first experience in a campo and Dajabon is about as close as I can probably get to Haiti while in service so that was cool too!

I had a really relaxing time in James' site. I was able to hang out with his dona and second host family, play dominoes (I really miss that game since I don't get to play it in my site), and check out his Chicos Superman group. It was also my first time using a latrine and showering outside which I'm glad I got to experience. James is one of my best friends here so it was important for me to experience his community so that whenever he calls from here on it, I have reference to what he's experiencing!

The next day his Chicas group had their spagetti dinner (where all the girls were responsible for bringing an item for spagetti) and elections for president, vice-president, treasurer, and secretary. James prepared, presented, explained, and executed the election very well. I was really impressed with the process (so much so that I implemented the process in my own site) and I enjoyed asking them questions from the gender analysis study while James took notes. I really enjoyed his group, while they were waiting, the newly elected president orchestrated a talent show with a fair judging system and James and I shared a step with them that he could teach them later.

Right after my visit to James' site, my boss called me that Monday to ask if a team of people who are involved with PEPFAR funding stateside and here in the D.R. could come and check out some of my groups. Here is a little bit of info about PEPFAR: "The U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is the U.S. Government initiative to help save the lives of those suffering from HIV/AIDS around the world." The PEPFAR team wanted to see how a Peace Corps volunteer uses these programs as prevention activities in a community. Now, PEPFAR is pretty huge, because it essentially funds most of our major conferences and camps, especially in the youth and health sectors. So when she asked me I was honored that she would consider me for this event and then afterwards I realized that this would bring a lot of attention I'm not used to, and so it did. In the course of the following 2 days, I had talked to PC staff more than I had in my entire year of service leading up to this, I had to redo my emergency locator info, and I got a visit from Diane (who is our Director of Programming and Training as well as second in command) to prep for the meeting.

Peace Corps is all about flexibility and I'm reminded of this in everything I do. My plan was to have some of my youth leaders do a Chicas Brillantes and Deportes para la Vida demonstration, but I didn't actually know how much time we had until the day before the event. But that worked out because my youth leaders were actually practicing together so it turned into another bonding experience for them. Grace was def extended to me because there were local elections that day so all of my youth were ready and eager to participate. I selected about 25 and they arrived eagerly at 1:45pm. We were still waiting by 3 and by 4 my kids were on a sugar high. When they arrived, my kids sprung into action: my girls presented on the woman's reproductive organs, my youth group did a mini charla on HIV and how its transmitted, and then 2 of my trainers did 2 Deportes para la Vida games which is also HIV/AIDS prevention through kinestic games. MY youth participated, responded, behaved well, answered questions beautifully, made me proud and all-around knocked it out. We then took a brief tour of my community and then the PEPFAR crew was off to their next adventure. Later, I learned that out of their entire visit, the group enjoyed their visit to see my youth. I was definitely beaming like a proud mama when I learned that! So while the process of this was a little stressful, the results were more than worth and it was another awesome example of why youth development (and conferences/camps) positively impact Dominican youth.

Riding the high of the successful PEPFAR visit, I headed down south to to San Rafael to celebrate my group's one year anniversary! 16/27 of us that are still in country went down which I consider a success! We rented out a house and played games, hung out on the beach, caught up on life,relaxed! It was everything I needed and I was excited to make a return trip to the south and hang out with people who have seen my in country growth. Once I made it back to the capital, I was able to watch the 2nd presidential debate with Krystle at her house, we had a ton of laughs and it was our first get together since Diona left. Her house for me kind of represents my BGP zone so I always feel a little more confident and ready for whats next after our girl chats.

After an Organizational meeting for our 2013 conference for NNA in high risk situations, at a pretty swanky hotel (that lunch was probably the best food I've had in country), I went to do an organizational talk for the new youth group that swore in this Wednesday (congrats 517-12-02!) It was really cool to share my thoughts and experiences working with an organization with the new volunteers, I remembered this being one of the most important and useful talks for me so I hope that it ended up being the same for them. I was able to meet the new volunteer who is coming up to AC, catch with my host family in MP, and catch up with my awesome trainer Emily. Sean and I were also able to have dinner with 3 girls from the new group so it was nice to get to know them all a little bit better.

