Posts filed under ‘Batey Libertad’

Fulbright Meets FPV in Batey Libertad & Monte Llano

Saludos a todos,

For my first post I wanted to first just quickly introduce myself and my work in Batey Libertad and with Futbol Para la Vida. My name is Chelsea McGuire and I am a Fulbright scholar studying HIV/AIDS health culture in bateyes, primarily in the Cibao and North-coastal regions of the Dominican Republic.

I arrived to the D.R. at the end of August 2009 and have been living in Batey Libertad (also part-time in Santiago) ever since. My involvement in FPV in multifaceted. First, I identified the program as the perfect vehicle for my research. If I was interested in HIV-related health culture, what better way to access that information than to participate with a HIV prevention program that works in the same communities where I am researching? The idea is the take advantage of the fact that a FPV program is something that is noticed, and talked-about by the entire community. It is in those conversations, stimulated by FPV, that people express their opinions, beliefs, and perspectives on HIV, AIDS and health.

My research methods also involve working with local research assistants, who will be participating in what is known as ‘conversational journaling.’   Some of the FPV trainers expressed interest in joining my research team, further connecting me to the FPV program by bringing  them on as my assistants.

Based on these two initial connections, combined with a few great opportunities for FPV that came to me through some of my research affiliations, I took on the role as a volunteer coordinator for FPV during my first 4 months here. As I will describe in the next few blogs, we are now on our way of establishing a partnership with Peace Corps, thanks to some great meetings and demonstrations done by the FPV trainers.  My remaining 5 months I am expecting to take a less active role in the coordination work for FPV, especially since one of our highly experienced trainers, Yanlico Munesi, has expressed interest in taking on more responsiblity in that area. I will be continuing to participate, but will focus more heavily on my research responsibilities to the Fulbright program in the months to come.

Which brings me to my final connection with FPV: the program is also a research target for my study.  As a way of ‘giving back’ to the program, I want to provide a second scientific study that looks at the effectiveness fo the program. Unlike the work Zak Kaufman already completed, I will be conducting a purely qualitative study, using methods such as participant observation, conversational journaling and focus groups. Furthermore, as opposed to focusing strictly on the impact and effectiveness of the program on the adolescents who have participated in FPV, my research will be looking more at the community-wide impact of the program, focusing on adult non-participants.

I will be continuing this series of posts to brief all of FPV and Fundacion de Libertad’s supporters, participants and any other interested-folk on what has been going on with the program in the past 4 months and where we are going in this new year.

Let me finish by saying that it has been a privledge to work with the talented FPV trainers and the FPV staff throughout 2009 and I am very much looking forward to continuing our work together in 2010 and beyond.

Thanks and Happy New Year to all!

January 3, 2010 at 10:14 pm 1 comment

Batey Libertad featured in new documentary

A new documentary by Fleischer Films entitled “Cane & Able: Hope in Hispaniola” highlights both the community gardening and HIV/AIDS prevention education projects at Batey Libertad.  The film explores the legacy and current conditions of bateyes in the Dominican Republic, communities originally developed as work camps in Dominican sugar plantations for Haitian migrants.  The two projects highlighted at Batey Libertad have grown out of collaborations between the community, the University of Vermont, and non-governmental organizations working in the Dominican Republic.  The first project developed with University of Vermont students and faculty and the NGO Seeds of Self Reliance, a group working in the DR and Haiti on building “community through gardening”.  To view a clip about the origins of the community farm, click on the YouTube video below.

A second project, also a collaboration with the University of Vermont, grew out of a pilot project with the international NGO Grassroot Soccer.  Today, Futbol para la Vida is an HIV/AIDS prevention education program based at Batey Libertad and working through a network of schools, NGOs, and communities in the Valverde and Puerto Plata provinces. To view a clip about the FPV program from the documentary project, click on the YouTube video below.

December 6, 2009 at 12:46 pm 2 comments

World AIDS Day premiere of new documentary featuring Batey Libertad projects

Please join the University of Vermont travel-study program to the Dominican Republic and the Center for Health and Well-Being on World AIDS Day for the world premiere of:

Cane and Able: Hope in Hispaniola

Chittenden Bank Room (413), Davis Center
University of Vermont
Tuesday, December 1st at 4 p.m.

This new documentary by Fleischer Films highlights ongoing service-learning projects of University of Vermont students and faculty in Haitian migrant communities in the Dominican Republic, including a community farming initiative with Seeds of Self-Reliance and an HIV/AIDS prevention education program with Grassroot Soccer.  Following the film will be a short discussion with UVM faculty Jon Erickson (Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources), Pat Erickson (Animal Science), John Hayden (Plant and Soil Science), and McKew Devitt (Romance Languages) and current and past students from their Dominican Republic classes.

For more information on upcoming January and March faculty-led programs abroad to the Dominican Republic, see:

For more information on the event, please contact Jon Erickson at or 802-656-3328.

