Want to help me with a project?

Posted July 13, 2010 by thesarahrobertsexperience
Categories: Uncategorized

In May, I started teaching a youth entrepreneuship course called “Construye Tus Suenos” to 20 youth from my community and the surrounding area. CTS is a business education program that empowers youth with the knowledge and skills necessary for developing a business. After participating in a course, the youth have the opportunity to develop their own business idea, write a business plan, and submit the plan to compete in a national competition. The winners will receive the funds needed to begin their business.

YOU CAN PLAY A BIG ROLE IN THIS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVE!

We need to raise funds through US donations to fund this years competition. Donate and read more here!

Listed below are last years winners and a description of their businesses.

Production Category

First Place: Fotovideo Alanna in Vicentillo, El Seibo.  A group of 5 young adults now are providing the services of a photo lab in their rural community.  Allowing the community to document the special moments in their lives and provide a progressive method of promotional opportunities.

Second Place: Diorama in Pedro Sánchez, El Seibo.  A young woman that has previously studied design is now providing the service of interior decorating.  For example: curtains, bedspreads, table cloths, pillows, etc.

Third Place: New York Pizza in Sabana de la Mar, Hato Mayor.  2 young women proposed a small pizzeria in the middle of growing tourist town.

Commercial Category

First Place: Cyber Smerling in Azua.  A young man is providing accessibility to the internet and computer skills on the main road through Azua.

Second Place: Colmado Anna in Batey 6, Bahoruco.  A young woman is providing her small batey with the accessibility to fresh goods in the form of a small mini market.

Third Place: Jamberson Agrikol in Anses a Pitres, Haiti.  A young man is now providing the local farmers with the necessary, but not so accessible, seeds and machinery to improve their level of agriculture.  This gentleman is one of our Haitian participants that gave his presentation in Kreyol.

Spanish

Posted June 17, 2010 by thesarahrobertsexperience
Categories: Uncategorized

I´m currently in my ¨In Service Language Training¨ with professors from Entrena, the volunteer training center. I´d like to say that my spanish has improved by leaps and bounds!  I just received my first Advanced Spanish Grammar book. It feels good to finally get into the swing of things. Communication makes everything just a little easier.

My parents just came for an 11 day vacation. We had a wonderful time at the beach, in my site, and touring the colonial zone in the capital. In just 6 short weeks, I will be heading home to Indiana for a week long visit! Nadira and I will be going to Emily Longnecker´s wedding (wthr13 reporter, and friend.) I´m so excited! I plan on eating at Olive Garden, going to my home church, having a cookout, and enjoying my time the best I can with the people I love.

My projects are going well. I am teaching the entrepreneurship/how-to-write-a-business plan class to 20 youth from the five surrounding communities. My woman´s group is still making their cleaning product. We now have our own bottles and stickers. I just used a bottle to clean my house: smells so good! I also recently sold over 3000 pesos in higuero for my artisan group at an all-volunteer conference. Life and work have been up and down here, but lately things are going just like island life goes: suave.

The National Weather Forecast predicts an extreme active hurricane seasons, with a possible 23 named tropical storms with 8-14 of those turning into hurricanes. I may be spending some time in the capital if things get bad here. Crazy!

Right now I´m going back to my doñas house (with a host family for the week) to eat dinner, then it´s off to play pool and share some Presidente while watching the Celtics game. Yay for small sports bars!

Cuidanse.

Se Exploto!

Posted April 8, 2010 by thesarahrobertsexperience
Categories: Uncategorized

I’m at my friend Shilpa’s house right now. She has 24/7 internet, can you believe that? Lucky. I thought I’d take this opportunity to update my readers!

The hot air is moving in, and the mosquitos are getting vicious. I have to turn my fan on over my bed just to blow away the mosquitos to put on my mosquito net so they don’t all swarm inside. They really are an annoying insect and I’m trying my best to deal. The worst is when it’s nightime, nothing to do, there’s no electricity so it’s super quiet, and all you can hear are mosquitos buzzing… and we all know how annoying the sound of a mosquito can be. Note to people who send me care packages: any sort of mosquito or pest repellent would be appreciated. Peace Corps’ family friendly bug spray doesn’t quite seem to do the trick! Gracias a Dios I haven’t yet had dengue.

