Trip Report: Grassroot Soccer pilot project at Batey Libertad

March 1, 2005 at 4:49 pm Leave a comment

Trip Report
Batey Libertad, Dominican Republic
December 29, 2004 – January 16, 2005

by Jeff DeCelles, Southern Africa/Caribbean Program Director, Grassroot Soccer

Project Overview
The purpose of this project was to conduct a 2-week HIV education pilot project in Batey Libertad, Dominican Republic from December 29, 2004 to January 16, 2005. The aim of this project was to combine two existing programs that both use soccer for positive social change: Grassroot Soccer (GRS) and the Batey Libertad Coalition (BLC). This project was based on the curriculum used by Grassroot Soccer, an HIV/AIDS education program currently running programs in several countries in Africa. Batey Libertad is a rural Haitian migrant community in the Dominican Republic where the Batey Libertad Coalition has been using soccer to ignite constructive social change. Twelve students from a University of Vermont class were trained to deliver the curriculum to members of the men’s and women’s soccer teams on Batey Libertad to be peer educators. This pilot project was the first Grassroot Soccer project outside of Africa.

Project Goals
The goals for the GRS/BLC pilot were as follows:

  1. Test the GRS method on Batey Libertad to see if it is applicable outside of Africa, particularly in Caribbean cultures.
  2. Train the UVM students to be knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS and teach them how to effectively lead GRS activities with members of the Batey Libertad men’s and women’s soccer teams.
  3. Have the trained Batey Libertad players conduct the GRS activities with the youth teams while being shadowed by two GRS staff members and the UVM students.
  4. Plan with members of the Batey Libertad Soccer Committee on how to allocate donations to maintain the GRS project on Batey Libertad and the surrounding area.
  5. Celebrate the achievements of the community in an all-day festival featuring a soccer tournament, dance performance, Haitian voodoo performance, and GRS activities.

Main Observations

  1. The GRS method was a highly effective method of HIV education on Batey Libertad, relying on the existing passion of soccer and the role-model position that soccer players hold in the community.
  2. The GRS method was difficult to deliver to men and women at the same time. Topics like AIDS and sex are culturally sensitive issues and both groups clearly felt more comfortable talking about these issues with their own gender.
  3. The UVM students on this trip made ideal GRS teachers. This paves the way for future work with Peace Corps volunteers currently working in the DR to deliver the same message. Based on feedback from a Peace Corps worker that attended the GRS sessions on Batey Libertad, many possibilities exist to collaborate on future projects.
  4. Based on feedback from the UVM students and Batey residents, the class was highly enriching experience for both parties.
  5. Research needs to be conducted to gauge the level of knowledge about AIDS among batey residents across the DR to properly shape future project models.

Project Structure
This project was structured so that the UVM students were taught GRS activities by Jeff DeCelles, Grassroot Soccer Southern Africa/Caribbean Program Director and Oriana Campanelli, Grassroot Soccer Teaching Fellow. The students were trained so that they could effectively lead and facilitate GRS activities with members of the Batey Libertad women’s and men’s soccer teams. The members of the Batey Libertad teams then conducted the activities with younger members of the community. The Batey Libertad soccer players were trained by the UVM students using the Training of Trainers (TOT) model that has been used by Grassroot Soccer in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. The players then trained the younger Batey residents using a peer education model. The UVM students shadowed the Batey players during these training sessions to guide and support the Batey players.

This project was formed by a partnership of several different organizations. The following describes each organizations background with relationship to the pilot project.

  1. Grassroot Soccer (GRS) is an international regional health organization that educates and empowers youth through HIV/AIDS prevention programs taught by professional soccer players and other role models. A majority of Grassroot Soccer staff are former or current American soccer players who have experience teaching and playing professional soccer in Africa. Through its strong connections to African professional soccer, GRS is able to effectively recruit and train well-known African professional athletes and American volunteers to deliver the GRS curriculum to schoolchildren. Using the enormous influence of professional soccer players, the GRS educators employ a variety of games and role-plays to help the youth develop healthy decision-making skills through active-learning. The GRS program is comprised of a series of ninety-minute sessions at schools, football fields, and community centers. The youth are then empowered to educate their peers about the healthy behaviors they have learned. Grassroot Soccer is currently running programs in Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Ethiopia. Grassroot Soccer has conducted pilot projects in refugee camps in Zambia and Botswana, which provide a basis for rural, segregated communities, similar to Batey Libertad.
  2. Batey Libertad Coalition (BLC) is a non-profit partnership between Haitians, Dominicans, and Americans to use the sport of soccer as a catalyst for social change on Batey Libertad and the surrounding communities. Batey Libertad is a community of 500 to 1,000 individuals, mostly Haitian or of Haitian descent. Batey Libertad is similar to the approximate 2,000 bateyes that exist in the Dominican Republic. Batey Libertad is located in the middle of a rice field, which segregates the residents from the surrounding Dominican society. The Batey Libertad coalition uses soccer to teach organizational skills as well as break down harsh racial barriers that exist between Haitians and Dominicans. For almost four years, soccer players from the University of Vermont have been donating their time to coach both the men’s and women’s teams of Batey Libertad. These individuals have also allocated donations of new and used equipment from the US to help the Batey teams gain access to local games and tournaments. Batey Libertad has a men’s soccer team, a women’s team, and two young men’s teams. The soccer teams are supported financially by donations from Vermont residents. The Batey Libertad soccer committee community has established its own highly effective micro-credit system to sustain the impact of any donations. An estimated 5% of adult Batey residents are infected with HIV (Batey Relief Alliance, 2005). Batey Libertad residents receive very little, if any HIV education in school. There is also a low level of literacy on Batey Libertad, which makes the interactive and exciting Grassroot Soccer method an appropriate HIV education model for Batey Libertad.
  3. Sports for Life. Grassroot Soccer partners with Sports for Life (SFL) on many of its activities. Sports for Life is a unique partnership of athletes, sports associations, youth organizations, health facilities and public and private organizations that uses youth educators and mentors to promote messages that lead to and maintain positive health behaviors. SFL uses experiential learning to positively affect the behaviors of youth. Through its participatory approach of games and activities, SFL trains coaches and peer educators to work in their communities with local youth to spread awareness and understanding of reproductive health and family planning issues. SFL has been developed and tested in Nigeria and Zambia. The curriculum used in this project contains both GRS and SFL activities. Sports for Life donated 80 pairs of soccer cleats and 42 soccer balls to serve as positive incentives for teams from Batey Libertad to participate in the Grassroot Soccer program.
  4. University of Vermont (UVM). Twelve undergraduate students traveled to Batey Libertad, Dominican Republic to participate in this pilot project as part of a Community Development course titled “Community Empowerment through Grassroots Organization.” This course gives students the opportunity to participate in an HIV/AIDS education and community development pilot project. These students completed a Training of Trainers course administered by Mr. DeCelles, and Miss Campanelli, both of whom are UVM alumni. Many of the students raised money for this project through a variety of events on campus. Jon Erickson, PhD and Pat Erickson, DVM, are the UVM professors that teach this class and leading a number of projects of the Batey Libertad Coalition.
  5. Peace Corps volunteers have been viewed as possible managers of Grassroot Soccer satellite projects in Africa and abroad. Beth DeCelles, a Peace Corps volunteer in Jamaica, participated in the TOT workshop in Batey Libertad to assess the possibility of Peace Corps and Grassroot Soccer partnering together on future projects. Miss DeCelles is currently working on several community development projects in Montego Bay, Jamaica