I came back from Monte Plata and the very next thing on my plate was a youth group led Archie bunker activity for community leaders in one of the barrios I work in. Archie Bunker is a game that we play to show the injustices of discrimination and inequiality. During the the youth day that we had in September, I did this charla for the youth and they then wanted to do this in their barrio. So they acted the parts out and then I facilitated the discussion with the adults. Lets just say that they were really riled up and the message came through clearly; I think they were also impressed with the role that youth leaders played in the activity. As one of my leaders always say: "eso es solo el principio de lo vamos hacer"

Additionally, we kicked off new groups of Deportes para la Vida in the community center. I am now working with one of my newer trainers and my host brother, they work really well together so I am hoping to continue to work with them so they can continue once I peace out. This month has also shown me some of the challenges with working directly in a non-profit. Misunderstandings, communication, different levels of expectations, language barriers all make for occasional disasters (at the time) but I've survived them all so lets just say I'm ready for anything organizationally when I head back stateside.

Finally, due to Sandy we had to change the dates of our Chicas Brillantes Cibao intercambio (remember flexibility is always the name of the game here) from Friday/Saturday to Sunday/Monday. It ended up working out for the best because it was sunny and pretty when we arrived at our conference site in jarabacoa. We jam-oacked 3 days worth of conference activities in 24 hours so it was jam-packed with prep work, but well worth it. We had a great team of volunteers, a curious and energetic group of girls, and really nice facilities. The success of the intercambio was a bit of a confidence boost for me because I found that I enjoyed all aspects of my role as a co-coordinadora which is great since I signed up to co-coordinate the Chicas national conference next summer =)

Well por ultimo I also had a DPV event with my youth before the Escojo mi Vida conference. Once we finished the activity Las Verjas (which is about the importance of communication in the process of waiting to have sex with your partner (if you choose to) by first having an HIV/AIDS test done), we had a sit down talk where they shared what they've been learning and the topic turned to thanking me for coming from far away to share my time with them. I told them that I wasn't the important one in all this, that the people who are being trained to take this over when I leave (they all seem to wince when I mention October 2013 now) are more important because this work will continue when I leave. They stopped me for a moment and one guy said they are not more important than you because the time you are spending with us right now is the foundation for all that may come, and then another guy said if not for you we would still be passing all day every day in the barrio just shooting bottle caps. Now I've always had a habit of deflecting praise but they really would not let it happen, they gave me a standing ovation. I want to say wait a minute, you guys are worth it, but I allowed myself to breathe in and just be in the moment, willing myself to remember this moment and tuck it away for moments when my work is difficult or I'm feeling homesick.

Also, here is what I am looking forward to:
  • Staying on my workout grind (b-day countdown in full effect)
  • 5,000 conferences and intercambios in Jarabacoa (lets see if I'm still looking forward to this by December)
  • spending more time getting to know all of my wonderful youth and preparing them to take over their groups (they have some fundraisers and get-togethers planned)
  • Med mission with Hillary in Monte Cristi
  • One year IST with my youth team
  • Thanksgiving with my boos Hillary and Malika (I'll have some stuffing for you Diona)
  • mural painting at my community center with Sabrill
  • World AIDS Day community event that will be planned, hosted, and facilitated by my youth group
  • Vacay celebration for our birthday with Ashlee and Paris (this will be the highlight of my December, I can hardly wait!)
Next time I will be sure to add photos of what I've been up to if my USB hard drive comes back to life.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Whirlwind that was September

So my last update was about the emotional rollercoaster I experienced after going home in August. This time, I'd like to focus on what I'm actually working on in my second year of Peace Corps service as a volunteer. But also, special shoutout to my team 517-11-02 because tomorrow marks 1 year of actual volunteer service in the D.R. It has been filled with a lot of tears, smiles, goodbyes, lifetime forming friendships, adventures, bolas, oatmeal with raisins, yucca yucca yucca, salami's fall from grace, laughter, lots of carro rides, lots of walking, plenty of praying, not enough praying, Caribe tours, and visits to and from some of my favorite people here, uncertainty, undeniable reassurance, and many hugs! I would not trade or take this experience for granted, and I am reminded to live in and appreciate each moment (especially on those days when I wonder exactly what I'm doing here).

