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Service-Learning, DR Spring 2014, Issue 2



Exploring Rural and urban contexts From the cactus-speckled dessert, to the bustling city, to the lush, mountainous countryside, this small island offers visitors a diverse montage of scenery. Students have had the chance, not only to admire these uniquely breathtaking terrains, but to explore the way in which communities in these settings practice development. Each community has its own way of interacting with its environment, its economy, its leaders, and its international visitors or volunteers. The group has come to understand that the surrounding context, whether it be rural or urban, greatly defines the culture which dictates these interactions. In this issue, students reflect on the work they’ve done in Santiago, along with the experiences they’ve had in many other regions of the country, in order to make comparisons between rural and urban contexts.


contents Situating Food Access -Amy Lebowitz, Macalester College


Developing Development:


Community Participation in a Cross-Cultural Setting -Mikayla Bobrow

Excursions and Day Trips

Do I know You or Just Recognize Your Polo -Aviva Schwartz, Clark University

Understanding Privilege

8 10


-Hannah Yore, Clark University

Support Over Statistics -Gaby Salazar Kitner, University of Oregon


Students in the Community

16 3

Situating Food Access in the Dominican Republic

Amy Lebowitz Geography

Despite some academic background on the subject, my con-

nities and individuals are marginalized such that they not only

ception of food access in developing contexts was very one-

are in want of food, but in want of social, economic, and political

size-fits-all when I arrived in the Dominican Republic. Recently,

access and equity. Easily identifiable obstacles to food access

however, I’ve begun to understand more concretely that all

include educational and environmental limitations, which are

knowledge—whether it’s agricultural methodology, the value

often linked to discrimination or marginality. Such obstacles

placed upon certain foodstuffs, or ways to build an equitable

certainly impede strides toward greater food access, but power

community—is situated, circumscribed by history, politics, so-

and privilege don’t explain everything; cultural values, narra-

cial norms, science, and other structural forces (Haraway,

tives, and social conditions also shape the way access to food

1991). Keeping this concept in mind, I’ve started opening my

functions. I’ve begun to analyze my surroundings through this

eyes to the varying and complex ways that food access oper-

framework as I examine development solutions addressing food

ates in the Dominican Republic, from in my community work in


Santiago to the rural town of Río Limpio. First, it’s important to note that this country is positively booming with agriculture. We live in the Cibao Valley, the breadbasket of the D.R., and everywhere we drive, we’re surrounded on

“Power and privilege don’t explain everything; cultural values, narratives, and social conditions also shape the way access to food functions.“

both sides by farm fields for a good chunk of our journey. This

For example, in the rural context of Río Limpio, we spent time

is important because it means that food is undoubtedly being

at CREAR, an organic agricultural high school founded by

produced—the question then becomes where the food is going.

Peace Corps volunteers. CREAR provides exceptional educa-

Especially because this is a country saddled with inequity and

tional opportunities to local students and teaches sustainable

corruption, it’s poignant to realize that people are not hungry or

agricultural methods. The school has proven a boon for the

marginalized because food doesn’t exist, but because they lack

community, fostering environmental stewardship, quality food

access due to various other factors.

production, higher educational attainment, and social cohesion. Standing in the rows of farm beds, it’s difficult to imagine how

Thinking about food access, therefore, starts with thinking about

such an agricultural school could not succeed so profoundly.

the deeper structural causes of poverty, where certain commu-

Upon further reflection, however, it is clear that CREAR’s suc4

cess is predicated upon a very specific suite of privilege, envi-

of the wealthy. Also, since much of the farm labor in this country

ronmental context, and social narratives. Local sustainable agri-

is performed by Haitian workers, food production may be unde-

culture works in Río Limpio because there is an investment in

sirable for Dominican urban residents who look down upon or

conserving the land after years of degradation; because this is a

dislike Haitians. It is crucial to consider how agriculture fits with-

community with a tradition of producing food; because there is

in social scripts—how it might be associated with rural, racial-

an international market to which local farmers can export their

ized poverty instead of community development and food ac-

organic produce and organic coffee; and because vegetable

cess (Battersby, in press).

farming is a necessity in a community like Río Limpio where meat is desired but not necessarily feasible.

