Friday, May 15, 2009

Please help our summer camps!

Dear Friends and Family,

I send you all "abrazos fuertes" from la República Dominicana!

Life here in the Dominican Republic (DR) marches on for your favorite Peace Corps Volunteer. With a little more than 6 months remaining in my service, I am keeping busy with preparations for a summer full of activities and special projects related to youth development and education. As many of you know, one of my main projects here is HIV/AIDS education for high-risk youth in my community. As part of this effort, I am working with my youth group (now 30+ strong) and with other Peace Corps Volunteers and their youth groups from around the country to organize three very special summer camps designed to give kids an opportunity for creativity, sharing, and fun... but we need your help to make them a possibility.

Please take a look at the descriptions of each event below, and if you can, please make a contribution to our work here in the DR using the electronic links attached. As always, 100% of your donation will directly benefit the program - not one penny is taken for overhead expenses.

If you have any questions about any of these programs, please feel free to e-mail me. Thanks for your support of our efforts to educate Dominican youth and provide opportunities for growth and fun.

1. Girls Leading Our World - Campamento "Estrellas de Hoy"

This is a weeklong summer camp for girls only. Girls will have the opportunity to hear and talk openly and honestly about life goals, life planning, safe-sex, healthy relationships and much more. With information and hands-on activities as diverse as HIV prevention, self-esteem, sports, art, music, and nutrition, the camp will be life-affirming for all our participants, and a much needed respite from the social and economic pressures faced by many girls in rural Dominican communities. Unfortunately, many young women in the DR have children and are married or otherwise involved in a domestic partnership far before age 18. Our Camp aims to try to break this cycle by reminding girls that they have the power to make healthy choices and take control of their lives.


2. Boys' and Girls' Sports Camp:

Following the success of last year's volleyball camp for girls, I have recently volunteered with other Volunteers to help organize and run a second 3-day sports camp for both boys and girls. Appropriately named "Jugar para Vivir" (Play to Live), the camp will teach younger kids (10-14) skills and sportsmanship in Soccer, Volleyball, and Kickball while also focusing on themes and activities to teach skills for healthy development: HIV and unwanted pregnancy prevention, ways to avoid alcohol and drug abuse, and incorporating sports, excercise, and nutrition into a an overall healthy lifestyle. Yours truly will be heading up the volleyball portion of the camp and teaching swimming lessons. Should be great fun and lots of learning for both boys and girls...

Please donate to SPORTS CAMP:

3. "Celebrando el Sur" Cultural Conference:

Celebrando el Sur (Celebrating the South) is a three-day conference focused on diversity and cultural understanding here in the southern region of the DR. The South is the least developed region of the country and youth throughout the area face great economic hardship and a lack of opportunities. I will be bringing three young people from my community and together with the 60 other conference participants they will participate in a variety of challenging cultural talks and activities, broadening their perspectives to the experiences of others around them and people throughout the world. Dominican youth living in rural communities rarely get the opportunity to travel outside of their own community, and this conference is an amazing chance for them to meet other young people from the South in a positive, stimulating environment.

Please donate to CELEBRANDO EL SUR:

If any of the above links should not work, you can access the Peace Corps' main donations website through this link: and follow the menus to Dominican Republic and then look for the names of the three conferences.

As always, thank you all for being such great sources of support, freindship, love, and advice during the past two years of my service. Although I am loving my work with the Peace Corps, I miss you all very much and am looking forward to coming home soon!

Best wishes for a wonderful summer...


Saturday, March 14, 2009

March-ing on

Hola amigos y amigas de los Estados Unidos,

Okay, so febrero is over, and the relatively new month of marzo is rolling right along. Gracias a Dios, my attitude is much better as a result.

First off, a very big "Gracias" to all of my readers who expressed their concerns about how down I sounded in my last blog entry. With not many positive things to say, I thought that by writing a "random numbers" and facts format, it would make me sound less negative. However, that backfired when I ended my list with those items broken or lost during Peace Corps life. Yikes!

Oh well, don't worry about me -- just like life in the States, I have my ups and downs here in the DR as well. The biggest difference is that both the highs and lows seem more extreme here because of the distance and solitude of Peace Corps life.

I'll fill in some of the details in a later entry. Today I need to get some major errands done in Santo Domingo, then head back to my site.

Un abrazo fuerte...


Monday, February 23, 2009

Random thoughts during a February Slump

I truly hate the month of February. No offense to any of my readers who may happen to celebrate their birthdays, anniversaries, or other special events in the second (and shortest) month of our year, but in my opinion, and through years of a long-going hate-hate relationship with this particular month, February really stinks.

