Not sure what program is right for you? Click Here
CIEE

© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Study Abroad in

Back to Program Back to Blog Home

11 posts from March 2013

03/26/2013

El Poder de la Vergüenza

Creo que la conversación más constructiva que se puede tener después de leer “To Hell with Good Intentions” es una conversación sobre el poder y el privilegio.  En mi opinión, el problema más grande que tiene Illich con voluntarios extranjeros es que ellos no tienen la experiencia de vida para entender cómo viven los que tratan de “ayudar.” Su creencia muy fuerte es que los programas no son productivos porque las personas de clases altas no pueden entender  las luchas de las personas de clases bajas; entonces él crea que es ofensiva y paternalista si ellos tratan de ayudar, porque siempre van a forzar sus puntos de vista e ideales en los otros que quieren ayudar.

 Uno de mis discursos favoritos es un “TED Talk” se llama “Listening to Shame” por Brené Brown. Una línea muy fuerte en el discurso es la siguiente: “We heard the most compelling call ever to have a conversation in this country, and I think globally, around race …Cannot have that conversation without shame, because you cannot talk about race without talking about privilege. And when people start talking about privilege, they get paralyzed by shame.” Cuando yo leía el artículo por Illich, pensaba mucho en esta cita, y el privilegio.

 Algo que he tenido que enfrontar durante mi tiempo en este programa ha sido mi privilegio personal. En relación a muchas de las personas que he encontrado mientras trabajando en mi comunidad, tengo muchos privilegios. Soy americano (que simboliza que yo estoy privilegiado en mucho del mundo), estudio en una universidad privada en los estados unidos, y tengo muchas oportunidades que las personas de Los Pérez o Los Platanitos no tendrán en sus vidas.

 He luchado mucho con sentimientos de vergüenza sobre mi privilegio, pero me he cuenta  que tengo dos opciones: a sentirme mal por mi vergüenza y quedarme en una posición de complacencia, o reconocer que estoy privilegiado y trabajar juntos con los que tienen y los que no tienen para buscar un tema de interés mutuo con el objetivo de entendimiento mutuo.  No tengo las soluciones para resolver los problemas del mundo y reconozco que yo no puedo “cambiar el mundo.” Las  ideas que yo tengo sobre el mundo son de mi mente personal, pero esto no significa que mis ideas son correctas o que pueden funcionar en las vidas de otros.

 No estoy de acuerdo con los sentimientos de Illich porque él está haciendo suposiciones sobre los americanos y los extranjeros en general, y creo que es la falla fundamental de su argumento. Él asume que todos los americanos son ignorantes, o que crean que sus ideas son los mejores en el mundo, pero esta suposición no es cierta. Cada persona es diferente, y esta aplica a personas ricas y personas pobres. En la misma manera que no es justo para hacer suposiciones sobre los pobres, también no es justo para hacer suposiciones sobre los ricos o los que tienen privilegios. La vida es llena de luchas, si eres rico o pobre, pero también es lleno de éxitos y felicidades. Por esa razón, programas de intercambio no son malos, porque dan la oportunidad a la gente a compartir y entender los experiencias de otros en una manera más profunda. Creo que los ricos a veces tienen una idea sobre los pobres que no es la realidad porque no han tenido la oportunidad a compartir y aprender de los pobres, y visa versa. Ellos no podrían esa oportunidad si no hay programas de intercambio para facilitar estas relaciones y si los extranjeros están avergonzados cuando tratan de participar, ayudar, y últimamente, entender.  

Todos los días, tengo la oportunidad a romper estereotípicos sobre los americanos, y también cuestionar mi propia forma de pensar sobre el mundo. No estoy aquí en este país para cambiar las mentes de las personas que viven aquí o cambiar la manera en que funcionan, porque es una tarea imposible. No sé exactamente cuáles fueron las condiciones políticas o sociales durante la época en que Illich leyó “To Hell With Good Intentions,”pero creo que es de una época diferente y en contexto diferente. Esos días, vivimos en un mundo que es más conectado de otra época en historia a causa de globalización. A consecuencia, creo que es de gran importancia a tratar de conectar con personas en otras situaciones en el mundo en un nivel comunitario, y no rechazar la oportunidad a aprender y compartir a través del servicio.

