How do I pass the extra time in my site when the people don’t want to learn english or talk about business (besides attempting and failing to kill the mosquitos that taunt me by flying in my sight line), I branch out. There are more initiative than just of my sector, that provide a starting point for groups. When I first arrived in Cambita, Rafeal took me around and introduced to anyone who was in a leadership position in the community. One was Wilfredo Santana, who as a retired professor is now head of the Environmental section of the Ayuntamiento (that would be the local government).
So I approached him about working the the Ecoclub. I suggested if they were open to it I could supplement their information with Brigada Verde (the environmental education initiative). He took the idea and changed it. Instead of working with a group of youth, I ended up giving charlas at the school. It was amazing how open the school directors were to the idea, working easily with me to schedule it. I can’t imagine it is quite as facile in the United States, I mean there I might have to actually show an id or something. But I allowed my plan to be changed, because in my role as a volunteer, I need to be flexible to what the people want if I want them to participate. So I worked up a powerpoint and backup paper version of the trash charla from the Brigada Verde manual.
What came to pass was in October I gave charlas to the 7th and 8th graders at the main basic school. There were four classes of each, for a total of around 220 students, that meant I did it 4 times twice. I then gave the charla to the the 6th and 7th graders of the Catholic basic school, lets say 55 more students and 2 more times. Then a bit later in the month we worked out the scheduling with the 3rd and final basic school, so I gave the charla one more time to a group of 7th and 8th graders total about 35. This means I gave the charla 11 times to over 300 youth and was tired of talking about trash.
The charla varied depending on the school. At the biggest school, I was set up in a spare classroom and had the computer hooked up to a screen, so I could use the powerpoint. Also I had an activity about how long it takes different types of refuse to disintegrate. Which I could easily work with the timeline set up in one room. The catholic school I worked off of the paper version and did the setting up with the children waiting in the seats. Of course being conscious of waste, I used both sides of the paper that made it interesting when switching between sheets. The most creative was at the final school which less than a decade before had been a pizzeria. For this one, the children brought their chairs out to the “courtyard area” which was positioned near the entrance and meters from the main road. So I was shouting over traffic or pausing waiting for the muffler-less motorcycles to pass. And since there was no walls, I had one of the teachers kindly help by holding up the papers and the children in the inner ring of the U represent the different amounts of time. So living in a town I got to do some tech savvy presentations, but living in the DR I also got to do some where I was fighting with ambient noise and open spaces.
While there were differences, there were also similarities. I was asked by people how the youth responded and paid attention, well sometimes the group was more attentive than another group. However, in every group there were enough youth willing to read a section, answer a question, or assist with the activity once they realized mentas were being given. Mentas are a small, often hard, candy that cost a peso or less. The halls brand is quite prevalent. They can even be given as the extra change due at the colmado. Its quite wonderful what an incentive they are. I think without the mentas I might have had a much harder time.