The last 2 months have been exceptionally gratifying and extremely busy as well. I've developed some really amazing relationships with my youth, and strengthend relationships with some of the people that I work with. The past 2 months have not been without various trials, one of which was not being able to get to the gym for over a month, but I think I'm in a really good place now.

Here is what my last 2 months have been all about: capacity building, my goal has been to prepare my youth to effectively run groups when I am not here, because in reality by this time next year, I will not be here. But before I got to that point, I spent the first 2 weeks after my vacation to the states adjusting to the fact that we have a new directora in my org (in fact I think I'm still adjusting). I basically went through a proving process via reports on what I've done (results focused), my plans for the upcoming semester, descriptions of the Peace Corps programs I work in, and how I divide my time between both centers. I found nothing about this process to be gratifying, it was stressful and I was missing the previous directora who I love and treated me like her daughter. My relationship with the new directora is still a work in progress, but we are both interested in the same thing, supporting youth in Santiago, so I think we will be just fine =)

After that, I presented to the incoming group about my experiences as a volunteer in an urban setting which was really cool. Any opportunities to reflect on my experiences and what I see everyday is humbling because I get to do this (shoutout to TDP + my trainers). Then I went with 2 youth leaders from the then newly formed youth group to Celebrando el Mundo, which is a camp about diversity awareness and appreciation. I didn't know it then, but these youth have been essential to my integration into their youth group, this group trusts me and we have done a lot of programs together so far (with a lot more to go!)

The following week, I re-started my groups of Chicas Brillantes and Chicos Superman, both of which have been the centerpieces of my work in my community center. Then I had a volunteer visit from the trainees, where Deandra came to experience my life as a volunteer. It was a surreal feeling, being a "expert" for someone else on the volunteer experience while I am still trying to figure this out myself. It was really fun hanging out with her and I tried to make her volunteer visit as eventful and fun as mine was with Vicky. We visited both centers, karaoke night at a colmado, went to a VIP style club, walked the community, started my volleyball group, went to Monte Cristi to hang with other volunteers, and went to El Moro which is a beautiful and and quiet beach.

After that, I started my leadership development entrenamiento for my DPV trainers so that we could plan out who partners with who in which communities, review what we've done, do some team building and create some personal, career, and DPV goals. DPV is probably my favorite program because of the involvement of Dominican partners, and the curriculum reminds me of my College Summit rap director manual. Some of my trainers then came with me the very next day to a regional Deportes conference where we discussed program updates, presented what we've done since May and what we hope to accomplish by December.

The following weekend we had our "Con Ojos Abiertos" program that focused on diversity awareness, HIV/AIDS prevention and nutrition. This was my first major event geared towards older youth (14-25) in my community. The two youth who went to Celebrando el Cibao, plus 2 of my awesome DPV trainers, plus some of my amazing Chicas leaders, and Sam, one of my favorite volunteers all pitched in to form the awesome team of people who organized the event. It was also my first event where I spent a majority of my time during the day facilitating (shout out to my improved Spanish) and although the group was a little talkative (I'll call it their adjustment to day long mini conferences) but they def left with accurate info on HIV/AIDS and how to protect themselves, strong sentiments on discrimination after the Archie Bunker game, and knowledge of more programs that they can come to the Community Center for (Escojo mi Vida, Chicas brillantes, deportes para la vida).

All in all, I forgot to take my rest and relaxtion (R&R) days in September, but it was a very fulfilling month workwise. There must be something about year 2 as a PCV, because there are a lot more people who know about my programs and projects, and would like to work with me. I can now warmly reflect on all of those tough times year 1 as setting the stage for all of the positive interactions, interest, and support my barrios are showing me in year 2.

Stay tuned for my October review next time around.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Ups and Downs of a Vacay (August recap)

I'm sure many of you remember that I wanted to blog at least once every month and I've not managed to do that. But not because I don't want to, especially in the past month. Here is the reality of the situation: I went home for a wonderful 2 week vacation to the states at the beginning of August. It was right after Camp GLOW (which was an amazing experience for me and my girls) and a visit to my friend Jose's site so I was feeling pretty good; I was in a good place for a visit home because of the break in my activities and most AC employees were on vacay. My time at home was an action-packed, at times stressful experience: but long story short: I was able to catch up with a lot family and friends from all over. Thank you to all of you who made time to visit, see me, call me, send me a gift, or get to a gathering that I was at: it was all very much so appreciated.

