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Winter 2002

Winter 2002Fire-Fighters Conduct Hazardous Materials Training In St. Lucia

Joe Burgess, president and CEO of Hotzone USA in Clermont, Julius Halas, fire chief of the Longboat Key Fire Rescue and president of the Florida Fire Chiefs' Association (FFCA), and FFCA Executive Director Larry Scovotto conducted training November 29 to December 9 at the request of the National Emergency Management Office in St. Lucia.


The consultants taught fire, police and other responders methods and practices for responding to hazardous materials emergencies and command and control of those emergencies. Students were certified to provide a basic response to hazardous materials emergencies. The consultants also offered ideas to administrators and students for hazardous materials planning and regulations.

"They all indicated a strong desire to continue improving their skills and capabilities and to organize an island-wide HAZMAT response team," Burgess noted.

The course included instruction in chemical risk analysis, hazardous materials decontamination, incident command, and chemical and protective equipment. In addition, the consultants made recommendations for organization of a HAZMAT team, obtaining proper equipment and implementing regulations.

Marinus Pascal, deputy director of the National Emergency Office in St. Lucia, coordinated the training and also was a participant. "It was very interesting," Pascal said. "The facilitators were well informed and had great mastery of material. The participants enjoyed the training thoroughly and thought it was relevant to many situations they face on a daily basis."

Pascal mentioned that the training also addressed issues faced in light of recent anthrax scares and detailed methods and equipment necessary for dealing with such problems. In addition, the participants agreed to form a volunteers corps to be integrated into the hazardous materials committee.

"The volunteer corps was a very positive outcome of the training," Pascal added. "We're extremely happy with the results of this training, and we are looking forward to receiving follow-up training in the future."

Inner-City Guatemalan Youth Learn Advanced Computer Skills

More than 4,000 young people between the ages of 10 and 18 live on the streets in Guatemala City. To help alleviate their social exclusion, the Municipality of Guatemala City created a network of community computer centers to offer basic computer skills to young people in marginalized neighborhoods through an organization called MUNITEC. Once the basic program was established, it was clear there was a need for more advanced training.

Nerci Brenes de Barrera with students

Volunteer Corps veterans Diego Barrera Picado, a computer lab manager at Miami Dade Community College, and Nerci Brenes de Barrera, a customer service representative for Financial Recovery, Inc., Miami, conducted a week-long series of computer workshops for MUNITEC in Guatemala City in December.

The team covered several topics including Internet browsers, Adobe Photoshop, Flash, Dream Weaver, and basic computer repair and maintenance.

"The training was very successful in many respects. Diego and Nerci did a wonderful job in motivating these youngsters to achieve excellence," said Sara de Urruela, MUNITEC's director. "They gave a part of themselves to these young people and I think that inspired the group to want to learn more."

She added that both Diego and Nerci spent a lot of time with the group of instructors and worked long hours, sometimes staying into the evening. "In addition to the courses they taught, Diego and Nerci are helping us put together a long term plan for MUNITEC," she concluded.

Sunshine Network Showcases Florida International Volunteer Corps

Sunshine Network premiered a special documentary on the work of the Florida International Volunteer Corps October 11, 2001 in more than 5.5 million homes. Corps volunteers Rebecca Roberts, Glenn Sharron, Pete Winter, Tripp Lanier, and Amy Olk participated in the production. Haiti interviews and scenes were recorded by Jean Fabius who generously donated his time and talents in the best tradition of the Corps. To receive your personal video recording of the program, contact Dave Schmeling at

University of Florida Crocodile Experts Consult in Belize

Belize, home to two species of endangered crocodiles, has recently experienced an increase in fatal incidents involving crocodiles.

Dr. Frank Mazzotti, associate professor with the University of Florida Ft. Lauderdale Research and Education Center, traveled to Belize for a week this past December to consult with government officials and other stakeholders on developing a comprehensive plan for crocodile management. Specific issues included dealing with problem crocodiles, identifying conservation issues and the development of an ecotourism attraction.

Public education is of paramount importance, according to Mazzotti. "Although not aggressive, American and Morelet's crocodiles rapidly lose their natural fear of humans when fed deliberately or accidentally," he reported. "When fed, as is occurring regularly in Belize, crocodiles become accustomed to humans, becoming quite bold in their attempts to secure a handout. Under these circumstances crocodiles can pose a risk to humans and pets."

A training session was held for staff of the Belize Department of Forestry and the Belize Audubon Society to build the capacity to respond to situations where the presence of crocodiles could be a risk to human safety. Two stakeholder meetings were held in Belize City and San Pedro to evaluate issues and solutions to crocodile problems.

The consultant made the following recommendations for immediate action: signs to increase awareness of crocodile presence, a public education program, development of a problem crocodile program, and the identification of willing partners.

Mazzotti also made recommendations for future action which include protection plans for crocodile habitat and the development of ecotourism.

"Crocodiles are a destination species. That is, people will travel and pay money to see crocodiles," Mazzotti noted. "Two essential components of developing the American crocodile as an ecotourism attraction are a thorough understanding of the toured population and training programs for tour guides."

Nigeli Sosa, director of the Department of Foresty, said it was very important for the general public to know that the Department, along with its partners in development, are being proactive in dealing with the issue and it was also important for them to know the basics of how to deal with crocodiles.

"Dr. Mazzotti's mission was highly effective and we are very pleased with FAVA/CA's quick response to our request for assistance and grateful for the assistance we have received through the person of Dr. Mazzotti," Sosa said.

