March travel-study course to Batey Libertad

Join Professor McKew Devitt of the University of Vermont’s Department of Romance Language and Literatures for his fourth consecutive March  travel-study class to the Dominican Republic.  The class will help fund and build a house for a family in need; interact with Dominicans and Haitians on a batey in a community garden and on a soccer field; experience ecotourism at a natural water park; tour an organic shade-grown coffee farm; travel to the city of Dajabón on the Dominican-Haitian border on market day; visit the oldest cathedral in the Western Hemisphere; and learn the difference between merengue and bachata!

Through all of these activities the class will be observing and discussing some recurring themes: the construction of a national identity through cultural and historical manifestations; land use and immigration; racial tensions between Dominicans and Haitians; and the roles of tourists (and student visitors) and the possible positive and negative impacts tourism has on a society.

Prior to the trip students will be required to read and discuss various texts about Hispaniola, both fiction and non-fiction, including The Farming of the Bones by Edwidge Danticat and Why the Cocks Fight by Michele Wucker. These readings will provide a historical foundation on which to base  observations during the trip.  The course builds on past classes and student projects such as Fútbol para la Vida — an HIV/AIDS prevention education program piloted by a past UVM group — and a community gardening project seeded (literally) by UVM students and the NGO Seeds of Reliance. We will also continue a literacy project in the batey community which includes developing a library and a tri-lingual exchange.

For more information, see the University of Vermont study abroad page, or contact McKew directly at:

December 5, 2009 at 8:31 pm Leave a comment

Third annual Community Gardening class headed to the DR this January

For the third consecutive January, John Hayden of the University of Vermont’s Plant and Soil Science Department will be leading a service-learning course to the Dominican Republic to learn about (and do!) community gardening.  As an organic farmer, sustainable agriculture professor, and co-founder of Seeds of Self Reliance, John will offer students an opportunity to live and work alongside Dominicans and Haitians in a previously established community farm in Batey Libertad, and extend lessons learned to a new farm site at the community of Saman in the Puerto Plata Province.

Seeking ways to improve nutrition and income-earning opportunities by establishing a community-run farm, the class work together with community members in learning organic vegetable production techniques, composting, and small scale livestock rearing. Students will also visit the Finca Alta Gracia organic shade- grown coffee and tropical fruit farm to participate in  harvesting coffee, set up a worm composting demonstration, and learn other farming techniques. The class will begin with tours of successful community gardens and urban agriculture sites in La Vega. These will serve as a model for the Batey farm. We will take a one day break in the middle of the trip to sample the north shore beaches. The second part of the class will focus on agro-forestry in the tropics, including shade grown coffee and tropical fruit production. We will be given tours by experts from the Dominican agriculture sector.

For more information, see the University of Vermont study abroad page, or contact John directly at:

December 5, 2009 at 8:21 pm Leave a comment

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

Soccer tournament and fundraiser a big success

While the shoes didn’t come off, and we played in the indoor tennis courts, the 5th Annual “Lose the Shoes” soccer tournament and fundraiser otherwise went off without a hitch despite the cold weather outdoors.  Thanks to Christina Newman and Devon Bryne for organizing what has quickly become a University of Vermont fall tradition.  And thanks to our sponsors, Boloco Burritos, Bruegger’s Bagels, and Eurosport for the good eats and prizes.  All proceeds supported the Futbol para la Vida HIV/AIDS prevention education program, a collaboration of Fundacion de Libertad.

Here’s a short video capturing the day’s events and tying the UVM event to the network of “Lose the Shoes” tournaments happening at college campuses around the country in support of Grassroot Soccer and affiliate programs.

October 4, 2009 at 4:04 pm Leave a comment

5th Annual “Lose the Shoes” Tournament and Fundraiser to benefit Futbol para la Vida

Please join us for the University of Vermont’s 5th “Lose the Shoes” soccer tournament and fundraiser in support of Futbol para la Vida, an HIV/AIDS prevention education program in the Dominican Republic that is part of the international Grassroot Soccer network. This semester’s 3 v. 3 barefoot soccer tournament will be held on Sunday, October 4th from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the University of Vermont campus. Join us on the intermural soccer fields near the Patrick Gym for some food, prizes, music and … of course … barefoot soccer. For more information or to pre-register a co-ed team, please get in touch with Christina Newman at If you need convincing that barefoot soccer is a good idea in Vermont in October, just check out picts from past UVM “Lose the Shoes” events: 4th, 3rd, 2nd, and 1st.

September 29, 2009 at 1:53 am Leave a comment

4th UVM “Lose the Shoes” event part of nationwide fundraiser

On Sunday, April 26th, the University of Vermont hosted its 4th “Lose the Shoes” barefoot soccer tournament and fundraiser to benefit Futbol para la Vida, an HIV/AIDS prevention education project in the Dominican Republic and a member of the international Grassroot Soccer network.

The 3 v. 3 tournament missed the beautiful Vermont spring (a 1-day season) by just one day, but futbolistas braved the cold and the wind to play in four rounds of barefoot games, followed by found rounds of single elimination playoffs. The day included a raffle with prizes from Burlington businesses, music, pizza from Papa John’s, and of course a Grassroot Soccer demonstration.

Many thanks to all the UVM students, faculty, and alumni who played (including Achier who came all the way from Boston!). A special thanks to Christina Newman and Devon Byrne who organized the fundraiser. If you’re interested in getting involved with a “Futbol para la Vida” UVM student club and helping to organize our next barefoot tournament in the fall, please get in touch with Christina at

April 26, 2009 at 10:11 pm 1 comment

3rd UVM “Lose the Shoes” tournament to benefit Futbol para la Vida

The 3rd University of Vermont “Lose the Shoes” soccer tournament went off on a snowy December 7th in Vermont. While only a few “futbolistas” braved the indoor tennis courts without shoes, over 15 teams got together for a 3 v. 3 tournament and fundraiser that is quickly becoming a fall semester tradition. UVM students raised money to support Futbol para la Vida, an HIV/AIDS prevention education program in the Dominican Republic that is part of the international Grassroot Soccer network.

“Abazos” to Matt Linder for organizing the tournament, and to all the UVM students who trudged to the gym on a cold Sunday morning just before the last week of classes.

December 7, 2008 at 10:14 am 1 comment

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