Life here in the DR during the month of febrero is no exception - I am still not fond of this month and have been in a quiet, yet seething funk for a few weeks now. So, rather than ruminate on the negative and describe everything that has gone worng or just proven difficult this month, I thought I'd post another short list of factoids about my life here. Hopefully yours truly will be in a better mood come March, so please stay tuned...

Random Facts:

SEVENTEEN - Months I've been in the DR

FOURTEEN - Months I've been an official Peace Corps Volunteer

NINE - Months I've got left in my service -- I come home November 20th! Woo-Hoo!

SEVEN - Number of items from the United States that have either been lost or broken during my stay here. Items include: 1. Leatherman pocketknife (lost on a bus), 2. battery-less flashlight (accidentally broken by a muchacho from my site), 3. emergency radio (broken by a fall to my concrete floor), 4. hiking boots (ruined by mud and constant rain), 5. black dress shoes (worn out walking around Santo Domingo), 6. brown dress shoes (rotted out after being wet for nearly 10 days straight), 7. iPod earphones (wires sliced by being crammed into my backpack).

Un abrazo fuerte desde la RD...


Thursday, January 8, 2009

New Year, New Adventures!

Hola Mis Queridos Amigos y Amigas de los Estados Unidos...

Feliz Año Nuevo - 2009!! Happy New Year, Everyone!

I know that I have been rather flojo about posting to my blog - my resolutions for 2009 include more frequent postings and more communication with friends and family back home. To start off, here's an update of all that's happened in the last few weeks...
Christmas and New Year's Vacation:
My Christmas and New Year's vacation was spent here in the DR, hangin' with fellow PCVs and seeing some of the most exciting sites the DR has to offer: Here're the details and some pictures...

December 23-25th - Santiago

Started my vacation off with a trip up to Santiago, the DR's second-largest city and one of the most progressive cities politically and culturally. My friend Espie's birthday is the 25th, so we spent Christmas Eve cooking delicious vegitarian fare topped off with a decadent chocolate ice cream cake for her birthday. Feliz Cumpleaños, Espie!
December 25 - 29th - Pico Duarte

My fellow PCVs Jenn and Kim joined me for a wet, muddy trek up the Caribbean's tallest mountain, Pico Duarte (Duarte Peak). The view from 10,127 feet above sea level is amazing, although my boots definitely paid the price...

Tod and Juan Pablo Duarte, chillin' at 10,127 feet

Jenn, Kim, and Tod with West DR and Haiti in the background

Tod catching some sun after a muddy descent

Our boots and shoes, post-Pico (can you guess which pair is Tod's?)

December 30th - Marathon in La Vega

I attempted (but did not finish) the only full 26.2-mile marathon offered in the DR. An out-and-back course between La Vega and Moca (two smaller cities in the DR's central valley), the 4:00pm start time didn't allow me to make it to the cut-off point in time, so I was pulled from the course after running about 14 miles. Guess you need to be at least a sub-4 hour marathoner to run a race in the DR... Bummer! Still, I was proud that I was able to get past the half-way mark more or less on my pace, considering the total lack of training, diet, and having just summited Pico the previous day.

December 31 - January 2nd - Juan Dolio Beach

Fourteen other PCVs and I meet up in Juan Dolio, a funky beach community just east of Santo Domingo on the DR's South Coast. We stay at a funky hotel with kitchenettes, allowing us to prepare more delicious homemade vegitarian fare, drink cheap wine, dance to bachata, salsa merengue music until midnight, and top it all off with a bottle of champagne and a midnight dip in the Caribbean Sea. A few of us brave souls get up early on the first day of the new year to see the first sunrise. Then a warm, sunny day of sun-bathing, swimming, and frisbee.

January 3 - 6th - Santiago and
Los Marmolejos

Final few days of vacation are spent back up North, first in Santiago at the HUB - a home-away-from-home for PCVs living up North. Fellow PCVs from all over joined up for a night of sushi, popcorn, and competetive board games. Next day it's off to Los Marmolejos, the small campo community of my fellow health PCV colleague, Maryam. We spend the next two days visiting her neighbors, going to the río to cool off, practicing guitar (which we both need to work on), and making easy-to-make Trader Joe's Indian food (thank God for care packages sent from the USA!)
For now, I'm in the Capital (Santo Domingo), catching up on e-mail, blog-postings, and pictures. I'm back to my campo tomorrow, and back to the work-a-day world of the Peace Corps Volunteer.

Best wishes to all for 2009! Take care, keep in touch... y como siempre: un abrazo muy fuerte desde la República Dominicana.