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Conference

So time is almost done.  One thing to close out my service was the Construye Tus Suenos conference.  I did not receive a completed plan, but my girl got to come and be inspired by the conference.  We have talked and she will finish, and I will help her over the internet, to make sure she takes the opportunity next year.

This year it was in a different location then the last 2 years.  No more cabana zone (not that we were in a cabana), now we were on the malecon.  The hotel was very comfortable, except for the arctic temperature (at least that is how I view it, commenting the night before last that polar bears might be comfortable here).

The jovenes for the majority were animated, well behaved, and inspiring in the plans they had as youth.  We had previous participants who had one share their stories and offer advice.  We had charlas on professionalism, networking, presenting, and a one minute introduction.  There were off course dinamicas and color teams.  I was on verde and it went well, we almost won, but we lost, in my opinion due partly to the fact that the leaders kept wanting to change the team chant right before we were supposed to train it.  Also some animosity was created with the red team over some point.

This year we had all women winners, an artist who makes 3d paintings inspired by flowers, a bakery, and a library/bookstore/cafeteria.  All the finalists did great presentations, and one even used prezi (which was super neat to watch).

On the third day we promoted microfinance through a microfinance fair (with representatives from ADEMI, ADOPEM, FDD, ECLOF International), a talk by Franciso Abate of Fundacion Dominicana de Desarrollo, and panel of bank representatives field questions.

As always the days were full, and a rest was needed after.  After I sent my joven off home, I went to the office and changed bags, because on Thursday when I left for the conference I was leaving my site for good.

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As of today, I have 89 days left in country.  I have been to my last training type of conference.  They gathered us all together.  Wednesday we all were gathered (18 of us, yup that is a bit less than swore in) at a hotel near the airport.  We got a chance to talk about RPCVs (that is Peace Corps volunteers who returned from service) about the adjustment and what type of jobs they have had since.  We talked about how to convey all the skills we have shown in our service.  A huge one we all have but may no’t always think to articulate is cultural adaptability.  As is shown by us CED (Community Economic Development) females easy ability to throw together our outfits for this picture.

IMG_2476Yup only girls, ’cause both Jeff and Matt returned to the United States.  Peace Corps is a 2 year commitment, but it is not prison so you can choose early termination in place of serving 2 years if it turns out that Peace Corps is not for you.

We also were given time to peer review our resumes.  Told about our Readjustment Allowance and getting off the island.  Given a sheet full of tasks we have to get initialed before we leave.  Told to go to the dentist and have another physical.  And asked for feedback on Peace Corps DR.

The first night we played a game called Tell the Truth.  It is quite a fun way to find out new things about people you know.  Everyone writes down the truth with their name on it, and it goes into a bag.  The MC chooses that person and 2 others and all have act like it is their story.  If you want I taped one of the rounds.  The next night we all gathered and made up Gringa Grita awards.  The Gringa Grita is a volunteer run magazine that comes out twice a year with articles and surveys from the COSers (those closing out their service).  The person that everyone was going to decide on would have to leave the room knowing everyone would be talking about them.  I grabbed my kindle when it was my turn and thought as I sat down hmm it might have something to do with my reading.  I will let  you know through the blog in October if I was right or not.

IMG_2452Well now we are off to the Acting Ambassador’s house for a party in our honor.  A pool party and we are promised food.  Life as a volunteer isn’t always hard.  

So after beginning on promoting it heavily at the end of March, I now have a break from Construye for some months.  Now I did post about the class before, but that was not the total of the initiative.  The class is designed around how to write a business plan and one of the incentives is that if they fall into the guidelines (16-29 years of age, completed the course) they can write a business plan to compete for the chance to be funded with there initial budget (this year the limit was 50,000 pesos).

For my classes, only one decided to proceed in this way.  A few others did not fall into the age range or just the competition was not the best , but still have used the information that was shared to improve or start their business.  During August, Melvin wrote out his plan for a Sala de Tareas (a homework center) and I would go over it with offering advice that it was his choice to take.

In September, the plans were graded and 16 were invited to compete and given criticisms and a chance to submit a revised plan by October.  All others who submitted, were still invited to the conference and given a chance to present as well.

This is where I became frustrated with Melvin.  In brief, he was giving me excuses on why not many changes were made, and I’m not calling into question the validity, it just felt like he was not taking full advantage of the opportunity and wanted me to take a bigger role, which I was not going to do because in the end it is his business and he needs to show he can work through challenges.  So in the end the plan was sent in only partly changed.

Then in October, we all gathered in the capital for the conference.   The first afternoon we had the introduction and team building activities led by the trainees (much like I had last year except this time it was in the afternoon, so no problem with the lights going out, and there were more trainees to divide the labor).  Then Gabby and Alana gave a presentation on how to give a good presentation. The evening we had dinner and then time to practice.

The next morning it was time to get down to business.  In the morning, we had 4 room of competitors (4 plans each).  I was slightly leery of Melvin presenting because I was not sure he had prepared well enough.  But I was very pleased in the end.  He covered all the questions that occurred in his plan about how the business would operate.  I was quite happy he had taken the notes into consideration, since I felt he had not with the changes to his written plan.

The afternoon was for the finalists, because of all the great presentations and plans, Melvin did not advance.  After sitting through 8 more presentations we had free time and then dinner.  Later that night the winners were announced (a hair salon, an internet center, an underwear seller, a cafeteria, and a jewelry and craft maker) as well as the peoples choice (a taekwondo school, a nail salon, and a center to sell crafts and souvenirs) who received a portion of money requested to move a step forward with starting their businesses.

For all the other participants there was a panel of past participants (one who had won, but two who had not) who shared their experiences with moving forward with their businesses.  And then all had a chance to relax with a Spanish dubbed Ghostbusters (a movie about entrepreneurship).  The next day was presentations on micro finance and a micro finance fair that gave the participants a chance to ask questions and learn more. Then lunch and we left.

I have to say I was quite happy with the result of the conference.  Melvin told me he was going to start with what he had and build it up.  An approach I think is a great way to go about it and had been trying to encourage starting smaller the whole time he had the plan.  I felt at the time he was not receptive to starting smaller, so it was very satisfying the hear him say that.  I finally could let go of some of my frustration.

And then yesterday when I went to help his brother with his english school, by letting the advanced class practice with a native speaker, I saw Melvin had painted his sign on the building and set up a couple tables, chairs, white board, and books to begin.  How great is that!