Food access is certainly an issue in the D.R., despite a great deal of food production that takes place (Pomeroy & Jacob,

After our C.R.E.A.R. visit, I immediately thought about trans-

2004), but it ought to be addressed in a way that is specific to

planting the concept to Santiago: that an urban garden in my

context, whether that’s rural versus urban or across town. I work

workplace could promote solidarity in a community that strug-

in a community school that provides education to children who

gles with racial discrimination, provide hands-on education

otherwise wouldn’t have access; each day the kids receive a

about nutrition and environmentalism, and produce healthy,

snack and a full lunch, which certainly constitutes an interven-

cheap food as a bonus. Though it’s a nice idea, the unique con-

tion in food access. But it’s an intervention that works for that

text of urban Dominican Republic renders it unrealistic.

specific urban community, in a way that a school like C.R.E.A.R. would not. As my time in the Dominican Republic winds down, I

According to what I’ve learned from several Dominicans, vege-

know I will carry the insights I’ve gained to future study and trav-

tables are seen more as food for the poor while meat is the food

el. They are invaluable in assessing development strategies and

of the wealthy; as their American counterparts flock to Whole

food access issues, but they are also relevant in recognizing

Foods to buy kale, the Dominican middle class (and those who

how situated knowledge shapes every place as well as how I

strive to join it) stock up on meat and neglect vegetables. There-

will perceive it.

fore, an urban vegetable garden would likely be viewed as a shameful signal of poverty rather than a democratizing solution to food access, especially when the ability to consume processed, especially American, food signifies high social status (Battersby, in press). Additionally, since the Dominican Republic began its development much later than the United States and urbanization is a more recent phenomenon, there might be a greater stigma attached to rural livelihoods, a stigma that is classed and racialized. Many residents of Santiago were born in the campo (countryside) and are proud of their urban lifestyles; to work in an urban garden would seem, to them, decidedly unmodern and unfashionably rural, a necessity for the poor instead of a choice 5

Developing Development: Community Participation in a Cross-Cultural Setting Mikayla Bobrow International Studies

In order for community development work to be truly effective, the targeted community must participate meaningfully in the project. Stories of unsuccessful development projects that fail to incorporate participatory elements flood the lessons in my international development classes as well as my personal experiences in the Dominican Republic. During a visit to a large marketplace located on the border of the D.R. and Haiti, shoes from TOMS, an American company that claims to provide free shoes to impoverished individuals in developing countries, were being sold in masses by Dominican and Haitian sellers. Ironically, the soles of the shoes are inscribed with the English words “not for resale.” This is one striking example of how development pro-

serves as a biodynamic teaching farm. During our stay, we sold

jects without established community partnerships fail. The criti-

raffle tickets with CREAR students to raise money for fourth

cal nature of community participation in successful development

year students to take a trip to Santiago to visit a biodynamic

work is evident regardless of whether development is conduct-

farm and tour a local university. CIEE provided the prizes,

ed in a small campo (countryside) or in a large industrial city

which included a computer, two baskets of food, and three gal-

(Kretzmann & McKnight 1993). However, community participa-

lons of cooking oil. For three consecutive afternoons, I walked

tion depends largely on successful communication. Rural and

around the community with two 16-year-old students who intro-

urban communities in the Dominican Republic differ widely in

duced me to their many neighbors and conversed with me

how they support or engage with development projects because

about their experiences at CREAR. I was surprised to find that

smaller communities have faster access to information. Mes-

selling tickets in this relatively impoverished community was

sages spread rapidly by word of mouth in a way that large com-

remarkably easy. Although some community members were

munities in this country might find more difficult.

concerned primarily with the prizes, the vast majority expressed

Earlier in the semester, our group spent one week in Rio Limpio, a rural town close to the border of Haiti and the D.R. We worked closely with Centro Regional de Estudios Alternativas Rurales (Regional Center of Rural Alternative Studies) also known as CREAR, a local high school that simultaneously

their desire to support the CREAR students. The raffle raised awareness of the school and involved the community in its success. Students’ connections with community members along with CIEE’s community partnership fostered a successful environment to sell tickets and involve community members in the process.


Community participation of the entire Rio Limpio community is drastically different from the participation of community members in the nation's second largest city of Santiago. Throughout this semester I am teaching a sexual education curriculum to seventh-and eighth- grade students. Promotoras (public health caseworkers) proposed this curriculum after identifying high rates of adolescent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections as well as a lack of educational resources in the communi-

“Development projects must include and utilize community stakeholders and community assets by creating partnerships that empower community members regardless of the community’s size or resources (Kretzmann & McKnight 1993).”

ty. Although community participation and desire for this program exists, it has been difficult to raise community awareness

strated how small, tight-knit communities foster remarkable

and support. News does not travel as quickly in large cities as in

widespread support, whereas in Santiago it has been more diffi-

rural communities. Neither rural nor urban schools in the D.R.

