S.O.M.O.S En Paraiso- Follow Ups with Representatives and JdV members

After spending a couple of days off from going into the community, we decided it was time to go back and begin the last meeting we had detailed out in our summer protocol. That meeting, being a meeting with the representatives and the executive members of the Junta de Vecinos (JdV). What worried us was that the night before it had rained pretty badly. We really believed that the community was accessible and that getting in wouldn’t be a problem, but we didn’t expect as much water/flooding as there actually was.

When we arrived in the morning around 11AM, the flooding extended from Miguelina’s barn (first house in the entrance of the community) to ten feet in front of 4th telephone pole after the bridge. The water stretched across the plain as far as is possible to see from the hill from where we were standing. It stretches without end toward Nani’s house (house that is farthest back of the community in the entrance). The gas station that is in front of the community was filled with 3 ½ feet of water. At its deepest, the water was 6-7 feet deep (requiring men to swim across.) This was the only way to get in or out of the community. At times, we really didn’t know what to do. Either to swim across, stay and watch and help in anyway, or simple do nothing and just leave.

We figured out that the best thing to do would be to call some community members that were essentially trapped inside the community and explain to them the situation on the other side of the flooded plain. We called 3 community members before we ascended back up the hill. Each community member pointed that whatever the reason is, to DON’T swim in the water. We reassured them that we would be coming back as soon as we could cross over into the community. With that information being shared amongst other members, we thought that the best thing would be to try again in like 2 days.

On August 7th, the water had finally disappeared and we were able to get into the community. For the next two days (7th and 8th) we walked house to house to update and inform the block representatives what had been discussed in the other block meetings, our conclusions, and our plans for the future. We divided the blocks so that we did 2 blocks each day. The protocol we used was one that was established in country so rather than explaining it, this an English translation of what we explained to each representative.

Protocol: 

1) Walk house to house Friday and Saturday talking with the people that were most interested in working together with us for the next months

As you know, over the past weeks we have had block meetings with four different areas of the community. We perceived that you are particularly interested in working with this area of the community and the SOMOS team to better health problems in this area. The three of us will be working in Esfuerzo until August 12. In between now and then we would like to work toward long term goals while also completing a short-term project with the community. As we discussed in the meetings, in order to move toward solutions this winter we will need to stay in touch over the fall. We will be working at our university to research possible solutions to the flooding of the Cañada. We would like to be able to share our ideas with you, so that you can then share the ideas with your neighbors, collect opinions, and in turn share those community reactions with us. That way we can all be well informed and ready to work together. In order to do this we would like to use our university to make phone calls. The calls would be charged to our account. We could call at whatever time is most convenient for you, and you could probably expect to hear from us about once a month. Would you be interested in serving as a community liaison in this way?”

(Conversation)

For the short term, we would like to spend some of the rest of our time here working with you on a smaller term project to alleviate some of the problems of flooding in the community.”

(Conversation)

One of the other goals we have for the rest of our time here is to work with community members to think of ways that you all (the community) can contribute to fixing the Cañada. One of these ways might be contributing local expertise about where the flooding is the worst. Are there people other than yourself and other representatives that we should talk to? What do you think about forming a commission that would work to find small solutions to problems related to flooding, like maybe working together to find a community boat, or using sand bags to keep the water out of sensitive areas in the community? Great! Is there a time that we could come back next week and have a more extended conversation about this?”  

The other idea we discussed was the formation of a group of representatives from each block that would motivate the JdV. People wanted to write a letter to the government. Is there a time we could talk to you at length about this?”

Most of the responses we got from the representatives were one we were expecting. Many agreed that the best way to staying in contact with SOMOS during the Fall was through cell phone conversations. All representatives we approached, gave us there cell phone numbers, emails, and the best time and date to call them. We told the that they should expect us to call them at least once or twice a month with new information as to what SOMOS is doing on our half. We also explained to them that the idea of working alongside the JdV should not be left un-noticed, and it would be best if they continue their efforts to working alongside them. The representatives would be the community members we would stay in contact with, but we explained to them that all the information we shared, we would like them to share it with their neighbors. At the same time we would like them to listen to their neighbors ideas and comments on any information of prospective community projects that either they or we research on. As the time closely approaches, we are about to have our firs community calls in the coming week. Hopefully will hear good news and are able to give them back good information as well.

On August 9th, we met with Nanci, a representative form Block C, to follow up on her idea of having a joint JdV meeting between the Junta in Esfuerzo and the Junta in Barrio 28. This was an idea that was shared to us durring the Block C meeting, and something we thought was influential to the organization and establishment of a future community project. After getting more information the idea that Nanci proposed to us, we decided it would be a good idea to meet with the president of the JdV in Barrio 28 that same day. Before this should occur, we decided it would be best to go talk to the Junta de Vecinos president of the community we were working in (Esfuerzo de Paraiso), which is a women named Nani. Nani has been president of the JdV since I have been in Esfuerzo, and she has a well knowledge of SOMOS and the work we have done in the last 7 years.

Once we arrived to Nani’s house, we explained the idea that Nanci had proposed to us and explained to her that it was something we thought was a good idea as well. After meeting with Nani to discuss our actions this summer, the others in Esfuerzo who are eager to work with her, our plans for the coming semester, and the possibility of working with the JdV in Barrio 28, we met with Irene, the President of the JdV in Barrio 28. Nani agreed and said that she already knew the representative of the JdV from barrio 28, and wouldn’t mind meeting again. We then we collected the names of the executive members of Esfuerzos de Paraiso’s JdV, so that we wouldn’t forget to invite any of them to the meeting that would be established with the JdV’s of the other barrios.

After meeting with Nani, we had Robinson (representative from Block C) show us the way up to Barrio 28 to meet up with Irene (supposed president of Barrio 28’s JdV). We had some difficulty at first when finding Irene, however we asked around and she was called down. She complained a bit about being feverish/with “Gripe” as a result of last week’s rain/flooding. She explained the situation that pertained to her barrio and how the cañada has affected them as well. Apparently, their JdV had tried to go to the government a couple of times asking for help in fixing their portion of the cañada. After a couple of months of insisting with the government, they finally received a response. The government had contracted workers to basically form a coverage over the cañada/river that ran through the main section of Barrio 28. What happen was that during the middle of the project, the engineer that was contracted only did half of the work needed to be done (and in bad conditions), and ran away with the rest of the money need to complete the project. Irene thought it would be better if they would join alongside other JdV that were troubled by the cañada and begin to go to the government again. She believed that by having more organization amongst each other and having larger numbers, that the government would have to listen to their needs.

We established that the best day to have this joint JdV meeting would be on August 11thin the central location of La Gallera in our community of Esfuerzo de Paraiso. Irene said that she would invite the neighboring JdV of Paraiso C, Altos and the rest of the executive members of Barrio 28. Obviously we were very excited that this was an idea that was proposed by the community and they have began to take the initiative on forming a meeting already. We then called Nani by cell phone and explained to her the time and date for the join JdV meeting that was just established with Irene.

Once we got back to our apartment, we debriefed the the information for that day and began to think of ideas for what we can do before we left the island of Dominican Republic. We believed that it would be best if we could leave something for every single member in the community, even those who weren’t representatives of JdV members invited to the joint JdV meeting on the 11th. The idea we decided to follow on was to create a summary sheet that explained our research, findings, and information shared during that summer. We began to write it as soon as we finished dinner and looked for a printing place to print these on a better sheet than just normal computer paper.

Next time, I will continue with the joint JdV member and post our summary on this summer research.