S.O.M.O.S En Paraiso – Block B and A meetings

So after we had the meetings with Block D and C, we went back and transcribed the notes and observations for each meeting. It is important to do this, because of the major problems that we talk about in SOMOS is the idea of maintaining continuity amongst the members and the project. Since all members of SOMOS graduate, the take a lot of valuable information, data, and knowledge with them that eventually could be lost and no use for the project’s future. So as a way to maintain continuity, not only do we code data, but we also transcribe our notes and observations and place all types of valuable information in our joint SOMOS wiki. This website is accessible to the undergraduate members, alums, and our advisor. This way, all members of this project can go back and be informed of past research and acquire the knowledge/ information already known, that way we are all on the same page and ready to work forward with the project.

So after placing all the transcribed information onto our Wiki page, me and my two other summer research partners sat down and discussed what happened in the last two meeting and the steps we should take for the next two. Seeing that both Block D and C were very excited to try to do another community project, we thought it would be best to continue focusing on what they were concerned about; community unity and organization. Rather than trying to figure out one project, we stayed close to our Summer protocol about formalizing a contract for the next 5 years with the community. We thought that hearing there ideas and getting a consensus on 2-3 projects. We didn’t change the protocol for the upcoming Block B meeting, we only talked about using the Summer 2011 Briefing Book; which contains a vast number of research papers showing positive effects of community projects done across the world. Using the Briefing Book in the other meetings, have shown to be a good tool to spark ideas for members to think of their own. So we looked a few projects in the Briefing Book, that correlated with the ideas community members shared with us. We then discussed some pros and cons on each research and wrote down some ideas we could share in the meetings, just in case similar ideas were shared again.

On July 26th, the day before the Block B meeting we walked house to house dropping off invitations that were handmade. To those members that weren’t home, we wrote down their house and tried again in the afternoon. It’s always better to give the invitations personally, as it’s the first form of contact prior to the meeting and members are more likely to participate. On July 27th we hosted the Block B meeting at 10AM at Isabel’s house (Community Member/ School Teacher). Out of the 20 members we invited from Block B, about 15 residents, representing 15/20 households, came out to the meeting. We handed out the SOMOS En Paraiso Pamphlet, explaining that this document outlined SOMOS’s work in Esfuerzo over the past seven years. We began the meeting using the same protocol listed in Bloque C’s protocol. We then engaged community members in a conversation about health problems in the community and possible steps that need to be taken to approach solving them.

 After SOMOS read our introduction, the first issue to be raised was that the Cañada is the biggest problem faced by the community. It was then decided that since the Cañada is too large a problem to be approached by the community, that they should begin by organizing to clean the streets. SOMOS mentioned our potential access to groups in the United States that could work to re-route the Cañada, emphasizing that organization in the community was needed first. The community talked about the possibility of organizing together to clean the streets and beautify their area. The Junta de Vecinos (JdV) was spoken of positively, saying that they had worked hard, but people hadn’t supported them. SOMOS brought up the idea of committees, and people thought that was a good idea. The community members decided that a committee should form and go to the government day after day until the government listens to them. The idea was presented that the JdV could pay for the trips. A community member brought up the idea of organizing into “Women’s Associations” or “Mother’s Clubs,” organizational structures that had existed in the past. It was discussed that this organization, or the committee members could draft a letter to the government. We learned that in fact, Nani had already written a letter. SOMOS mentioned that we could re-write or re-send her letter.

The meeting concluded with this summary: The Cañada is the largest problem here. The trash is secondary but is a more doable task to approach as a community.

To approach organization we should form committees of representatives, work alongside the community members and SOMOS, and start to complete tasks. And that we should draft a letter and send it every week to the government.

We asked if anyone wanted to help with the possible organization of the committee and we were surprised when many volunteered. We then talked in the meeting of posible having not everyone volunteer, but rather chose 2-3 members of Block B. Ana Hilda, Francisca, and Junior volunteered to work with SOMOS and the JdV in the future.

On July 30th, we walked house to house to talk with each resident of Block A; a section known by community members as Caliche. We handed out invitations to the residents that were home, and left invitations with those residents that were not available.When we left invitations we asked their immediate neighbors to talk about the meeting with them. We explained the meeting to them the same way we explained it to Blocks D, C, and B, inviting them each to the meeting, held Sunday, July 31st, 11:00 AM near Seneda’s house.

On July 31st, we met with 10 residents from Block A (Caliche). Though smaller than the other meetings, this was still a good turn out for this area of the community. We handed out the SOMOS Briefing Book explaining that this document outlined SOMOS’s work in Esfuerzo over the past seven years. We began the meeting using the same protocol used in Block D, C, and B’s meeting. We then engaged the community members in a conversation about health problems relevant to their sector of the community and the steps needed to begin to address them.

After SOMOS read our introduction, we were told that the rain and the Cañada are the largest problems faced by the community. The animals and their waste contribute to the contamination of the river water which then is spread around the community. One member mentioned that sometimes the water bought from the trucks is not actually filtered. SOMOS interjected often, explaining our work in Esfuerzo and the research that shows that organization and the formation of committees can be an effective step toward solving community health problems. The Junta de Vecinos (JdV) was identified as the method by which to solve problems in the Dominican Republic. People said that the JdV was not currently working because it was not having meetings. We discussed the possibility of organizing a different way, perhaps by using community representatives who could either work with the JdV, or separately. We discussed the idea of writing a letter to the government. Everyone agreed that the representatives and the letter would be a good idea.

SOMOS mentioned that there is clearly community consensus that the Cañada, its flooding, its contamination, and other problems having to do with water are the largest problems faced. We decided to move toward solutions by choosing representatives that would talk with their neighbors and with us (while SOMOS does research about methods in the U.S.) and keep the community organized by meeting with the JdV and with each other. Ne and Lara volunteered to be representatives.

The next couple of days, we took a small break from going into the community and reflected on the information we got from each meeting. We found consensus on the idea that the community wanted to work towards solutions with the Junta de Vecinos (JdV), but believed that forming a committee of community representatives that worked alongside JdV that it would give the JdV that extra push needed. They established that in the Dominican Republic, the best way to get the government to acknowledge a community is through the formally elected JdV. So that we had to focus our work with the JdV, which is something we have always taken into account. We used the free time we had to begin to write a minor protocol for the business meeting we planned to have again with the Block Representatives, but this time JdV members (executive members) would be invited as well. The JdV members are community members that live in different blocks, but have been elected to represent the community at its best interest.