cult to generate this type of interest. Although the slower spread

rely heavily on technology, specifically internet, to inform other

of communication in large cities is one major reason for the ab-

educators about their work. News often travels faster by word of

sence of such support, spreading knowledge about puberty,

mouth, which explains why communication in urban settings is

adolescence, and sexuality would have been impossible without

often more stagnated. Directors and teachers at local schools in

community leaders on the ground connecting with schools, stu-

Santiago have expressed interest in sexual education programs

dents, and parents. Development projects must include and

when questioned, but many school directors remain unaware

utilize community stakeholders and community assets by creat-

that such programs exist or are being implemented in the com-

ing partnerships that empower community members regardless


of the community’s size or resources (Kretzmann & McKnight

Neither the raffle in Rio Limpio nor the sexual health educational curriculum in Santiago would have been possible without community contacts and support. The work in the rural town demon-

1993). Utilizing community assets to their fullest extent will foster greater communication and allow development projects to generate a greater overall impact.


Where in the DR have we been? During excursions, the group takes learning outside of the classroom, exploring mountainside communities, biodynamic farms, jewel mines, crystal-clear oceans, and more. Through engaging with community members in each region and reflecting as a group, they delve into themes, such as development, sustainability, and human rights.

SANTO DOMINGO Rich with history dating back to the Colonial times, the country’s capital is where students explored paradigms of development.

RURAL STAY Near the Haitian Haitian--Dominican boarder, students spent a week learning from CREAR, a farm school that promotes sustainable agriculture.

WORK RETREAT Together with the Green Brigade, students engaged a rural community in a project to help promote environmental stewardship.

SOUTHWEST Their final destination is a trip to the Larimar Mines and Bahía de las Águilas, two of the D.R.’S most treasured yet controversial landmarks.


Day Trips Shorter-Term Adventures The group visited the Mirabal Sisters Museum, celebrated Carnival in La Vega, indulged in Indian-Caribbean cuisine at Blue Moon, and explored a Timberland factory in the Free-Trade Zone just outside Santiago.

Work Retreat

Blue Moon

Mirabal Sisters

Free Trade Zone


Rural Stay

Dominican Republic Santo Domingo



Do I Know You or Just Recognize Your Polo?

Aviva Schwartz International Studies

Leaders shape their communities, while at the same time, communities create their leaders. Throughout my time in the Dominican Republic, I have learned from and interacted with many different leaders from various types of communities. The types and styles of leadership I’ve experienced in the rural communities we have visited are distinct from those I’ve experienced in the city of Santiago where I live and work. As a program, we traveled to Río Limpio, a rural town in the Southwest of the country. There is very strong leadership from young adults throughout this community. Our group worked with a technical school, Centro Regional de Estudios de Alternatives Rurales or CREAR (Regional Center for Rural Alternative Studies), that provides students with general education, theoretical agricultural backgrounds, as well as practical experience with the land. CREAR strives to empower students to lead their community in environmental pursuits and to encourage them to be positive role models in various community initiatives. CREAR relies predominantly on the students to fill this role of engaging the community and infusing the community with the school’s mission. Though the students do not have formal titles by which to create change, they are informal leaders through their deep involvement in the community. While working in Río Limpio, we took part in a rifa (raffle) where each CIEE student was placed with two CREAR 10

ships are more formal and are based on the organization’s reputation within the communities it targets. Community members, such as parents are often more likely to listen to the promotoras because of their association with this organization; promotoras who wear polos with the FCID logo are looked at as resources and guides. I felt this on a small scale while traveling around with the promotoras twice a week for the past three months in a matching polo. My uniform gives my words more credibility then my college student status deserves. Before conducting surveys for my community-based research, I was worried that people would not allow me into their homes. These surveys were conducted randomly throughout the fourth year students (equivalent to high school seniors in the U.S.)

community, and mainly with adults who had no relationship with

and was instructed to canvass the town selling tickets. It quickly

FCID. I soon found that with the “magic polo,” only one house

became clear how reliant these sales were on previously-built rela-

turned me away while the others were very interested. It became

tionships. For example, when one CREAR student led us to the

clear that the community as a whole is more inclined to build rela-

house of his mother’s friend’s brother, the student took the lead

tionships with the organization, rather than with the individuals

while another student intentionally lagged behind. Because of their

themselves who were wearing the polos.

previous relationship, the customer was more likely to listen to the lead student.

