Saturday, June 14, 2014

Yard designs in team members' homes.

This past week I (Mark) started initiating the same process in Batey 7 that I have been following in Haiti with yard garden participants. Working with members of the team responsible for the clinic yard garden, we did a yard evaluation (50 points possible) then registered each person and finally, created a yard design showing the changes the participant and his family want to make.

The process takes time and we have some team members on vacation in Santo Domingo. We got four people registered and evaluated, but only three designs done.

A group of youth from Westminster Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina will be working with the youth from Batey 7 starting June 22nd, God spare life, to help them begin transforming their yards.

Here are the three designs we finished yesterday. Everything in red represents the changes that the family wants to make. Round circles in straight lines generally indicate where they will set up vegetable tires on benches. Long rectangles represent vegetable beds. The ones marked "moringa" will be planted to Moringa oleifera.

Yard design of Rubio and Clinton Paredes. The area to the left represents the changes for which Clinton and Rubio will be responsible. The set of circles to the far right represent fruit trees, vegetables and medicinal plants that the parents of Clinton & Rubio have already planted. The drainage that is a serious health issue for the batey lies directly behind the Paredes house. Clinton and Rubio made 22 points out of 50.

Yard design of José Aquino. José is the coordinator of the clinic yard garden team. His goal is to create a space in his yard that has some of everything that is in the clinic yard garden. José has nothing growing in his yard right now, so he made only 5 points out of 50 on his evaluation.

Yard design of Brayan Dotel. Brayan is one of the first people who helped get the yard garden started in the clinic. Then because of school and other factors, he dropped out. José has gotten him interested again and when we went to visit Brayan's yard, he had already cleaned out the area, prepared the soil and begun planting plantain rhizomes ("platanos" in the design). Brayan has separated the area with dirt walls in order to irrigate the space. Brayan made around 11 points on his yard evaluation.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Lessons on Community Development--a workshop to develop practical Christian Education Materials for Batey 7

"These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Matthew 10: 5-6

The participants on Monday afternoon, after the first activity. From right to left (back row), Franklin, Leo, Esmiralda, Ambar, Maria Luisa, Clinton, Nayeli, Mark, Alberto, Meybi, Esperanza, José, Genesi, Yolanda, Santa. In front, Jenny, Annika, Keila, Ardell.

Wednesday, March 26th

Ardell Graner, Jenny and I arrived at Jenny and my home in Barahona at 9 PM, exhausted. We had just finished a workshop that Ardell had organized for us, training a group of thirteen youth from Batey 7 to develop Biblical-based lesson that will foster community development.

Ardell and her husband, Gordon Graner are mission workers who are also serving with the Evangelical Dominican Church (IED for its name in Spanish). Ardell and Gordon have been sent by the United Methodist Church (UMC). Ardell and Gordon came to the DR last April after serving for twenty-three years with UMC in Bolivia. Here is one web site: Gordon and Ardell. Here is another, with more details about their mission in the DR: Graner Family.  Jenny and I began the initial conversations with Ardell over six months ago. Our excitement for this idea was fostered by the work that Ardell led in Bolivia, working with young people who were responsible for Christian Education (Sunday School) in their respective churches.

The objective of the workshop was to come away with two things. One of these was for us to have written materials that the young volunteers carry out their work visiting homes in Batey 7. We needed educational materials that reflect the cultural, economic and social experience of the people of Batey 7. The other thing we hoped for was to have a cadre of youth who are serious in their commitment to a fundamental and integrated transformation of their community--who want to be part of something bigger than themselves. This team would need to be the hands and feet to carry out the program of development developed by the Community Development Committee and the Counsel for Community Health and Development (see previous blog).

Jenny writes: "As Ardell, Mark and I were planning for this workshop, we wondered if these youth would be able to write about their lives and their relationship with God clearly. There were able. We wondered if they would be able to present it in front of others, even if they could write it. They did present it, in role play after role play."

In Matthew 10:5-9. Jesus sends his disciples not to exotic lands where the language is different (!), but to their own people. He sends them without gold or silver, with only the power and knowledge that he shared with them, which he commands them to share freely, just as they had freely received. In the final ceremony Wednesday night, we asked the youth to respond to that challenge. Were they willing to take their new knowledge and capacities to their neighbors, to share with them transformational messages? The youth responded, "YES!" We asked them if they truly believed that what they have within them is more valuable than silver and gold. Again they responded, "Yes!"

Jenny writes, "In closing, I invite you to read and reflect with us on the passage from Matthew....How often have we believed that wealth and material goods will resolve poverty and afflictions? How often have we come into a community like Batey 7 and told them what is best for them? Stop with us for a moment. Let's listen to our brothers and sisters. They have all the wisdom from their community to create a new reality."

Here are more of the photos:

Ardell began the workshop Monday afternoon in a clown suit, with no introduction and no talking, throwing rubber balls in the air. Eventually, one by one, participants began playing, too. Ardell explained when they were done that the point of that games was that this workshop is not about one person talking and others listening. It is about everyone participating, it is about having fun, about sharing and about being creative.

All of the participants put their hand prints on a large cotton cloth, signed them and drew something unique in the center of each print. We were all in this together and each of has something special that only we can offer.

Mark (left) working with (from left to right) Clinton, Genesi and Meybi on defining the problem of the legal judgement 0168/13 in the DR, which called into question the citizenship of thousands of Dominicans born to person of Haitian descent.

Still the first day, the youth in groups of three wrote down their understanding of each of ten issues that the Counsel for Community Health and Development has identified  of primary importance for the community. After a couple of rough starts, the youth did an amazing job of explaining to us what each of those issues means and why they are important in the community.

