Developing Organizational Structure in Esfuerzo de Paraíso, Dominican Republic

Hi fellow researchers! My name is Cathy, and I’m a rising junior and Hispanic Studies and Public Policy major. I will be conducting research this summer through SOMOS (Student Organization for Medical Outreach and Sustainability), which I joined in the spring of my freshman year. The SOMOS team, made up of roughly 13 undergraduates and our adviser, Dr. Aday, brings together sociological and ethnographic research to develop methods for improving health and health-care in a specific community in the Dominican Republic. We travel to the DR each winter break to assist in running a medical clinic in the town of Paraiso and conduct research in a sub-community called Esfuerzo. Smaller groups return to Esfuerzo during spring and summer breaks.

This summer, I will be furthering research on the organizational structures that exist within the community. These include a block group structure, which subdivides the community into four units based on geographical location and social interaction, and a Community Health Committee, which emerged in 2012 in order to increase community involvement in health-related projects. I will facilitate meetings so that community members can select a specific project, such as the building of a community center, that will engage both the block groups and the CHC. SOMOS research has shown that this process of developing organizational structure is critical in building community capacity.

In addition, I will be working with HOMBRE (Honduras Outreach Medical Brigada Relief Effort), a group of medical students and faculty from VCU’s School of Medicine. Members of HOMRE will conduct household clinical health assessments in Esfuerzo, specifically related to community understandings of chronic illness. I will help facilitate connections between HOMBRE and the CHC in order to ensure that  the planning of the project is fully inclusive of all sides involved. As this is the first time in recent history that SOMOS has been able to align the timing of its summer trip with HOMBRE’s, it is our goal to strengthen the partnership between the two organizations, thus enhancing future collaboration.

I will be traveling with three other rising juniors, Benoit Mathieu, Hannah Kohn, and Emily Fruchterman. They joined SOMOS this spring and are excited to learn as much as they can about the project and to visit Esfuerzo for the first time. I could not be more grateful to have the opportunity to work with such bright and enthusiastic individuals.



  1. kathy clark-gelburd says:

    Thank you all for serving our brothers and sisters in the D.R. Each year I travel to Haiti and Honduras on medical/vision mission trips. Reading your blog… I especially like the idea of your “household clinics” for chronically ill ( we have been training “health care workers” in Haiti for this same purpose in the area we serve in Port au Prince). I also like your idea of the “Block meetings”… asking the community what projects they want/need. I am convinced that the best way to serve those in need… is to help them learn to take care of themselves… “better to teach one how to fish than to give them fish”. May your team and your works be a blessing as, no doubt you will feel blessed in the serving.

  2. camerritt says:

    Hi Ms. Clark-Gelburd, thank you for reading, and it’s great to hear from you! I’m glad to see that, from this one post, the importance of partnering with a community was clearly communicated. It is the core of our project, and we hope it’s at the core of other projects too. Thank you for the well-wishes; we had an incredibly successful trip, and it’s good to know that we had support from family and family connections. Best of luck to you in your upcoming trips as well!