We have begun our sixth year in Paraiso, Dominican Republic. The advance team (John Pothen, 4th year in SOMOS; Lindsay Schliefer, 1st year; and Kaveh Sadeghian, 1st year) have arrived to begin the field work and to announce the dates for the free clinic. They will meet with local residents and with formal and informal leaders in the sub-community of Esfuerzos to resume discussions about sustainable projects to improve health and health care.
The remaining team members will arrive on New Year’s day (Saturday). We’ll spend the weekend preparing the medications for the clinic; finishing data analyses and preparing summaries for presentation to the community; getting ready for a planned community meeting and celebration; and finishing preparations for our field and action research.
It is an exciting time. We worked with the community to begin a trash collection effort last year. The first effort was a resounding success, but organization necessary to sustain regular trash collection was not in place. Our summer research (conducted by John Pothen with able assistance from MANOS team member Jill Olszewski) focused on understanding the obstacles to sustained trash collection and identifying the resources (human and material) necessary to success.
We are eager to resume discussions with the community about ways that we can partner to facilitate community efforts to improve health and health care. We believe that regular trash collection will reduce environmental hazards and substantially reduce exposure to various contaminants. We believe further that success in this joint effort can provide the foundation and model for more potent health improvement projects.
Sometime early in the week, we will invite community members to a party and to a community meeting. We’ll offer face-painting and games for children and refreshment and fellowship for all. The meeting will allow us to present our research findings and to discuss in open forum plans and strategies for regular trash collection.
We have an ideal team for this year’s work. While there are many new members, they have taken on the challenge of learning about our last five years’ work; they have learned core concepts and basic research methods; and they have embraced our model of community capacity building. Equally important: they are charming, energetic, dedicated, and truly delightful men and women who are prepared to work as hard as needed, and more. Led by Dani Gutierrez and John Pothen, ably assisted by more experienced team members Kevin Salinas, Joanna Weeks, Galley Saleh, and Kristine Mouselas, SOMOS 2011 is ready to carry forward the work of those who preceded them — and to take project efforts to new heights.
I plan to post from the Dominican Republic during the time we’re there (Jan 1 – Jan 8, 2011). Watch this space!