The issues are:
1) The community's environment
2) The right to be recognized as citizens and to have legal documents
3) Sexual health and education
4) The rights of children and adolescents
5) Hygiene
6) Employment
7) Self-esteem
8) Adequate housing
9) Agriculture
10) Spirituality

Three times a day we ate together in the center's dining hall. The center where we held the workshop was in Batey 9, about five miles down a dirt and gravel road from Batey 7. Our host was Pastor William from Batey 9's evangelical church of Christ. It is an excellent resource.

Tuesday morning, Ardell started the day with a powerful devotional that started with the participants decorating each one their own small clay pot.

Alberto decorating his pot.

After the youth finished decorating, we took a hammer and cracked the pots, as Ardell shared with them the pain that often comes from living. We are often broken by life's sorrows.

Nayeli piecing back her pot. Christ came to heal the world. As broken as we are, God desires and is ready to make us whole.

Meybi and Maria Luisa working to put their pots back together.

Ardell working with Nayeli to "heal" her pot.

Some of the broken pots.

Getting down to the nitty gritty. From left to right (behind), Clinton, Alberto, Ambar and Yulis work on developing a Biblical-based lesson agriculture that speaks to the situation in Batey 7. The three visitors in front of the group were part of a visiting delegation from First Presbyterian Church of Muncie, Indiana.

Each lesson had to include a greeting, a prayer, a testimony from the participants' personal experience, a Biblical reference and a reflection based on that reference.

Clinton, Alberto, Yulis and Ambar doing a role play, visiting a household to share the lesson about agriculture.

After everyone had completed their devotional, they presented them in role plays. Mark represented the family in this first exercise, as the agricultural group presented their theme. In all of the rest, the youth themselves became the person or persons in the house receiving the volunteers and sharing the lesson.

Alberto, putting together one of the Biblical-based lessons. After the first set of lessons, created by the youth in groups of four, they did a second set of lessons, working in pairs. Finally, each participant had to write their own lesson.

The youth presented in role playing all of the lessons developed in groups of four and those put together in pairs. Time ran out for the final set of lessons and we did not role play those during this workshop.

 We broke up the intensity needed for writing the lessons by playing games. This one was called "Shark." One person is the shark and "eats" all of the players by pulling out a ribbon tucked into their clothing. José, who is already a leader in the community, particularly among the youth, led the games.

José washing Yolanda's feet as part of a Biblical-based lesson that Jenny provided on hygiene. Jenny elicited from the group a list of important hygiene practices, then finished with the story of Jesus washing his disciples' feet. She noted that in that time, it was part of the local hygiene to wash your feet before entering someone's house, and the wealthy often had a special servant who was responsible for doing that. But Jesus' changed the dynamic when he washed his disciples' feet.

Clinton working on a special art project, yet another way for the youth to express how God was touching their hearts in the workshop.

Yulis with her chocolate drink, as part of the Feast of Agape that Jenny led, one of the traditions of the Moravian church, where she is a member in Nicaragua. The Feast was part of the closing ceremony which included a commitment, spoken together, to share their new skills in Batey 7.

Ardell and Yulis.

Jenny writes, "During the two and a half days of the workshop, we were responsible for thirteen young people between the ages of thirteen and nineteen. And we didn't know them very well. But during the workshop, we exchanged laughs and we played games together. And we discovered and were sometimes surprised by their gifts." Most importantly, we became friends.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

A New Committee in Batey 7

A shot of the drainage ditch to the northeast of Batey 7. The community is entirely surrounded by sugarcane fields which are cut periodically by deep drainage ditches to assure that the land, which is extremely flat, maintains its productivity. This particular drainage is within a few feet of the last row of houses and is a breeding ground for mosquitoes and, whenever it rains, a receptacle for human waste.

New committees are not something Jenny or I (Mark) would normally get excited about.

But this one was different. This past February, Jenny participated as an observer in the formation of the "Consejo de Desarrollo y Salud Comunitaria" (The Counsel for Community Health and Development) in Batey 7.

This new group came about when the Community Development Committee (CDC) invited Batey 7's Youth Group for Development Club (Club Juvenil de Desarrollo) to a joint meeting. The CDC is the group with which Jenny and I have been working using the strategies we are learning from CHE (Community Health Evangelism). The second week of February Jenny arrived at the afternoon meeting with newsprint, markers and masking tape, but she assured the joint group that her only role would be to help write what people were saying.

As they talked, participants shared the goals and activities of their respective groups.  One thing they discovered was that both groups have identified the malignant drainage ditch as one of the priority  problems for Batey 7. But even more than that, the participants felt that they could work better together. So they set a date to meet again, and February 27th, they created the Counsel for Community Health and Development, with the executive committee made up of an equal number of representatives from each original group.

Each committee will continue to exist and work on their own agendas. But every two weeks, the executive committee of the counsel is scheduled to meet to discuss the points they have in common.

Neither Jenny nor I know for sure what will come of this, but coming as we do from two different Reformed traditions (Moravian & Presbyterian) and two different professions (health & agriculture), we really do believe the PC(USA) World Mission philosophy that we work better together. We think this new development has to be a good thing--adults with their experience and maturity working together with the youth, with their energy and vision. Pray with us for this new initiative, that it may become a powerful engine for transformation.

Kelvin (right, in black and white shirt), the assistant coordinator for the youth group, explains some of the goals and objectives of Batey 7's youth group.

Participants in the joint meeting of the Community Development Committee and the Youth for Development Club when they formed a new initiative, the Counsel for Community Health and Development.