Quizás mi argumento es demasiado simplista o idealista, pero creo que los estereotipos que existen en el mundo y los sentimientos de nacionalismo sólo sirven a dividir el mundo. No podemos ignorar que el privilegio existe, pero tampoco no podemos permitirlo a paralizarnos. Quizás Illich, un extranjero en su mismo, necesitaba confrontar su propia vergüenza de privilegio e ignorancia antes de hablar de la ignorancia y el privilegio de otros.   

Para ver el 'Ted Talk:'  Listening to Shame

-Tom Baker

Clark University

03/14/2013

Spring 2013 Photo Essays

This semester, we asked our students to create a photo essay based on the following tough questions:

Are the poor responsible for the country's problems? How do they contribute to resolve these problems? 

All our of students did a wonderful job in expressing their answers to these questions through various themes.  The following are four of the best.  

Responsibility, Reuse, Recycle

FB10
La Mosca
(the fly)—an aptly named sector of Santiago perched on the edge of the city’s smoldering landfill Vertedero Rafey—is home to many people who make a living as waste pickers and processors, they collect materials of varying value from the landfill and resell it for reuse or recycling. Though based in necessity rather than environmental zeal, residents of La Mosca work responsibly against the widespread problem of waste in the Dominican Republic. 

Photo Essay by Frances Bursch, University of Oregon 

To view the full photo essay, click here: Responsibility, Reuse, Recycle

The Informal Sector Battling Poverty

JK4
This photo essay portrays the ways in which the people affected by poverty try to better their situation.  The informal sector exists because of the lack of education and economic resources.  The informal sector is also a way in which the people can create work for the large uneducated labor force.  The majority of these people who work in the informal sector work to survive and not to gain a lot of earnings.  The impoverished in this case are working to improve their lives in the best way that they can with what they have.  

Photo Essay by Jessica Kruger, Eckerd College

To view the full photo essay, click here: The Informal Sector Battling Poverty

Where is the government?

PH8
In the short time that I have spent in the Dominican Republic, I have seen and heard about one thing on a very regular basis: the government’s lack of concern for the poor. Whether it comes in the form of a poor public schooling or inadequate medical attention, or from the mouth of a young Haitian immigrant or an elderly Dominican woman, the sentiment seems to be very strong. I set out to articulate that feeling even further, both by giving the poor a voice and by demonstrating just how non-existent the government’s involvement is. Within an hour of walking along one street in Santiago, I took five of the following photos (Lemon and salt, Does he exist?, Perspective, Saved by money, and Hopeless). That I was so easily able to encounter so many varied examples of governmental neglect in such a short period of time is no coincidence. Rather, it demonstrates as well as anything the widespread effects of the Dominican government’s inaction.

Photo essay by Peter Hyndman, Drexel University 

To view the full photo essay, click here: Where is the government?

A Reflection on Global Warming

JA1This photo essay is a result of reflecting on the following two questions: Are the poor responsible for the problems in the country? How do they contribute to resolving the problems? In trying to answer these questions, I became aware that the answers can be applied on a global level. After much thought, I also realized that the answers are complex because it is unrealistic to blame a single group of people. We all contribute to global warming, especially the rich; therefore, we can and should also be part of the solution.  Based on my experience, many people are working towards resolving current enviormental issues. Eventhough in reality the poor contribute less to global warming, many are active participants and advocates for a more ecofriendly way of life.        

Photo Essay by Jacqueline Ayala, Occidental College

To see the full photo essay click here: A Reflection on Global Warming

03/12/2013

An Inextinguishable Light

100_0363Two kindergarten students in an escuelita, or small school, practice their dance moves for a cultural community event.  