However, I'm not sure I ever read about (or prepared myself for) the fall off that I had when I got back to the D.R. Now of course, I could not really write about this while I was going through it so gracias a Dios its over. I am also (for the time being) NOT planning to go back home for the rest of my service because the trip knocked me so far off my game. The first night back was nice, my host family picked me up from the airport, and they have a welcome back sign for me in my house. We traded gifts and I was basking in the high of a visit home and feeling the love from fam and neighbors in the D.R.

Then over the next week, my emotions took what can be best described as a nose dive plummet into muddy asphalt. (which if you've ever been to my community you know how dangerous that is) Of course there were some other contributing factors: my AC (work) mom left for the states and so we now have a new directora. And in her first week in the organization, she asked everyone for reports of what we do, our plan for the next 6 months, cosas asi. At the same time, I was also trying to turn in a world grant that would allow me to do a major program in the community. Now all of this combined has the ingredients necessary to be a very stressful situation, because all of my programs, plans, and proposed schedule were on hold waiting for her approval/understanding. Even on my most laid-back days, I still like to have a bit of control over making my plans happen so needless to say I was a bit anxious because the 2nd year of service is supposed to be the time when all that spagetti throwing at the wall during my first year turns into concrete projects that have a sustainability focus. Anyways back to story at hand, couple uncertain, murky project plans with not being able to leave my site (thanks to the tropical storm) and re-adjusting to speaking Spanish again...all of which led to that emotional nose dive that I know refer to as hurricane Jackee (that was for your Kristen!).

Apparently I am not the only one who experienced this emotional rollercoaster when returning from the states so that helped me to feel much better (misery or rather empathy loves company). Add that in with a lunch with Jose and breakfast/soul talk with James and I was on my way back. Eventually the new directora heard about all of the awesome collaboration work I do at the org which allowed her to give me the green light on projects (with a couple of compromises along the way).

So that was the emotional part, once I got busy, my emotions picked up as well. One thing I've noticed while being here is that time for reflection is very necessary, but there is such a thing as too much time for reflection, so I was very happy when I was done filling out paperwork and reports and moved towards presentations, walking around the community, and having my groups.

So now for an overview for what I've been up to for the past 2 months:
-started working with a women's group
-presented to the new group of volunteers about my urban site
-attended Celebrando el Mundo Cibao (diversity awareness/appreciation conference) with 2 jovenes from the new youth group in my community
-hosted an awesome new youth volunteer and we went to El Moro in Monte Cristi (gorgeous)
-volunteered to coordinate the national girls (Chicas Brillantes/GLOW) camp next summer
-coordinating the subregional conferences for both Chicas Brillantes and Chicos Superman
-played lots of board games with my nieces and nephews
-started a volleyball team
-organized times for my Chicos groups to come and play basketball
-started hanging out with my co-workers after work
-started going to the HUB for church (huge win!)
-successfully kicked off 3 chicos and 3 chicas groups with my awesome multiplicadores
-working with youth leaders to plan a diversity/HIV awareness conference
-working with my awesome Deportes para la Vida trainers to run programs in 4 different communities
-started eating peanut butter again, which I will stop by October 1
-potentially found someone who can twist my locs in the D.R., interview pending
-went to a resort in Jarabacoa for a taller on communication and then fun in the sun with my organization
-spent a lot of time with 517-11-02 youth at Corps Forum and realized how much I love all of them
-I've been going to the gym 3-4 times a week to keep my stress level down
-I've been planning visits to see other volunteers and other parts of the country
-I've been studying Spanish at least once a week (working on making this 3 times a week)
-I've had more soul talks with my host mom lately too
-everyday I'm still aware and thankful for this experience and yes Ashlee I do believe that I am living in these moments =)

That is a pretty good synopsis of my life right now; the next 3 months are jam packed with activities and I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Month by Month Update: June and July

I'm continuing with the month by month updates for June and July in the hopes that this will inspire me to actually start blogging more regularly.

