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Summer 2000

Summer 2000



At the request of US Peace Corps - Panama, Dr. Francis Arab, an environmental specialist with the Florida Department of Health in Miami, trained 125 professionals from the Ministries of Health and the Environment in Panama, as well as local representatives, in the handling of biomedical waste, from April 2 to 7. Arab made a total of five formal presentations on Classification and Management of Medical Wastes, Hanta Virus, and Treatment and Disposal Options for Medical Wastes.

"I was very busy," Arab said. "I talked to about 300 people from all over Panama, visited the city to view their waste disposal and visited a hospital as well. It was a very nice experience. I'd be happy to return if they needed me."

Melanie Emerson, seminar coordinator for the Peace Corps, thanked FAVA/CA for sponsoring Arab. "His presence in our seminar educated and empowered the participants," she reported. "His warm and captivating manner held their attention and sparked a heightened interest not only in the topics at hand, but in seeking further education.

"We feel that this was an excellent match," Emerson continued. "We would welcome the opportunity to work with Dr. Arab again on future projects."


For two weeks in May, six leaders from youth agencies in Jamaica toured facilities for youth in South Florida and attended seminars in program development and sustainability as part of the Uplifting Adolescents Project (UAP), a USAID Jamaica-funded initiative managed by global consulting giant Development Associates Inc.

The participants included Ian Boyd-Brown, FamPlan Jamaica; Sheron Lawson, Kingston Restoration Company; Daisy Lilly, Jamaica Red Cross; Shirley Reid, Jamaica Association for the Deaf; Shae-Tongee Stewart, Youth Opportunities Unlimited; and Cecile Walden, Sam Sharpe Teachers' College.

Loretta Johnston, of Arlington, Virginia-based Development Associates, manager of the FAVA/CA sub-contract, said of the study tour, "The purpose of this program is to provide institutional capacity-building to 14 agencies in Jamaica that work with at-risk youth. These observational study tours look at practices and approaches that Florida programs are using and assess their applicability to youth programs in Jamaica." Johnston added that the participants received a great deal of necessary literature which will enable them to train workers who could not make the trip.

FAVA/CA veteran volunteer Mark Fontaine, executive director of the Florida Juvenile Justice Association in Tallahassee, was lead volunteer on this project and staffed it with volunteer-trainers Mary Dekle, Legal Services of North Florida in Tallahassee; Kim Brien and Janice Kane of the Florida Children's Home Society; and Nancy Brink, of the Miami Mentoring Service. Natasha Marks of the FAVA/CA Miami office coordinated logistics.

"The program was received very well," Fontaine said. "The participants really felt they saw a lot of good programs and picked up a variety of curricula. We even set up a tour of an after-school and evening program in Coconut Grove."

In addition, the participants visited the Miami Bridge Program, Drug-Free Youth in Town, Atlantic Technical Center, Covenant House, Children's Home Society, PACE Center for Girls, Dade Marine Institute and other facilities.

"Because many of them survive with aid from international donors, sustainability is a real issue for these agencies. FAVA/CA has been extremely helpful in strengthening these non-governmental organizations and helping them to stand on their own," Johnston said. "Because they know the Caribbean so well, FAVA/CA did a fantastic job in making sure the right and appropriate contacts were available for the participants. They also have a strong volunteer corps and will be able to follow up with continued consultations."


The 2000 Florida Legislative Session produced a nearly 20 percent increase in FAVA/CA's Volunteer Corps appropriation. The Corps line item ($633,212 this year), has been voted annually since 1986. The Florida International Volunteer Corps is the only program of its kind authorized in statute and funded by a state.

The Corps enjoys strong support from Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Secretary of State Katherine Harris (whose department administers the Volunteer Corps contract). It is seen by many legislators as a first line of defense against threats to the state: threats to the health of Floridians such as HIV/AIDS, drug abuse and tuberculosis; agricultural threats such as Africanized bees, citrus canker and animal-borne diseases; and environmental dangers to Florida's shores and fisheries. Legislators reason that problems can be tackled with the help of our neighbors overseas before they impact Florida.

