October 21, 2013

Business Talk

It has been awhile. It seems like I am always saying that when I sit down to write another blog post. The truth is, the pace of life is slow here, and sometimes there’s just not much to say. But this past month has been busier than normal. I just returned from a 5 day trip to the capital—more on that later.

Two weeks ago I partnered with a bank in town called Banco Ademi and gave a savings charla (talk) to over 50 seventh and eighth graders. It was my first time working in the schools, and surprisingly I enjoyed it. After the talk, we  got to go on a field trip to the bank—the kids really enjoyed it, probably because they were taken out of class. In November, I will hopefully return to the school to start and give recycling talks to every class. I am not only trying to get more plastic bags for our women, but trash is a HUGE problem in our community and the country in general. Trash pick-up is inconsistent; many of my neighbors just burn their trash or throw it into the nearby river or wherever they feel…it’s gross.

This past weekend was the Construye Tus Suenos (Build Your Dreams) national conference. CTS is an initiative from the business sector. It is a class that teaches jovenes (ages 16-29) how to start a business and write a business plan. The national conference is when students come and present their plans and compete for money to actually start their business—the maximum amount of money given is $50,000 pesos. Since no one in my group has started teaching the class, we were invited to attend and help out at the conference. There were about 70 students from all over the country that came, with their volunteer. It was amazing to see all of the potential and innovation that the young kids have. There were three winners (this year all girls!) that will be able to start their own business, with the help of their volunteer, monitoring their funds. There were also just general talks and lessons given about business. I will start teaching this course in January and am currently starting to recruit potential students.

Another plus of this conference was that it was held in Santo Domingo in the Sheraton—talk about luxury. The food was amazing, as well as the hot showers, A/C and internet access. Many of the jovenes that come to this conference have never stayed in a hotel in their life—much less one like this. And for us volunteers it was a nice little break from our volunteer lifestyle. I honestly have not eaten food that good since I have been in country. Overall it was a great experience and I cannot wait to start teaching.

After the conference, we celebrated my site mate and good friend, Sam’s, 27th birthday by eating chicken wings and watching the FSU v. Clemson game and then went out dancing at the Car Wash (car wash by day, dance floor by night) until 2am. Needless to say it was a good end to a weekend in the capital.

I am now back in my site, waiting for one of my women to come by so I can teach her how to set up a Facebook page for our business. She said she would come by this afternoon, but evening is soon approaching. And this is the current problem I face—my women’s group. They want everything from me, and expect me to do all of the work while they aprovechar (enjoy) the fruits of my labor. Ready for this rant? (If not, skip to the next paragraph) Well here it goes: my women’s group was started by an American, who used to live in Cotui. This American has a great heart, but she does not know the first thing about development work or sustainability. Since the groups existence, she has been giving the group support (mostly financially), and the group has not had to do much work, other than crotchet to make the purses.  The problem? This is not sustainable, and this is not what I am here to do. But the women are so used to being given things, that when I push back, and ask them to do some work; they get angry with me. I have explained to them every week this past month, that if they are not willing to work with me, I will not do anything for them—it has not gone over well. Development work is a long, hard, slow process, friends. And when you’re working with a group that wants things instantly, it makes your job even more difficult. 

The thing that makes my job so great is that I can do what I want. So the women’s group isn’t working out, well that’s fine! I’ll just teach a youth group to girls, or give recycling talks and work with the environment office in town to better this community. Peace Corps is my experience, and whatever I put in, is what I will get out of it. I am currently working to find other projects to occupy my time, and things are working out. When the women’s group is ready, I’ll still be here, but until then, I’m going to find things that are a good use of my time. This woman hasn’t shown up, so I guess I’ll go post this to the internet.

Doing what I love,


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