My stove exploded the day I had friends coming over. I was heating up water and BOOM. Big fireball in my face. I wasn’t hurt, but it did burn my arm hairs and eyelashes a bit. The weird thing is, I had a vision multiple times about the stove exploding on the exact day that it really did explode. Weird, eh? No worries though, I returned the stove and got an upgrade for a stove with much better quality.

On a lighter note, I have been cooking a lot lately. The other night I cooked eggplant from my backyard. I don’t even like eggplant, but I cooked it. Why? Cause it made me feel awesome. And I had no food. I also cooked guandules that I found in my backyard and that was even more awesome because they’re delicious. I’m not real sure exactly what they are… like a bean or a pea. I boiled them, added a pumpkin type of thing, cilantro, garlic, green pepper, seasonings… YUM. Ate it with rice. Ani liked it too.

Speaking of Ani, I still am completely in love with her. She’s such a fantastic dog! Some volunteers came to visit and they all were impressed by how sweet she is and how cute and clean. I took her to get a free rabies vaccine, and soon she’ll be getting fixed so she can’t have any puppies… Sorry Ani, but I can’t handle more than one dog.

Nadira came out to visit. We had an awesome time. Spent a few days on the north coast on the beach, and went on the eastern peninsula to a private resort/beach. Both very beautiful. We also went to 27 Charcos (waterfalls) and jumped off the first seven. The trip was a great challenge for me because I was forced to use a lot of spanish and I think it was a good confidence booster. We pretty much backpacked through the country and I feel great about it. On our last night, we stayed at a very Americanized/touristy hotel and it was amazing. It made me miss the luxuries and convenience of American quality and customer service… and food. But, I’m back in my site and enjoying my Dominican lifestyle, so no worries.

This past week was Semana Santa (that’s not pronounced like santa claus, it means saint,) which means it was vacation time for everyone. Even if I wanted to work, I couldn’t. The kids weren’t in school, my women didn’t meet, so I just hung out! Spent some time with my buddy Shilpa. I slept in a hammock for a few hours at my project partners house. Cleaned up my place a bit. It was a nice week. I colored Easter eggs with my host mom and her granddaughter, Maria and Ambar. They both equally loved it and it was fun to expose them to that tradition. After all, 1/3 of Peace Corps’ goal is to share your own culture! 🙂 So I wasn’t completely slacking.

I’d like to say thank you to Barack Obama and Aaron Williams, Peace Corps’ new director. President Obama has been the first in many  years to put money BACK into Peace Corps, thus increasing the readjustment allowance for volunteers and increasing various other budgets. Also, I think that means we will be getting more volunteers than usual this upcoming fall.

As far as my projects go, my women’s group is still making “Caribe Clean”, the disifectant product, and I just received training on the youth entrepreneurship class and will be starting them next week. Not too many exciting notes on those two things right now though.

My parents are planning to come visit in June, so that’s awesome. Everyone in my town is excited to meet them, although they speak absolutely no Spanish and not many people in my town know English.

Can I just talk grammatically for one second? Since the “s” in Peace Corps is silent, do I still just put an apostraphe after the “s” if I’m giving it ownership of something? Because I’m then giving it the s sound. For example: Peace Corps’ new director. Answer me that, readers.

Found a small tarantula in my bathroom last night. Killed it with my broom. That’s tarantula number 3 at my house. Not too bad, but still not great.

Well, it’s pouring down rain now and Shilpa is about to return from a meeting. We’re going to make yuca and eggs for dinner, whoop, so I must be going. Hope you all are enjoying the spring weather! Nothing like fresh spring air… and grass. 🙂

(There’s like no grass here. Very little.)

Home Sweet… Tarantula?!

Posted February 24, 2010 by thesarahrobertsexperience
Categories: Uncategorized

About two weeks ago, I moved into my new house. It´s right around the corner from my Doña´s house, with orange and white concrete and a zinc roof, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, living room, dining room, and kitchen. I have more than enough space, but I chose the house because of its location and it´s security. All the windows are barred and there´s a gate in the front. I´ve been very happy here so far. In my first three months of service, I slept a lot… I mean a lot. The lack of schedule and constant Spanish overload made me tired all the time. But when I slept all the time, that just made me feel useless which sometimes got me down. Well I´m over that 3-month-hump now and am proud to say that I get up before 9 o´clock every day and have been skipping my usual afternoon nap. I have to admit that part of the reason I´m getting up earlier is I´m afraid Ani will get restless and pee on my clothes. However, she´s been pretty good about notifying me when it´s time to do her business. Plus, I do have more responsibilities now.