U.S. Senator Bob Graham, Chair of FAVA/CA's Executive Advisory Council, echos high praise for the Corps: "Volunteers like you, who are willing to share your time and talents with people in neighboring countries, embody and inspire partnerships for peace and prosperity in the region."


For the past year, the staff at Justinien Hospital in Cape Haitian in Northern Haiti has been working in partnership with the University of Miami School of Medicine to develop long-term improvement in the health and welfare for rural Haitians.

FAVA/CA volunteer Dr. Andre Vulcain, research assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Miami, conducted training in Cap Haitian from May 22 to June 3, in response to a request from Dr. Bernes Chalumeau, a medical director for the hospital.

The hospital seeks to augment the skills of their health-care professionals by providing training in family medicine focusing on preventive measures and primary needs of children and families. In addition, they plan to design a curriculum for the residency program.


Sign language may seem to be a natural, expressive communication tool for the deaf, but it is not always recognized as a language. The Jamaica Association for the Deaf, established in 1938, is in the process of clarifying issues surrounding Jamaican sign language in order to develop a training program for sign language interpreters and to get recognition for Jamaican sign language.

Candace Steffen, former coordinator of the interpreter training program at North Florida Community College in Madison, spent more than a week in Jamaica observing and recording examples of Jamaican sign language, as well as meeting with educators and interpreters.

"This was a fact-finding mission," Steffen said. "They have a lot of needs, and we came up with an action plan. Among their most pressing concerns, we identified the need for deaf leadership in the United States to go to Jamaica and help the deaf community establish a political group to work for civil rights for deaf people, including free and appropriate education and access to interpreters."

Currently, sign language interpreters in Jamaica work on a volunteer basis, and there is no formal training for them.

Certified interpreter George Costa Jr. accompanied Steffen on the mission and conducted a workshop for interpreters, as well as one-on-one training.

"I think the visit was tremendously successful," Costa said. "A great deal more can be done but the ground floor was established. In the short term, we've gotten the ball rolling as far as getting recognition for Jamaican sign language, but this will definitely be a long-term project. We provided a stepping stone."

Steffen plans to work with the University of West Indies in the future in linguistics and translation and interpretation in order to promote recognition of Jamaican sign language and raise awareness of the issues facing deaf people.

"The trip was so stimulating," Steffen said. "When you bring forth an idea there, it impacts so many people and changes happen before your eyes. It was very gratifying."

Shirley Reid, of the Jamaica Deaf Association, concurred that the mission had far-reaching implications, saying, "Their sensitivity to the culture of the local deaf community was fantastic. The pair have certainly made it easier for any other foreign consultants who may follow in their footsteps. Our vision is to see a Jamaica where deaf persons are well educated and able to access opportunities for self-actualization."

"We can not emphasize how grateful we are to have had the benefit of their expertise," she added. "We are also amazed at the ability of FAVA/CA to locate such 'best fit' individuals and want to thank Natasha Marks and other FAVA/CA staff for their dedication to giving us the kind of support that we so desperately need."


Veteran volunteer-consultant Milagros "Millie" Pinal of Miami conducted a seminar for health care providers in Guatemala City. The mission took place from June 21 to 30 on behalf of the Guatemala Ministry of Culture, Area for Elder Affairs.

The seminar helped to improve the skills of occupational and recreational therapists and provided important specific information on working with the elderly. "The visit was very productive," said Dr. Romeo A. Ordonez, coordinator. "It was a good experience."

Pinal also consulted with the doctor and his staff on their programs and offered useful information to help improve services. Pinal is a 1999 recipient of the FAVA/CA Outstanding Volunteer Achievement Award.

In addition to the seminar, Pinal led a workshop as part of a university course at the Universidad Francisco Marroquin, for older adults on the importance of recreation.


Professor Dave Clay, of the Computer Studies Department at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, conducted hands-on software training workshops at the WAIKADA office and the Tribal Council office in the Carib Territory, in northeast Dominica. The training addressed basic computer skills with particular emphasis on web technology.

Clay offered five days of workshops May 8-13, to teachers and to youth members of the Carib Tribe, during which workshop members created an online newsletter as practice for working with the Internet.