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

My experience in the Dominican Republic thus far has challenged me in many ways; taking classes in Spanish, living with a host family, managing a busy daily schedule, and navigating the complexities of the communities with which I work have been just a few of the challenges I have had to confront. What has been the largest challenge, however, is learning to keep a positive attitude in the face of the many disappointing occurrences that inevitably arise when participating in any type of service work.

I work specifically with two youth groups as a member of the non-profit organization, Oné Respé. In the short two months that I have been working with the organization, I have experienced first-hand the disappointments and frustrations that community organizers face on a daily basis. During that time, we have had to cancel two events due to lack of interest or plans falling through, struggled with fluctuating attendance at the youth group meetings, and lost the source of all of our funds. Needless to say, it has not been an easy task to work as a member of the youth group committee this semester.

What I have noticed during the many “finite disappointments” that I have experienced during my time with Oné Respé, however, has been the strength and perseverance of those with whom I work. Every single day they come to work with a positive attitude and an un-faltering belief in the communities they serve.  They focus not on the disappointments or the failures of their labor, but instead celebrate the many small successes they may encounter- a child remembering to do his homework, a student who doesn’t often participate raising her hand and sharing a personal story, or a simple gracias, or “thank you.”

As a community organizer, it is very easy to become jaded or paralyzed by negative energy because there are often more daily disappointments than successes. However, I strongly believe that the flickering light of “infinite hope” for a brighter, more just future that burns within those who work for social justice is much stronger than any string of “finite disappointments” that may be presented. I see that light flickering in the eyes of my co-workers every day I go to work, and it has inspired me to not only be a better student of service, but a better human being as well. 

-Thomas Baker

Clark University 

More than just a supervisor: an admirable mentor

IMG_6574
Melanie from Accion Callejera talks to a boy who works on the streets of Santiago. 

As cars pull to a stop at one of the busiest intersections in Santiago, two boys run across the road with ragged sponges in hand. Melanie, my supervisor at Acción Callejera (an organization in Santiago, Dominican Republic, that works with street children) greets these window washers with smiles, laughs, and a few questions. As I stick close to her side, nervous and unsure how to interact with these boys, I intently listen and watch as she carries out relaxed conversations with all the boys who cross our path. This was my first experience out on the streets of Santiago getting to meet, greet, observe, and learn in an area where we lead activities for the boys working the street every other Thursday.

During my past two months working with Acción Callejera, I have been fortunate to have a truly inspirational supervisor, Melanie, who has mentored me daily and tirelessly. A mentor, one who advises, teaches, and demonstrates his or her skills and knowledge to another, is an important figure when one is entering a new and unknown environment. Throughout these pasts two months at Acción Callejera, I have had to learn the ins and outs of the organization, the norms and daily schedules, and on a more personal level, the ways of interacting with the boys. Melanie has been more then just a supervisor for me; she has been a fabulous mentor who has proven to be a truly admirable role model.  

As I continue to be mentored by Melanie, my respect and admiration for her grows as I see the patience and energy she continually brings to the table. Her ability to stay upbeat and positive despite the many challenging, sad, and frustrating situations she encounters daily has made her a person to emulate as I contemplate a career in social work myself. Although my time here in the Dominican Republic is speeding by much too fast, the striking work ethic, energy, and pride I have seen in Melanie is something I will remember when looking back on my time here. My experience here has made me realize the benefits of mentors, and how observing others successfully execute a job is the best way to learn. 

-Heather White

Clark University 

Necessity

IMG_8100
A workshop where they use recycled materials to make new mattresses. 

‘Cause bluebirds don’t fly without their wings, and when we put them in a cage, the world can’t hear them sing. So selfish, when greed sets in; Possession: the king of sin.’  --“Famous Flower of Manhattan”, The Avett Brothers

My experience in the Dominican Republic has opened my eyes in many ways, but especially regarding the use of resources. Here, it seems like very little is wasted, whether it be money, water, food, or even, in some cases, trash itself. Simultaneously, there is little hesitation to share what few resources there may be. Both of these examples strike me as starkly different from what I have experienced in the United States, where waste is frequent (for example, 40% of food goes to waste in the States1) and selfishness tends to be accepted. (Less than 40% of Americans deem “unselfishness” to be an important quality to teach to children, compared to well over half of British, Australians, Japanese, and French individuals2.)