The other night I found a GIGANTIC tarantula on the wall in the kitchen. I about passed out, but I gathered myself and ran to Maria´s house with Ani and mandar-ed the boys to kill it. That night I also came face to face with a rat. I´ll have to mandar someone to get poison. I woke up and found rat poop on some of my clothes! Argh.. But all in all, for a home in the DR, it´s going great.

Having a home in the central of the country definitely has its benefits. Here in Caribe, where some call it a magical micro-climate because we have palm trees AND pine trees growing together, the earth is rich and fertile. In my ¨backyard¨ I have an abundance of cacao, coconuts, three types of oranges (for eating, making juice, and seasoning meat,) cilantro, eggplant, some sort of melon, avocado, guandules, pan de fruta (a seed from a pod that grows on a tree… you boil it and eat it,) platano, and guineo (bananas.) CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!

Saturday marked my 6 months of being here. 6 months down, 21 more to go.

I am proud to say that I have started a project. My women´s group is making Mistolin, a disinfectant product, and I´m very excited for our opportunities for success. The Cigar Family Foundation School uses Mistolin, as does todo el mundo, and I gave a sample for them to try our product. If they choose to buy from us, that´s a big client! Basically we buy the chemicals in the capital, make the product in bulk, and sell it for cheaper than the brand name stuff. Dominicans are mainly concerned if it smells good, and trust me… it smells gooood. I came up with three name and slogan ideas and had the women vote on them. The end result: Caribe Clean, ¡Fresco al Fin! (Fresh at Last.)  I realize Clean is in English, but I chose it because it rhymes with Fin, and it makes for alliteration. It also includes the name of our community.  Everyone loves it, that´s enough for me. I designed a label for the product, and the administrator of CFICF is going to get stickers made for us to put on our product… for free!  Gracias a Dios.

Enough for now. I have to get ready for a women´s group meeting. Hope everyone is staying warm in the Midwest. If you´re looking to warm up, go eat a hot meal at Olive Garden East Washington Street, and make sure to tip your server well!

Diagnostic- DONE!

Posted January 29, 2010 by thesarahrobertsexperience
Categories: Uncategorized

I´ve officially finished my first three months of service. My diagnostic report is finished and my presentation is ready to go! On Monday, I´m going to the capital with my project partner Jorge to present the diagnostic, and will be staying the week to learn about project planning and other fun schtuff.

Right now I´m sitting underneath the giant enramada style cafeteria at the school. It´s a beautiful day, warm but breezy in the shade. The school sits back away from the community, surrounded by trees and hills. I would like to say I´m peacefully enjoying this slice of paradise, however…

The students at the school have sports tournaments during the school day. Our school´s baseball team just arrived and are really roudy cause they won their game. The cafeteria was empty, but now it´s filled with about 30 boys age 15-18 and one gringa (me) so you can only imagine what went down. Immediately they crowd in line to eat and while waiting, all I hear is ¨Tss… Sarah! Was yo name?¨ (They´re not so good at english pronunciation.) One boy says ¨Sarah, I love you  baby,¨ then blows me a kiss. Another says about his friend ¨El quiere casar contigo,¨ which means ´he wants to marry you.´ Eventually they all sit dwn at a long table, and after a while I hear them calling my name again. I look up and the ENTIRE table of boys is looking at me, including my host brother (we´re buds). I have my ipod earbuds in, but I can clearly still hear them. So to avoid another ridiculous comment, I give them all this look like I can´t hear you.  Then they start yelling me to take out my earbuds, but I continue to give them the ¨I can´t hear you¨ gesture while smiling, so they know I clearly can, which gets them all going louder. Sarah! Sarah! Quitalo!  I looked back down at my computer and held up my finger to give them the Dominican finger-wag which means no. It always works. They laughed and went back to eating.

