Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Day 3

            Today we woke up to the pitter patter of a light rain, the calm remainder of the night’s thunderstorm. We were able to experience the first thunderstorm in the Dominican Republic in quite a while, providing the perfect atmosphere for our relaxing, yet busy Sunday. 
            We began the morning with a group meeting about our sports camps, which start this week. We will be working under a local NGO called Deportes Para la Vida (DPV), which means “sports for life,” for the first two days of the week. This organization, inspired by Grassroots Soccer from Vermont, uses sports as a means to teach valuable health and life lessons. Our morning session, however, was about planning the days in which we would be leading our sports camps – we would not meet the members of DPV until the afternoon.
            We began the session by recognizing Danny and Jon for Father’s Day, emphasizing how grateful we all are as students to have this tremendous experiential learning opportunity. This was of special significance for Danny because this is his first Father’s Day.
            The session brought up some strong barriers to the sports camp: there is a strong language barrier, we don’t have the ideal facilities, we don’t know the culture well and we have yet to actually interact with the kids. However, we have all taken an optimistic approach, and we know the power that sports have to break the language barrier. That has been one thing we have really learned here: whether it is an activity, an action, or a smile, there are some things that are universal and which can serve as the foundation for our relationships with the locals.
            After our sports camp meeting, we broke for lunch and reconnected for class in the afternoon. Shane taught us about the basic principles of Nonviolent Communication (NVC). NVC draws on ideas from humanism which states that an individual is separate from their behavior and thus cannot be evaluated based on a single behavior. NVC assesses how an individual’s emotional response reflects needs that need to be met, so we were able to lay out a framework for how to address those needs in real conversations. This was something we found very difficult because it is so counter-cultural, but we agreed that it was worth the trouble. After all, talking about emotions and bringing truths to light is better than letting them fester.
(from left to right) Rido, Carlito,
Victor, Julio and Kenny
            Immediately following class we were able to meet the members of DPV. Kenny, a local Peace Corps volunteer and DPV Director, provided us some additional information about his background and the organization. Kenny has been working for the Peace Corps for 3 years and lives in a barrilo, or a Dominican slum community, in order to impact the community at a grassroots level. DPV trains Dominicans to become teachers through an intensive 5-day program, and then sends them out with a Peace Corps volunteer to host sports camps for the youth.
            Kenny introduced us to the four camp directors: Julio, Rido, Carlito and Victor. They range from ages 19-25 and all had very interesting stories about how they got involved with DPV. It was really inspiring to hear their stories of coming from battailes and being inspired to impact the health and education of the youth in their area. It was a great testament to their self-motivation, which was a great practical application from what we have been learning about through Actively Caring. They have had to fight discrimination, harsh living conditions and weak social infrastructure, yet they have persevered to try to make a difference – and we hope to do what we can to help.
After being formerly introduced, we were able to interact with them one-on-one and get to know them better. They knew a little English, and we knew un poquito de Espanol, which allowed for some surface level conversation. We played volleyball for a long time on the beach, which again showed me the power of sports in breaking language barriers. After an intense round of volleyball, we all went to Franco’s Pizzeria for a nice, sit-down dinner, where were able to continue the conversation and get to know them better.
Every day is truly a new day for us in Punta Cana. We continue to grow closer as a community, applying everything we are learning in class to actively care for one another. We have gotten a great view of the culture through the first couple of days, and I am excited to finally interact with these children, sharing our time, our talents and our love.

Buenas noches. Hasta manana!
Nick Smirniotopoulos 

1 comment:

  1. So exciting to read about this as it unfolds! Thanks for celebrating Father's Day for our #1 dad. We miss him but we're so glad he's there with you all!