Since taking the position as Program Coordinator for ISV in the Dominican Republic, I have been frequently pulled aside by friends, family and acquaintances and asked the following question: So, what is it that volunteers actually do in the Dominican Republic? The reality is that there are a variety of short and long answers to this important question, and it generally takes some time to get through a response that does justice to the efforts of our hard-working volunteers. Nonetheless, I’d like to take this opportunity to share how this year’s volunteers, by no stretch of the imagination, will be saving the lives of hundreds of Dominican youth through our latest health education initiative.
In 2011, working within the framework of the ISV Health Education and Language Program (ISV HELP, See Children’s Programs, Read More), a curriculum designed to address the most immediate and immanent health risks that Dominican youth face on a daily basis (nutritional deficiency, bacterial and parasitical infections, Dengue fever, Cholera, Malaria and other preventable yet periling diseases), volunteers in the Dominican Republic hosted twelve different children’s summer camps impacting the lives of roughly 960 Dominican youth ages five to fifteen. Amongst many other accomplishments, ISV’s children’s summer camps represent some of our most meaningful achievements to date in the Dominican Republic.
This year, we have taken our Health Education Program one step further to combat what is arguably the most prolific public health issues not just in the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean, but across the world: Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, or HIV-AIDS. After Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean has the highest incidence of new HIV infections in the world (UNMDG 2011). Hispaniola, the Caribbean island which includes the nations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, accounts for nearly 75% of the Caribbean’s HIV cases. Bearing this in mind, our approach to this issue is multifaceted; leveraged and strengthened by a number of partnerships with some of the leading advocates for HIV-AIDS awareness and prevention in the Caribbean.
The Centro de Promoción y Solidaridad Humana or CEPROSH, a USAID funded HIV-AIDS awareness and prevention organization based in the Dominican Republic, is one such partner who will be facilitating workshops once every two-weeks throughout the season at each of our summer camp locations. Addressing topics such as stigma, discrimination, self-esteem and human rights as they relate to HIV-AIDS in the Dominican Republic, these workshops are complementary to the efforts of volunteers who will be teaching the 2012 ISV-HELP curriculum. Delivering a range of sex-education and HIV-AIDS awareness and prevention lessons, complete with an HIV-AIDS Workbook for the older children ages 10-15, volunteers are absolutely central to the success of this initiative.
The last leg of our approach lies in the expertise of our Dominican Republic Project Leader team. From veteran educators and counselors, to former Peace Corps Volunteers (from Public Health and Water Sectors), to a Medical Doctor who has practiced in a number hospitals and clinics in Dominican Republic and Haiti, their guidance and experience will provide volunteers with a deeper understanding of the issue at hand, and consequently, the ability to offer more directive strategies in our efforts to foster awareness and prevention. Together, and in partnership with all of our project partners, we are doing our part to combat a virus that has taken far too many lives from this beautiful island.
The above is one example of how I might answer that illustrious question. If you’d like to find out what really happens, ask one of our volunteers from this season when they return from the Dominican Republic. Better yet, come see for yourself and learn how these and more immeasurable achievements will figure into your response when your friends, family and acquaintances pull you aside.
To learn more about ISV's programs in the Dominican Republic visit our website.
ISV Program Coordinator, Dominican Republic