"The teachers have computers available in the schools and little computer experience. They were very eager to learn skills they could pass on to their students," Clay said. "The youth who were in the workshops wanted to learn computer skills in the hopes of getting good jobs. They saw the value of computer training and were eager to obtain more information."

Clay also provided training in web page design for the Small Projects Assistance Team (SPAT), a non-governmental organization whose mission is to "animate community efforts" in various ways.

"My role was to introduce web page development so they could document their projects. We created a new web site for them," he said. SPAT's web site can be seen at

"What I discovered about Dominican culture through this experience was that the individuals are willing to take responsibility for improving their quality of life. I found the people very comfortable to be with in Dominica. They have a lot of community spirit."


FAMU professor Dr. Jean Beaudoin conducted training in animal husbandry for the Escuela di Oficios Agropecuarios-Centro de Investigacion y Mejoramiento de la Produccion Animal, Inc., an organization representing ten farmer cooperatives in the Northeast of the Dominican Republic, June 11-18, 2000.

The organization has as its mission the improvement of the quality of life and income of rural families through the development of land and livestock production.

Beaudoin trained more than thirty families who are small and medium sheep and goat producers in methods to improve animal rearing, nutrition, health and management. He identified several needs of the farm families, including resources to adequately meet the nutritional requirement of their animals for a profitable livestock production and a change of attitude in herd management, specifically in the domains of feeding, parasites and disease control.

"I was able to introduce some new ideas in the control of parasites and diseases," Beaudoin said. "My suggestions were well accepted, and I have maintained contact with a few individuals to whom I have mailed information obtained from the Goat website."

Beaudoin also toured the Northwest Region of the country and exchanged views with farmers of the area where long periods of drought coupled with limited resources prevent intensive animal production.



Florida International University's (FIU) North Campus is home to FAVA/CA's Miami Office, the result of an agreement reached by FAVA/CA and FIU administrators in 1997. The Volunteer Corps enjoys rich recruiting at FIU. FIU faculty and staff find Corps assignments in the Caribbean and Central America stimulating and professionally rewarding.

FAVA/CA staff at FIU (l-r) Maria Malterer, administrative assistant; Marc Roger, international programs manager; Natasha Marks, international programs coordinator.


Natalie Lamb-Lutz joins the Volunteer Corps Tallahassee office as assistant development director, FAVA/CA's first full-time development professional. She formerly served as county service director of the United Way of the Big Bend where she raised $600,000 in 1999. Natalie has been involved in non-profit work for the past six years. She coordinated county-wide literacy efforts, taught ESL and basic literacy to adults throughout communities, migrant camps, and prisons in the Big Bend region of Florida, while raising funds to support these programs.


Higher education is undergoing an enormous transformation in Belize as the five existing institutions are integrated into one University of Belize (UB) system, scheduled to begin enrolling students on August 1, 2000. In order to facilitate the transition, a special UB Secretariat was formed by the government of Belize.

Long-time FAVA/CA volunteer Dr. Kent Caruthers, MGT of America Inc. education consultant, visited Belize in April to offer guidance to the Secretariat at the request of Dr. Angel Cal, president of the University College of Belize and chair of the integration committee. In particular, the Secretariat asked Caruthers for advice on issues surrounding the plans for the financial management system, the communication and information system, and the physical plant management system.

"The creation of a new national university would be a formidable task under any set of circumstances," Caruthers reported. "The short period of time available to bring together five institutions with significantly different histories, missions and cultures makes the assignment even more formidable."

The new UB is expected to focus its programs on emerging national needs and to achieve operational efficiencies that are not currently possible under a more dispersed organizational arrangement.

"The UB Secretariat has already made significant progress toward making each of the five current institutions ready for the merger. However, a number of critical challenges remain for UB to make a successful initial transition in August 2000 and for the concept to become fully operational over the near future," Caruthers continued.

Most of the effort during the FAVA/CA consultation with the UB Secretariat focused on readiness for the scheduled August 1st transition.

"They were well organized and knew exactly what kind of help they wanted," Caruthers said. "This transition is a big priority for them, and they were available to work with me. I was able to give them some specific recommendations to help them understand how to use their resources."

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