Monday, September 7, 2015

Nobis World - Dominican Republic: Day Two – Friday, July 24, 2015

By Christine Varoutsos, Spanish Teacher at Potomac School

It's our first full day in the Dominican Republic, and we woke up feeling refreshed and excited to finally visit the Mariposa Center for Girls that we had read and heard so much about. After a short walk down Cabarete's beautiful beach, we arrived and were warmly embraced by the welcoming staff. The center itself was also very inviting. Classrooms that walk out to a baseball field, a basketball court, a pool, and a garden are spaces where the girls can feel safe while they learn and play. As the girls started to arrive and excitedly mingle with each other, it was easy to see why they love coming here each day. In morning circle, we joined the girls in song and dance. A few Nobis World participants were brave enough to dance in the center of the circle when the Mariposa girls picked them as part of their game. 

The girls then headed off to their day's activity- a Friday field trip to a nearby waterpark- and we were able to tour the facility and learn more about the growing role that the Mariposa Foundation plays in its local community. The most incredible part of the day was our walk through the local neighborhood- called el callejón- where we witnessed the extreme poverty in which the girls and their families live. Back at the center for lunch, the conversation centered on firsthand accounts of the complex relationship between Haitians and Dominicans in the DR today.

In the afternoon, we gathered around the table on the hotel patio that experiences the most fantastic ocean breezes to reflect on the day and start to tie our experiences into Nobis World's philosophy. Christen explained to us the five Nobis Big Ideas of Service Learning that will anchor our discussion work together this week: history, power, relationships, global citizenship, and cultural responsiveness. She also shared the inspiring Nobis Global Action Model, and a rich conversation around power and privilege ensued.  Particularly interesting was a discussion about our conversation earlier in the day with the two women of Haitian decent. As a group we talked about what may have been lost when someone from the center translated what they shared. Christen challenged us to reflect on the idea of who has the power to tell their story. The discussion continued as we relaxed over dinner across the street. Even though we all just met yesterday, sharing ideas with this group of teachers already feels comfortable and empowering. As I reflect on the day, I can't stop thinking about a quote that was beautifully and bilingually painted onto one of the center's walls: "Yo soy la fuerza más potente para cambiar el mundo." translated as "I am the world's most powerful force for change."

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Nobis World - Dominican Republic: Day One – Thursday, July 23, 2015

By Sarah Coste, The Potomac School, McLean, VA

At last... July 23rd is here!  Eleven teachers representing eight different schools joining Nobis World for a week-long service learning adventure in Cabarete, Dominican Republic. While we had informally "met each other" through various pre-trip community building activities, it was exciting to finally meet face to face to begin sharing our personal stories and professional interests.

After a quick stop at the grocery store to buy a few provisions, we began settling in at the wonderful Kite Beach Inn in Cabarete, a small laid back Caribbean beach village.  We sought temporary refuge from the 95 degree heat in our rooms to hydrate and unpack.  The best part of the day was gathering together beach-side for formal introductions and stage setting for the week to come.  Tropical breezes, kite surfers and Caribbean music provided an extraordinary backdrop for launching the interesting conversation to come.  After a warm welcome, Christen, Nobis World's founder and Executive Director, asked us to write down a hope and a fear for the week ahead.  Papers were collected and redistributed anonymously.  After introducing ourselves and learning about each other's connections to service learning, we shared the hope and fear. This part of the evening provided a great launch pad for relationship building.

After a delicious family-style dinner prepared by chef Freddie, we met our Mariposa hosts and trip coordinators, Erika and Sarah. Erika gave us a great overview of the Mariposa Center for Girls, describing program history and highlights.  She placed their work in the context of "The Girl Effect," a global movement based on the unique potential of adolescent girls to end poverty for themselves and the world.  She went on to say that Mariposa believes when you take a holistic approach to improving a girl’s life through education, health, safety, and opportunity, these changes have a ripple effect and a profound impact within communities. Sarah closed with the do's and don'ts of the DR, emphasizing our safety and well being.  After reviewing the next day's itinerary, we ended by writing a letter to our future selves, detailing our hopes and dreams and what we hoped to gain from the experience.  Christen said she would mail these to us in a month or so.  It will be interesting to compare the actual program impact to what we perceived it to be on day one.

We are excited to meet the members of the Mariposa community tomorrow and dive into what promises to be a unique and life changing experience.