Today I passed by the tobacco fields, and they´re beautiful. The tobacco plants are about 2  feet tall, and every single one of them is tied to a white string that connects to the protective netting above. This way they grow straight up and don´t fall over. The earth underneath is a rich brown, and the netting above is white. Just imagine a huge field full of green plants and thousands and thousands of strings attached. It´s really quite interesting. I´ll try posting a picture of it on facebook.

Christmas and New Years were great. I spent time swimming in the river, going to the waterfalls, and celebrating New Years with fireworks on the beach. Can´t blaim me for not working those few weeks. Nobody works during those weeks.

This Sunday kicks off the Carnaval festival in the DR. It´s an annual festival celebrated in different regions, and here in Bonao is the second largest Carnaval. Every weekend for the month of February there´s a parade in Bonao. The costumes are really colorful and dramatic, often scary masks with demonic iconry. This Sunday, however, is just a march for promotion, I suppose. I´m walking with a group of people from Cigar Family wearing shirts that displays our school. Tomorrow we´re having a party in the community as well, and the money from the tickets sold will go towards this years Carnaval events. Once I figure out more what Carnaval really is, I´ll explain more.

Well, I´m about to get mopped over. Stayed tuned for more!

Chillin’ Out Max and Relaxin’ All Cool

Posted December 14, 2009 by thesarahrobertsexperience
Categories: Uncategorized

Hey there.

So, I prestar-ed a computer from my friend and I´m happy to be sitting comfortably in the Cigar Family School  using free internet. I just had a meeting with about 12 jovenes, and they are PUMPED to do the Business Plan Competition. These kids are smart and motivated. My only concern is unfair pressure… someone stressed that they will participate and they will win.

Oh wait, let me catch you up a bit.

Every October, the Peace Corps and another organization put on the ¨Construye Tus Sueños¨ Business Plan Competition. CED Volunteers that choose to participate will form groups of jovenes (young people ages 15 to 24) to participate in the competition. This is one of my 3 main goals as a volunteer in Caribe. Starting in the Spring, I´ll begin a 3 month curriculum of business skills to teach the group. Then, we are going to put together a business plan to use in the competition. Basically, they will be judged on how thought-out the plan is, keeping in mind the needs of the communities, appropriate budget estimations, logo, advertising, etc. The winner of the competition will receive the funding necessary to begin their business! It´s a rare and unique experience.

My group is motivated and excited. My guess is I´ll bring the largest group. And what I´m especially excited for is that they are also judged on their presentation skills. This is where I feel a bit one up on the competition. I was a communication major, presentations were my life. I´m going to put together a presentation curriculum to gets the kids comfortable and familiar with how to present a powerpoint, how to speak in front of large groups, etc. It will be new, fun, and beneficial in many aspects of their lives… hopefully.

I tried to tell the kids that even if they don´t win, it´s still valuable information to know. I mean, as long as they have the skills, there´s always money to be found.

It feels good to be doing some substantial work that involves my future projects. I´ve been getting a bit anxious just hanging out. If I don´t do some legit, good work here I won´t feel like it´s worth it. No offense to anyone, I´ve made great friends, but I sacrified a few very important relationships to be here and work, one in particular. I want to feel like I´m doing more than just making friends and such. You feel me?

Speaking of future projects, I visited a volunteer yesterday that lives close to me. Her name is Shilpa, she´s a one-year-in youth volunteer. She´s done a lot of youth group stuff and is currently building a library. She gave me a lot encouragement and advice about my projects. As far as my already said projects go, I might also consider making a brand new workshop for the artisans, and putting together an art class. My artisans have a small shed and limited space to work and store their supplies. Also, though the kids have art classes here at Cigar Family, I have a few project ideas of my own.. ones that involve recycling material to create art (thank you Bette Porter for your passion and vision for why art is important,) painting murals from famous artists in the hallways of the school (thank you New Palestine High School for this idea,)  and a creative writing group (thank you Cole Farrell for your inspiration at Camp Barbee for this idea.)

I used a blanket last night cause it was cold. Can you  believe that? But I´m catching a bola home, cause it´s too hot to walk now. Ha.