When I try to understand why the attitude is so different here in the Dominican Republic than it is in many parts of the U.S., the above quote always comes to mind. For many of the people that I have encountered here in the Dominican Republic, as much in rural areas like Río Limpio (an impoverished mountain-town on the Haitian border) as in urban ones like Pekín (a working class neighborhood in Santiago), possessions are not celebrated, greed takes a back seat to generosity, and selfishness is trumped by solidarity. For example, even after two months in Pekín, I remain unsure of which babies belong to which adults because they are cared for and looked after in such a communal manner.

Coming from such an individualistic society, seeing this was a very new experience. Of course, generosity is not in short supply in the States; I, like many Americans, am happy to help someone, but I am much more hesitant to do so if I know that it will affect me negatively. But here, people seem much more likely to help someone even when doing so does not align with the benefactor’s self-interests. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve seen a Dominican, often living on a day-to-day budget, offer whatever food or coffee she has to her neighbors.

I think that these different viewpoints are results of the overarching (though not completely pervasive) mentalities in each of the countries: individualism in the USA and collectivism in the DR. On the one hand, how you think and act is a matter of the culture that you were raised in. But it’s also a result of the choices that you make and what you, as an individual, deem to be important. Having realized this, I’ve started to be more critical of my own actions. I’ve started asking myself if it is better to focus on my own desires, or to think about the greater good. Is it better to house that bluebird in a cage, or to let it fly free and sing for the entire world to hear?

1. https://news.blogs.cnn.com/2012/08/22/40-of-u-s-food-wasted-report-says/

2. https://www.annarbor.com/lifestyles/hedonism-america-has-selfishness-won/

-Peter Hyndman

Drexel University 

To Lead is to Listen and to Lift

24301_342358762532231_913147481_n
Students learn about organic farming techniques in Rio Limpio, Dominican Republic. 

Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.” —Peter Drucker

 The organizations my peers and I work with as volunteers are leaders in their respective communities in Santiago. Though they are all community-based non-governmental organizations that are well established and do phenomenal work, at times my peers and I face a disharmony between the service being offered and the priorities of the people to whom it is offered. We struggle leading after-school homework services and youth empowerment groups that are sporadically attended, and health services that are under utilized. My project includes encouraging and incentivizing people in the recycling of plastic in a part of the city where littering is not condemned and even garbage pick-up is irregular. I ask myself, are our projects too far-fetched? Why doesn’t the community want to participate? Why don’t they want to improve their conditions? How can I incentivize participation?

I was beginning to think the answers to these questions were negative, that development that needs incentivizing or big changes in current beliefs and realities of target communities are too idealistic and thus unlikely to ever be successful.

However, my perspective changed when we visited Centro Regional de Estudios y Alternativas Rurales (CREAR) or Regional Center for Studies and Rural Alternatives) started in 1982 by Peace Corps and the Dominican Agrarian Institute. CREAR teaches organic agriculture in a community where the deforesting practice of slash-and-burn farming is traditionally used. Though initially the community had to be convinced of the benefits of organic farming and participation was encouraged through stipends, there is now an admissions selection process for incoming students. Over the last thirty years CREAR has educated hundreds of farmers, fundamentally changing their farming methods to the sustainable organic model. CREAR’s example gives me hope that our projects too will continue to take root in their respective communities and grow.

Sometimes projects do fail because their motives are not aligned with those of the community they serve. However an organization that is a good leader pushes the community to learn and make changes as well as use the resources and knowledge it has. Leadership is listening to a community and working within its beliefs and realities but leadership is also being a visionary, holding a high standard, pushing people to learn, change and thrive. 

-Frances Bursch

University of Oregon