Friday, September 7, 2007

Dominican Republic, Here I Come!

Great news to share with you: I have been accepted to serve as a volunteer for the U.S. Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic from mid-September 2007 until mid-November 2009!

As many of you already know, I have been involved in the long process of applying for the Peace Corps since last October, so I was thrilled to finally get an invitation packet in the mail in late July. I accepted the assignment the very same day I received that packet, and am int he final stages of preparation for departure to the Dominican Republic. I am on the plane for orientation on Monday morning!

The Dominican Republic (DR for short) is a small country of about 9 million people in the Caribbean that shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. I have been to the DR's capital city, Santo Domingo, once before in 2002. I was coordinating a training conference as part of my job with the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) at Fred Hutch. From my brief trip there, I learned that the Dominican people are very friendly, warm, and welcoming of visitors. In fact, I still have friends in the DR (former colleagues from HVTN) who I will be able to see while in-country. Needless to say, I am very thrilled and excited to get started.

Although the specifics of my assignment will not be completely defined until I actually start working on-site, I have been assigned to work in a program called Healthy Families, which focuses on providing support, information, and programs to help at-risk and under-served populations in the DR (in both urban and rural locales). Specifically, it sounds like I will be working with other volunteers and health professionals to assist mothers, infants, and teen-age youth to reduce their risks of infant mortality, maternal mortality, and HIV/AIDS infection.

At this point, I am not sure where I will be living during my time in the DR, nor do I know the conditions (i.e., electricity, water, communications) in which I will live. The Healthy Families project serves both urban and rural populations, so I may be just as likely to be assigned a post living in the big city of Santo Domingo as in a rural village in the interior of the island. Either way, from what I know of the DR so far, I am sure to find friendly folks, beautiful scenery, and plenty to keep me busy and active.

As opportunity allows, I will try to post updates during my service in the DR, to this, my very first attempt at a blog! I'm a rookie at this technology, so please bear with me as I learn how to use these features, and make the blog interesting and easy to read. Pictures and other fun stuff to come soon.