Happy Holidays! I´ll be spending New Years on the beach. It´s true, don´t hate me.

Happy Bebe You You!

Posted December 3, 2009 by thesarahrobertsexperience
Categories: Uncategorized

Saludos!

I hope this blog reaches you all enjoying the holiday season. I celebrated my first warm Thanksgiving last week in the capital with all the other volunteers in country. We rented out a country club and had a massive pool party, typical American Thanksgiving dinner, and quite the entertaining talent show. I even won a few pesos in a poker tournament (oops, can I say that?)

Yesterday was my birthday, and it was a smashing success. I invited all of my friends in the community, and we had quite the turnout. Everyone pitched in and decorated my house with balloons, ribbons, and even bought me a beautiful cake. Another volunteer, Shilpa, and myself made banana bread and guacamole. It was the first time many had ever tried both, and they were a big hit. Thanks to everyone who attempted to call me and for those who wrote on my facebook. I felt very loved!

Dominicans like to sing Happy Birthday in english… but instead they sing Happy Bebe You You. I´m not really sure if they know it´s incorrect. Ha!

I was talking with my mom on the phone today, and she brought something up that I wanted to clear up.. I am not on vacation. Yes, I must admit that some days I do absolutely nothing, but let me explain how doing nothing is doing something. Volunteers work very hard. They accomplish many things in their service. Right now, I´m in my ¨project planning¨ phase. I´m doing different tasks to complete my community diagnostic, and with that I will plan out my projects. Right now, I´m making a map of the community and conducting interviews. I don´t work 9 to 5. I don´t have an office. Some days, I wake up late, clean my room, wash my dog, eat lunch, walk around, cut yuka, eat cacao, and go to bed after I play my guitar. But at this point, adjusting and integrating myself into the community is part of my goal in the first three months. Yesterday I had a birthday party and a lot of people came… people that I´ve gotten to know in just this one month. Just making friends is work. I´m integrating, I´m learning Spanish, I´m adjusting- work. There are some volunteers who are proficient in Spanish and have started a few projects like teaching english or whatnot.  But that´s totally the decision of each volunteer whether they want to do their diagnostic and juggle a small project at the same time. Hey, I made business cards this week for my artisans. That´s something!

My mom also wanted me to write about a few Dominican habits I´ve picked up. The first one, and my favorite, is the ¨lip point.¨ Dominicans usually don´t point with their fingers, they point with their lips. Pucker up in one direction, and that´s pointing. Another one that I have just started is the nose scrunch. If someone wants to ask ¨what?¨ ¨they simply scrunch their nose for a moment. My project partner kept doing it to me and I would scrunch my nose right back in confusion. She was asking me what? with her face and I was responding verbally with what? because I didn´t understand her facial expression. I get it now.  Another one would be the hissing. Psssttt-ing and Tssss-ing is mostly heard when a man is trying to get a woman´s attention. I get those alot, almost every day. But, they can also be used to get anyone´s attention. Saying psssst works a lot better in a crowded colmado than saying Hey! I love the psssst (but not from men.)

Life here is going well. After my first initial shock of being placed in my community all by myself, I found the strength to pull myself together and start working. I must admit, the first week or two is this huge reality check, and I practically cried every night. You ask yourself, ¨What am I doing here? Who am I going to talk to? Why did I leave my life behind for this? How do I do my projects? What if nothing works out?¨ Through talking with other volunteers, I quickly learned it was a shared feeling, and once I made friends and started working and planning, the feeling passed. It´s still hard to be away from those you love, but after spending time with my community, I feel a bit more at home.

Did I mention in my last blog that I almost stepped on a gigantic tarantula? Ew.

My doña loves my dog and it´s so cute! I mentioned that I wanted Ani to wear a bandana on my birthday, and my doña went all out making her THREE dresses and a pink bow! Ani was quite the hit at the part in her pretty dress and bow. I love her, she loves me. I´m teaching her to sit. She´s bilingual, you know. She is learning ¨sit¨ in english, but knows ¨come¨ in spanish. I verbally compliment her in english, but for the most part she hears spanish. Pretty neat, eh?

Wanna send me something? How about a mountain dew or some parmasean cheese? Hahaha, just kidding. (I´m not kidding.)