Each of these examples of leadership achieves success in their endeavors in their respective settings. While in some situations, informal relationships with internal community leaders can be critical

“I soon found that with the “magic polo,” only one house turned me away while the others were very interested.”

to success; in others, the expert’s opinion with an organization to back her up can be the positive change needed. It is important to recognize which approach to community leadership will work in each particular situation and how to create an environment that

I have learned a form of leadership distinct from the CREAR stu-

helps the process succeed.

dents through my work with La Fundacion Cuidado Infantil Dominicano or FCID (The Dominican Foundation for Child Care), in urban barrios (neighborhoods) of Santiago. I work in their Community Rehabilitation Program, which consists of promotoras (public health caseworkers) conducting weekly visits to help parents of children with disabilities teach their children certain skills. In this program, the promotoras are assigned to particular communities, often different from the community in which they live, and are able to build strong relationships with the families with whom FCID has connections. These women wear tan polos with the FCID logo on them and become well-known to the families and neighborhoods where they work; however, they build little rapport with the larger community. FCID also operates based on relationships; however, these relation-


UNDERSTANDING PRIVILEGE Hannah Yore International and Women’s Studies The positionality of the international volunteer or service worker

ished in the past three months, my initial interactions with my

is undoubtedly determined by a community’s perception of out-

community were fraught with power dynamics. I noted immedi-

side assistance and international advocacy. I consider how a

ately how my connection to the public hospital influenced the way

community’s preconceived notions of participants in international

certain community members greeted me. Many community mem-

development influence the relationships between volunteers,

bers, including doctors and nurses, assumed that I, as a U.S.

activists and community members. In return, how does this pre-

American involved in their public hospital, was a certified doctor.

script dictate the effectiveness of development projects and the

Many community members approached me with concerns about

possibility for reciprocity? My experience in both rural and urban

their health. Not only was I ill-equipped to give any medical ad-

settings has allowed me insight, albeit minimal, into how mem-

vice, I was also undeserving of the prestige I was immediately

bers of rural and urban communities construct my character dif-

given. In those first few weeks, I had done nothing to earn this


high level of trust and respect and even after I corrected people

As an intern at Juan XXIII, a public hospital, researching adolescents’ sexual health, I have had the pleasure of meeting and befriending a myriad of individuals in my community of Korea. Though my relationships with community members have flour-

many times, explaining that I was not, in fact, a doctor, many community members continued to refer to me as such. My affiliation with PUCCM, widely recognized in the community as a prime university, affords me a level of respect. I was assumed to be a


capable and knowledgeable leader simply by virtue of possessing ties to well-respected institutions in Santiago. My experience with individuals in rural settings has been almost completely the opposite. During visits to rural communities, like Rio Grande Abajo and Rio Limpio, members welcomed me into their homes, schools, and organizations with warmth; however, they did not assume my expertise or consider my presence

“I consider how a community’s preconceived notions of participants in international development influence the relationships between volunteers, activists and community members�

inherently beneficial. In these settings, they taught me how to make compost, participate in a community raffle, and make cement for a community basketball court. Community leaders taught members of my group and me about their contributions to their community and the internal dynamics of their community structures. Not only did community leaders take the time to share their personal accomplishments, but other community members focused comparatively on their own unique achievements as cooperative members, farmers, and miners. It was humbling taking a step back and not assuming any leadership position in these spaces. Instead, community members demonstrated their expertise and my group and I were invited to learn and observe modestly.

This discussion is based solely on my personal observations working in rural and urban settings in the DR. While I recognize trends in both regions, I recognize that my experience here is limited and I do not wish to homogenize rural and urban spaces. Each community we have visited is home to a diverse range of individuals with personal relationships and community values that shape their relationships with outside partners such as international volunteers and activists. I also inhabit very different roles in my more permanent position working in Santiago than I do as a short-term visitor in rural communities. Despite this, urban and rural environments have certain distinct characteristics that set them apart from one another. Urban and rural communities may respond to international partnerships and volunteers differently depending on their contexts. 13


Gaby Salazar Kitner Human Rights

Discourse on economic development often loses a focus on, in

that is being measured? Based on my observations of econom-

my opinion, the most interesting goal of any development: the

ic systems in both urban and rural contexts, I have come to

effect on quality of life. Thirty-four percent of the ten million in-

understand that money may not be the catchall indicator of pov-

habitants of the Dominican Republic live on the equivalent of


less than two dollars a day (the D.R.'s declared poverty line). However, this arbitrary number provides nothing more than a statistic that can create judgments and presumptions. It is hard to lump every person in poverty into the same statistic, especially in a country as diverse as the D.R. Understanding what is presumed in the meaning of poverty is just as difficult to entirely grasp. Is it the access to resources, the ability to purchase food, a person’s living situation, or quantity of material possessions