Project Timeline

November 1-December 23, 2004
: Fundraising. Burlington, VT

Funds for the student projects on Batey Libertad raised through a variety of methods including a benefit party, a World AIDS Day celebration on December 1, and sales of Grassroot Soccer t-shirts.

December 29, 2004-January 3, 2005: In-country preparations, Santiago DR

Mr. DeCelles and Miss Campanelli arrived in Santiago, Dominican Republic six days before the UVM class to make the following preparations for their arrival:

  1. Locate a bus and make financial arrangements with a driver.
  2. Coordinate schedules and introduce GRS activities to members of Batey Libertad, as well as begin planning for the soccer tournament/celebration.
  3. Establish communication with BRA.
  4. Meet with current Peace Corps volunteers to gather feedback on the possibility of collaboration.

January 3,4, 2005: In-country acclimation period. Santiago, DR

  1. UVM students are introduced to the DR and Dominican’/Haitian culture.
  2. UVM students are introduced to GRS activities and given basic HIV training by Mr. DeCelles and Miss Campanelli.

January 5,6, 2005: First field experience. Batey Libertad, DR

  1. UVM students are introduced to Batey Libertad community and taught about batey culture.
  2. UVM students begin training Batey Libertad men’s and women’s soccer teams while being shadowed by Mr. DeCelles and Miss Campanelli

January 9, 2005: Tournament and traditional celebration. Batey Libertad, DR

  1. Joint Batey Libertad/UVM men’s soccer team wins 4-0 in the final of round-robin soccer tournament featuring two other Dominican teams.
  2. Joint Batey Libertad/UVM women’s soccer team wins exhibition game against Dominican women’s team 2-1.
  3. Members of the Batey Libertad women’s team and other women and girls perform traditional dancing presentation.
  4. Caco Pelau, coach of Batey Libertad men’s team and Voodoo priest performs traditional Voodoo ceremony.
  5. UVM students spend the night with families on Batey Libertad.

January 13, 2005: Presentation to Batey Relief Alliance, Santo Domingo, DR

  1. Mr. DeCelles presents history of Batey Libertad Coalition and Grassroot Soccer to members of the Batey Relief Alliance.
  2. UVM students present Batey Libertad Grassroot Soccer project featuring short educational film made by UVM students.
  3. Batey Relief Alliance presents about their work on bateyes in all parts of the Dominican Republic.

February, 2005: Batey Libertad Coalition fundraiser, Burlington, VT

  1. Sculptures and paintings are sold at a silent auction.
  2. Michele Wucker, author of Why the Cocks Fight, a book about Dominican/Haitian relations is guest speaker.
  3. T-shirts are sold to raise money for Grassroot Soccer.

March, 2005: Project Assessment, Santiago, DR

Jon and Pat Erickson, both professors at UVM return to Batey Libertad to evaluate impact of project, discuss with members of Batey Libertad on how to best allocate funds raised at UVM, run a community health clinic, and develop future project ideas.

Next Steps

  1. Develop an evaluation model with UVM to measure effectiveness of the program and to shape future work.
  2. Begin planning for UVM class that is going to Batey Libertad in November 2005.
  3. Continue to involve members of Batey Libertad in designing all projects.
  4. Strengthen and foster relations between all organizations and individuals involved in this project.
  5. Develop cost-effective and healthy incentives for members of Batey Libertad to sustain projects over time.

Entry filed under: Futbol para la Vida, University of Vermont.

Class Journal from 1st UVM Service-Learning Trip to Batey Libertad A virtual stroll through Batey Libertad

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