November 30, 2009 at 1:47 am Leave a comment

Highlights from Nov. ’08 UVM travel-study class to the DR

The latest group of University of Vermont (UVM) students returned from their November break trip to the Dominican Republic with a long list of accomplishments, and a still longer list of new found friends. The group worked with the community of Batey Libertad to accomplish many projects, including building a bathroom for the community center and health clinic, freshening-up the community center with a new coat of paint, fixing a community shower, and repairing a stinky latrine. Thirteen students and UVM faculty Pat and Jon Erickson also coordinated a community health clinic, hosted the 7th Annual Soccer Tournament of the Batey Libertad Coalition, brought two buses full of smiling faces to the beach for the day (despite the rain!), participated in a vodou presentation, and had quite a dance party during one of the home-stay evenings.

The fundraisers leading up to the trip also supported a bed project of the Las Madres de la Iglesia women’s group — raising enough money to buy 6 beds for batey residents in need — and the immigration project of the Famn Vayan women’s group — purchasing candles to earn money for passports and visas for Haitian women to live and work legally in the DR. The group was also successful in obtaining a visa for Emely (aka Negrita) to come back to the U.S. with for her ear surgery later this month. In between days at Batey Libertad they managed to visit Santiago, Puerto Plata, Cabarete, the community of Saman, and the border town of Dajabon … with lots of coughs, stomach aches, and fevers thrown in with the rain just to spice things up a bit.

If you’re interested in learning more about travel-study opportunities to the DR, please join this semester’s class on Tuesday, December 9th in 105 Aiken on the UVM campus as we share some trip experiences and final reflections from a busy couple weeks in Hispaniola. Students from upcoming travel study courses to the DR in January and March will be in attendance as we pass the service-learning baton. If you’re interested in learning more about our yearly trips and ongoing projects in health education, community gardening, Spanish literacy, and community development then please don’t miss this opportunity to connect with students and faculty from past, current, and future trips.

December 2, 2008 at 11:18 am Leave a comment

RFK Memorial lays out plan to “Move Forward on Statelessness”

A recent report released by the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights is capitalizing on the winning campaign slogan of “moving forward” by re-elected President Leonel Fernandez. The report entitled “Dominican Republic: Time to Move Forward on Resolving Statelessness” reviews the current situation of legal limbo of hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children being denied citizenship in the Dominican Republic against Dominican law. A growing number of Dominican citizens are under investigation for deportation because of their Haitian ancestry.

In March 2007 the Dominican government issued Circular No. 17, a directive requiring registry offices to investigate any birth certificates that had been issued “irregularly” to children of foreigners “who had not proved their legal residence or status in the Dominican Republic.” In practice this circular is being used to de-nationalize Haitians’ descendants, as registry offices are equating being of Haitian descent with fraud.

These investigations lack due process, and recent experience at Batey Libertad and other communities working within the broad consortium of Fundacion de Libertad confirm the systematic denial of citizenship, for example, the denial of national identification cards (cedulas) to Dominican born and raised young men and women.

The report released by the RFK Memorial outlines recommendations to the Dominican government, the international community, and donor nations, including compliance with the DR’s “… international legal obligations ensuring that any document investigation is conducted following due process without retroactive application of the law and avoiding the creation of statelessness.”

May 28, 2008 at 3:03 pm Leave a comment

March 2008 UVM service-learning trip

The March 2008 University of Vermont service learning trip was a great success! We had ten students on this trip, 9 girls and 1 guy (he was very busy dancing on Merengue night!). We did a lot of traveling on the guagua with Ramón and got to see many different sides of the Dominican Republic: from the dry land surrounding the border near Dajabón to the lush green mountains near Jarabacoa, and the beautiful blue waters in Cabarete. Our main objective on this trip was the construction of a house for a Dominican family. The first day at Batey Libertad we got a chance to meet Vidal, the father, and his two daughters. We started work right away by moving concrete blocks that would become the walls to their new house. One of the main jobs that we ended up spending most of our time on was digging up very hard, dry dirt, breaking it up into smaller pieces and leveling it out in the floors of the rooms to raise their height by about half a foot. The whole group pitched in and we finished the ‘dirt’ project in no time. Although we weren’t able to see the completed house while there, we definitely enjoyed a feeling of accomplishment and joy in having such a positive impact on this family’s life. Some of the students have written their own comments about the trip that I would like to share. ~ McKew Devitt

Here’s what senior Carrie McLean had to say:

We spent a total of 4 days and 2 nights at the Batey Libertad. A lot of time went into working in the garden and on Vidal’s house. The garden is looking like it’s in good shape! It has come a long way from the pictures we saw in January. Plenty of habichuelas, corn and cilantro…lots of cilantro! I’m sure everything will grow well, especially with the pollywogs we added to the soil when we watered all of the plants. It was great to see that some of the kids at the Batey had their own plots, and they were beginning to look pretty green! I have some great memories of lugging buckets of murky water, swimming with pond life, and kids running around me with tons of enthusiasm to help out. One of my most entertaining memories from the garden has to be the cow who had just given birth. She was walking around with a large placenta still attached…just mooing away with a yippy little dog chasing her around. Possibly after that placenta? We had a lot of great interactions in the garden and I really hope that it will take off. It seems like there is a lot of potential for the garden to turn into a tool for building community on the Batey.