June: I kicked off the first weekend in June at what has been my favorite camp experience so far in country: Deportes Para la Vida football camp in Batey 9 in the south. This was my first time travelling to the South and I must say it is a breathtakingly beautiful part of the country. I definitely want to head back and explore visit Nicole and Sean's sites. There were 8 volunteers and a guest DPV trainer and 36 guys. With only 3 female volunteers, we were sorely outnumbered so we ended up taking over a volunteer's house while all the guys stayed in the dormitories. I had a great time at this camp, it was the smallest camp I had been to in terms of number of volunteers present so we really had to come together and work as a team which I love. It was also my first opportunity to take youth from Centro Juvenil to a camp so I really appreciated the opportunity to get to know some of my youth and challenge them on a more individual basis away from the center.

Following the DPV soccer camp, we went right into 2 weeks of Deportes para la Vida camps. We enlisted the help of a DPV trainer to help us with our first camp because PCVs normally do DPV over a longer period and we were trying to knock out all of the curriculum in 5 days. (Similar to my CS days but this a whole different type of ball game in the D.R.) I really enjoyed these camps because it challenged my trainers and me and allowed us to connect in a way that only shared experiences/funny moments/challenging issues/learning working styles can create. I really enjoy the DPV curriculum because it reminds of the College Summit Rap Director curriculum in what it tries to do.

July: I started off July with a camp on my home turf! We had a Deportes Para la Vida camp at Centro Comunitario which is where most of my sustainability work has been focused. The goal was to bring in new youth who have not used the community center much, sprinkled in with some of my Chicas Brillantes and Chicos Supermen leaders. It was an amazing opportunity for me to meet more youth in my community, and allow them to see me at my best (with 2 DPV camps already completed, we were at our best for this camp) and pull them into fall programming at the community center. I enjoyed spending time with these youth and I just remember back to the time when I wanted a site change. I am so thankful that I hung in there because these youth deserve and are worth every doubt challenged and fear overcomed to persevere in my site. They are intelligent, aware, focused, and dedicated to being better: their enthusiasm for DPV and just doing something other then hanging out on the streets of the barrio was evident (and appreciated).

My CORE girlfriends came to visit me while we were wrapping up this camp. My Core consists of some of my best girlfriends in the world; we all met through my church youth ministry: Remnant. It was an amazing opportunity to have some of my friends who know and love me best see the work that I am doing, meet my host family, and understand the social environment of my community. They were able to see the Deportes para la Vida graduation, meet all of my co-workers/friends at both Centro Comunitario and Centro Juvenil, we were able to have lunch with my work mom Bentodina (who I love very much), walk around the barrio, travel and head to the beach. We are also a group of women who strive for what we want, and hold each other accountability in our faith walk, goals, and personal development. It has been hard (though not impossible) to be in the Dominican Republic without friends who know my history/faith walk/source of Christian accountability so it was refreshing/invigorating/a much needed relief/a source of revitalization to have my Core with me. It was also amazing to see the Dominican Republic through their eyes, I had to play the role of translator (which if you know my Spanish history is humbling/hilarious) and explain customs that had become normal in my everyday life in the Dominican Republic. It was a fun, difficult, educational, humbling, and important experience: I see clearly now wow the 2nd and 3rd goals of the Peace Corps are designed to promote cultural understanding. BTW hosting family and friends in the Dominican Republic an experience that I want to have again (hint hint to ALL my family and friends)

I went to San Cristobal to prep for the Chicas Brillantes National Conference which is our version of the Peace Corps worldwide initiative: Girls Leading our World which is a gender empowerment initiative. I've never been to a prep camp for a camp here in the D.R. but it was a lot of fun. It was an opportunity to plan out our charlas, build camaraderie for the camp, and I had a chance to work with the Comite girls: the 10 girls who were selected to be Dominican representatives who work hand in hand with volunteers to plan camps and they can share information during charlas with the girls in a way that we never could.