“It is hard to lump every person in poverty into the same statistic, especially in a country as diverse as the D.R.” There is a small community tucked away in the foothills of the D.R’s fertile mountains, about an hour away from the second largest city, Santiago de los Caballeros, named Rio Grande Abajo. This community is known for its cacao production, but more so, for its ability to function as a small commune, that brings a steady flow of money to the community so that the basic needs of families and individuals are met. Although statistically, most of the families that live there are living under the line of poverty, the adaptation of communal farming, sales, and work has created a sustainable economy for the community of around 3,000 inhabitants. There is not a soul that sleeps in their streets, no beggars that dot the side walks, no eight-year-old boys that walk around with their box ready to shine a business man’s shoes. Although not every rural community functions in this same way, Rio Grande Abajo’s unique economy combats the traditional symptoms that extreme poverty can often create, that are often associated with a lack of money. 14

Through community support, many of the inhabitants of Rio Grande Abajo find they can happily live a simple, rural lifestyle without much money, but still with time for family, friends and leisure. I was impressed by the functionality of Rio Grande Abajo, but also aware that their situation was unique. Often due to their sizes, urban communities are not granted the same potential for such unified participation. Due to the inevitable individualism a city context suggests, some choose to create their own small, unified community of support. Although there is not the same prospect for communal living as in the countryside, I have watched a community of boys that I work with in the city of Santiago band together through their situations, to create equally strong relationships amongst each other. Many of these boys, who are under the age of 16, work as Limpiabotas (shoe shiners) on the streets of Santiago. Many are from Haiti, many are unable to speak much Spanish and many of them are homeless or share small spaces with seven or ten other people. In large city contexts, these kids do not have many opportunities to find communities of support. Their day-today work provides a drive for money, but never much opportunity to escape poverty. Unlike in Rio Grande Abajo, their needs are not as often met by the support of others. Still, I have watched many build communities within their friendships. They

The photo above is from Gaby’s Photo Essay. Check out our program blog to see our students full photo essays!

lend each other money for food when needed, they will share supplies when one runs short and help each other fix whatever may be broken. Though they live in a large urban community of near a million, poverty has not hampered their need for community, but instead, just changed its outcome. They support each other as they can, within the confines of their limited resources.

people living and working together, as in the countryside of Rio Grande Abajo, not a single person has to sleep on a bed with six others or a dirt floor. Although money is sufficient, each family rarely has a surplus and it is only through their communal sharing that this is possible. In a larger, urban community, re-

Access to money, while crucial to alleviating the cases of dire

sources may be less evenly distributed, but efforts towards

situations where a bit more could mean an extra bed instead of

communal living can improve quality of life. It is clear from the

a floor to sleep on, a change of clean clothes and maybe even-

ways in which individuals use and distribute their resources

tually a lessening of stress, is not the only method to creating

amongst members that community support plays a huge role in

useful development. Through community participation and more

the economic standing of a region. Therefore, the measure of

opportunities for community growth, results of happiness and

poverty goes beyond a statistic.

sustainable living can also be achieved. With three thousand 15


Acción Callejera (Street Action): AC is a non-profit educational and outreach center for children living and/or working in the street. Acción offers services in informal and recreational education, nutrition, mentorship, health, and social assistance to children at risk. —Both Ana Brambila and Gaby Salazar Kitner work here this semester.

Fundación Cuidado Infantil Dominicano (Dominican Childcare Foundation): FCID is a non-profit health development agency with experience in primary health care education and community-based rehabilitation for children with special needs and their families. —Aviva Schwartz is working here this semester.

Arte a Mano (Handmade Art): AAM is an association of local artisans that creates modern artwork by hand. Their mission is to improve the social and economic conditions which affect their artwork, not only for each individual member, but also for the communities in which they live. —Josh Holt is working here this semester.


Niños con una Esperanza (Children with a Hope): NCUE provides a structured alternative to risky situations for children who work in a nearby landfill. They offer programs that encourage academic learning and personal development. -—Addie Pendergast is working here this semester.

Oné Respe (Honor Respect in Haitian Creole): OR serves marginalized Dominican and Haitian communities with ongoing programs in primary education, preventative health, and civic services. —Amy Lebowitz is working here this semester.

Centro de Atención Primaria Juan XXIII (Primary Care Center): Juan XXIII is a public hospital specifically for communities in the Southern region of Santiago, an economically and socially marginalized area. Juan XXIII identifies and trains public health supervisors and caseworkers in preventative health education. —Calli Johnson, Hannah Yore, and Mikayla Bobrow work here currently.


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S14 newsletter 2  

Our students reflect on their urban vs. rural experiences while on the CIEE Service-Learning Study Abroad Program in Santiago, Dominican Rep...

S14 newsletter 2  

Our students reflect on their urban vs. rural experiences while on the CIEE Service-Learning Study Abroad Program in Santiago, Dominican Rep...