This next one is from sophomore Carey Dunfey:

In trying to find the best way to coherently organize all of my thoughts and reflections from the trip to the Dominican Republic, I stumbled upon this quote from Mitch Alborn’s book Tuesdays with Morrie: “So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.” Upon returning to the states, this is exactly what I feel I have learned in the Dominican Republic. I saw happiness in the faces of struggling, working parents and trust in the innocent eyes of children. Material goods are not what is important here, community and making each day better and more fulfilling than the last are. I have seen that the things that are the most important in life are not what we own or what we have done, but are the day-to-day experiences we share with others, whether people we have known for 10 years, 10 days, or 10 minutes. I shared the trip with people basically entirely of the latter two and have been truly impacted by that experience. I have learned, even in this short time, the powerful connections that can develop between people and community, no matter how diverse the ages, cultures, ethnicities, or past experiences. I have also learned that no matter how little or insignificant the things we do in life may seem, everything that we do with complete good intentions should improve ourselves and the people around us. I will carry this experience with me forever, although I hope for a chance to return and relive it.

This next entry is from Vanessa Patten, also a sophomore:

The Spring 2008 trip to the Dominican Republic was an incredible experience. I learned so much about an entirely different way of life and also a little bit more about myself in just ten days. There are far too many things to say about the trip in the short amount of time I have to write this, but I will do my best to summarize my thoughts. The trip offered an incredible first hand look into a very different lifestyle. We were able to live The Spring 2008 trip to the Dominican Republic was an incrediblewith families at Batey Libertad and experience their language, food and home-life. Despite the language barrier we were able to form friendships with the people from this town, which is probably the part of the trip with the longest lasting impact on me. The plights of the people in this community, and of the Haitian workers in general, became so much more real when we met these people first hand and saw the conditions that they live in every day. We were able to see that despite all of this these people still lead very normal and happy lives. We witnessed their music and dance and passion for soccer first hand. In our short time on the Batey I feel like the people of the community had more of an impact on us than we did on them. Despite this we inspired an energy that I hope remained after we left so that the work to improve the Batey can continue. The garden is growing larger and greener with every group from UVM that goes down. New additions like the new community center will hopefully serve to bring the community together and not maintain the separation between the Dominican and Haitian residents. I am so excited to hear about future trips and projects that are started on this Batey and others. I cannot urge other students any more strongly to participate in this trip. These ten days, although they felt short, were full of so many new experiences and memories that I could never mention them all in this entry. From building the house and working on the garden in the Batey, to Chinola juice with breakfast at the hotel and of course surfing on the beach and learning to dance with Ramon … there were just so many incredible experiences that we shared as a group. I miss everyone from the trip and am so grateful to have met them all and to have been able to share such amazing memories with them! Remember…. “never doubt that a small group of committed individuals can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

And one more, from Continuing Education student Jo Stead:

Visiting Batey Libertad was for me an unforgettable experience. I met people there who were friendly, kind and hospitable in spite of living conditions most of us would consider substandard. Hopefully, through a program to raise AIDS awareness, by raising money to construct better housing, by supporting and encouraging the development of a community garden, and the staffing of a health clinic, living conditions at the batey will continue to improve and that Batey Libertad will serve as a model for improving the living conditions of people wherever such needs exist.

March 31, 2008 at 7:21 pm 1 comment

Dr. Jim Fisk volunteers at Batey Libertad!

Dr. Jim Fisk, a pediatrician from  the University of New Mexico, was incredibly giving of his time and expertise during his first trip to Batey Libertad, March 6-9, 2008. Dr. Jim saw patients from the community for three days this March, which was the first medical clinic this year on the Batey. His efforts were appreciated by all in the community and by all of the people stateside working hard to raise the standard of health and bring basic medical care to this area.

Dr. Fisk’s association with the project began four years ago through Dr. Tommy Clark, founder of Grassroot Soccer. Grassroot Soccer is a project that educates youth about the dangers of HIV/AIDS and implements prevention strategies using the sport of soccer as a catalyst for change. Batey Libertad was the site of the first Grassroot Soccer affiliated project in the Dominican Republic. Dr. Tommy Clark recently sent this missive about Dr. Fisk:

I know Dr. Jim Fisk from my days as a pediatric resident at the University of New Mexico. Every medical student loved being on with Jim who was an attending. He was always so much fun – interested in the patients, interested in the residents, interested in the Developing World medicine, art – everything really! He was voted “favorite attending” year after year after year. An incredible guy!

Many thanks to Dr. Clark for the introduction and especially to Dr. Fisk for his compassion, kindness and hard work with the people of Batey Libertad.

March 12, 2008 at 7:26 pm Leave a comment

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