Then we had another DPV camp in Centro Juvenil, the most challenging place possible to have this kind of camp given the nature of the kids set up. These our our kids who usually work on the streets as shoe shiners, selling food, movies, etc. They have the opportunity to come to Accion Callejera Centro Juvenil for a half day program filled with learning activities, art, sports, destress, emotional, legal, and health support, and an opportunity to buy breakfast and lunch for a very low cost. To put on this type of camp is difficult because you never know who is going to show up day to day and the mood in which they will show up-they see and experience a lot. Plus there are some serious language barriers because half of the boys do not speak or understand Spanish-which makes it hard for even our native speaking Spanish trainers to reach them. It was the most challenging but by far the most rewarding DPV experience so far because a lot of the kids left having a basic foundation for how to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS and how to make healthy life decisions. Now that they have the information, I just pray that they utilize when they are in difficult situations.

Veronica, a Spanish teacher with PC who was my "aunt" during CBT, came to visit me in my site. She is def my best Dominican friend, its just sad that we live so far away from each other. Anyways she came up to visit and we had a ball1 We didn't have to go out all over Santiago to have a great time, we just walked around the barrio, caught up on life, passed time talking with my vecinos, we watched Pride and Prejudice in Spanish, and we went out to one of my favorite restaurants in Santiago. I was feeling a little lonely before she came over (the low of having your close friends leave the week before) so it was nice to have her over!

I ended July at the actual Chicas Brillantes National Conference. I was able to take 3 girls which was a blessing for more reasons than I can share on this blog. It was a 5 day camp, pretty long but I learned a lot about myself and what I want to do through this camp. It was a lot of work, inspirational, an opportunity to connect and re-connect with volunteers, and a wonderful opportunity to see my girls learning and growing away from Santiago. there was also a professional panel of Dominican women who re-inspired me to keep striving for everything that I want to accomplish, regardless of what others may say or think. It was an incredibly fulfilling experience! I took a lot of possibility walks in the charlas and activities I shared because they were a mix of my youth facilitating training with TDP and I shared some sisterhood activities with the Comite girls.

So as you can see, I have been blessed to be busy with what I believe is meaningful and sustainable work that youth in my community can take over. Next blog should be a guest blog from a member of my Core who will share what their experience was like visiting me here in the Dominican Republic!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

In the

Hey friends,

While I'm sure you are waiting for my June and July updates, plus Core's trip in review to the D.R. (cough AP), I figured I would share a wealth of pictures with you. Next time I write, I should be stateside for a 2 week trip to see loved ones and friends! I'm so excited!

 My Super men...after we made Ojos de Dios highlighting their values

 My chiquitika group...doing the same thing

 Our first Deportes para la Vida camp (an HIV/AIDS prevention program through sports) we were going over the ground rules here

 After the first day of camp, one of my boys drew this for me, they were sooo cute!

 All the boys!!

 2nd camp: me and my them!

 My sister and my niece, we were using Biore face products and scaring the kids in the colmado lrl

 2nd graduation: whew these kids made us work hard!

 All of these boys have my heart...blessed to work with them..we were doing a DPV activity here

 their graduation at centro Juvenil
 some of my babies at Centro them!

 the DPV graduation at centro Comunitario

 they all signed their names on our graduation poster

 work hard play harder...beach time with Core

 my host mom, host sisters, and me, we went on a Mother's Day Brunch 2 months later...

 ensenandole =)
 My project partner Mecho and I during one of the DPV camps.

 Dahlin with his new glove...thanks AP

 Veronica and I walking through my barrio

 family popcorn night =)

 a highlight from the busqueda at GLOW

 another highlight from the busqueda at GLOW

 me and my host sister and the Cibao stadium watching Dahlin's team play a team from Oklahoma City

 Some of my host them!

 Dahlin posing with some of the legends of Santiago baseball =)

 my PCV love Jose making us guacamole in his site....

Me and my Chicas Multiplicadoras after GLOW 2012 =)

DPV Training in Cabarete with dinner on the beach...we're so blessed!

GLOW 2012....A camp to remember!

Walking through the barrio w/ Jenae and my sobrinas...thanks for capturing this moment AP!

Possibility walking....shoutout to TDP =)

Gotta love puppies!

Sam and I presenting Pensando Positivamente...I'm so blue =)

Mis sobrinos....le quiero mucho!

Core getting ready to hit the beach =)

Core on my fav beach in the D.R. so far..

Core with Bentodina! My AC mom!

Core with my host fam...def special