"DONORS & DOERS," a FAVA/CA-sponsored event at the 25th Anniversary Caribbean/Latin American Action (CLAA) Miami Conference December 4, was a novel approach compared to the traditional business development theme of this venerable annual conference. Attending the roundtable, included in the conference by special request of CLAA head Ambassador Donald Planty, were twenty partners intent on exploring innovative partnerships among corporations, international funding organizations, and social/economic development enterprises. Secretary of State Katherine Harris praised Florida International Volunteer Corps consultants and partners. Roundtable participants included USAID-Jamaica director Ambassador Mosina Jordan and James Watson. Other participants represented OAS, Inter-American Foundation, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, plus University of South Florida, Florida International University, and a host of other Florida-based partners.

FAVA/CA President Moves On

FAVA/CA's Board of Directors announced with sadness it's acceptance of the resignation of President David Pasquarelli. The resignation, capping a career of more than twenty years, was acknowledged with "deep appreciation". It was in 1981 that Pasquarelli was asked by Florida Governor (now US Senator) Bob Graham to coalesce private and public resources into an effective Caribbean and Central American social and economic development agency. Graham's insight and altruism, coupled with Pasquarelli's drive and practical, constructive approach has made a real difference in people's lives. The Florida Association of Voluntary Agencies for Caribbean Action has grown from a budget of $130,000, two staff and a handful of volunteers in three countries, into a million dollar enterprise training thousands, operating in 25 nations of Central America and the Caribbean. The program is the envy of other states, like California, Louisiana, and Puerto Rico, that also understand the importance of international relationships. Recently, Pasquarelli was named by Southern Growth Magazine one of "Ten Southerners to Watch", along with the likes of Andrew Young. What is next for the former carpenter and "Father of FAVA/CA"? Building a house on the coast... of course.

The FAVA/CA board has begun a search process for Pasquarelli's successor. Vice President Dave Schmeling will serve as interim president.

Education Grant Fosters International Involvement For University Faculty, Students

Left to Right: Drs. Keith Tinker, Bill Keegan, Cheryl Ward, Jim Miller

A $120,000 grant, International Professional Placements for Advanced Students of Florida's Public Universities, from the Florida Department of Education will stimulate and underwrite overseas experiences for up to fifty scholars from Florida's eleven public universities this year. The grant expands on the successes of FAVA/CA's "Studios" projects which, in recent years, have placed student/professor teams in Belize, St. Kitts, St. Lucia and Jamaica. Projects resulted in professional documents requested by overseas partners including: architectural guidelines for a downtown improvement project, tourism and natural resources development plan, plant nursery development plan, folk music compact disc, economic development plan, landscape designs for a historic building, plans for a fishing village visitors center, and an agro-tourism plan.

University administrators, professors and students agree on the importance of hands-on learning and service experiences at the graduate level. Students gain knowledge, practical skills, and enhanced competitiveness in the job market. Faculty benefit by keeping in touch with developments in their disciplines overseas. FAVA/CA's international partners benefit by receiving professional-quality work that responds to their priorities: work that they may not otherwise be able to afford.

Fifteen faculty and students from four universities have been placed in four Central American and Caribbean nations to date.

BAHAMAS. State archaeologist Dr. Jim Miller, University of Florida professor William Keegan and Florida State University professor Cheryl Ward consulted at the request of Bahamas National Museum Director Dr. Keith Tinker, November 1-4 in Nassau. Dr. Miller provided input on developing a national archaeological resource management plan. Dr. Keegan, an expert in land archaeology of the Bahamas, and Dr. Ward, a nautical archaeologist, consulted in cultural preservation. Professor Ward returns in Spring with students to develop an underwater archaeological park.

BELIZE. Florida State University Public Affairs Center director Janet Dilling, public administration student Robert McDaniel, and Audrey Heffron, Instructional Systems doctoral student, consulted with the University of Belize in the wake of Hurricane Iris in mid-October 2001. The visit, conducted as a quick-response intervention within days following Hurricane Iris, proved invaluable for laying the ground work for improving emergency planning processes and procedures for the University of Belize.

Alberto Chavez

COSTA RICA. Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) School of Business MBA candidate Alberto Chavez responded to the request of Fundación Neotrópica to develop a marketing plan for the San Jose-based nonprofit environmental organization working to protect natural areas and increase environmental awareness. Chavez, in collaboration with FGCU's Small Business Development Center, conducted the first of two consultations for the foundation November 18-24, 2001. A native of Ecuador, Chavez has extensive experience in the eco-tourism field and is focusing his studies at FGCU on marketing.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC. University of South Florida Harrell Center for the Study of Domestic Violence director Martha Coulter lead a five-person student/faculty team to Santo Domingo and Piedra Blanca November 20-24, 2001, to discuss family violence policy issues. A number of institutions were involved including the Ministry of Women's Issues, Profamilia, the Catholic University of Santo Domingo, the director of the hospital, a police representative, a judicial person in charge of domestic cases, the director of the school board and several other people from the city of Piedra Blanca. A follow-up mission will be conducted in early 2002 and future projects are planned.

Additional missions are planned to study village-level decision making in Jamaica, improve social work practice in Trinidad and Grenada, and urban planning in Belize and Dominica.

Mexican Cancer Center Builds Volunteer Program

The Albergue Asociación Mexicana de Ayuda a Niños con Cáncer (AMANC), a home away from home for children with cancer and their parents, has been in the process of moving to a larger facility where they will have many more patients. As a result the association needed to quickly develop an organized volunteer program.

Maria Cao-Lopez and Erolinda Budí, director and assistant director, respectively, of the Volunteer Resources Department at the Public Health Trust/Jackson Health Center System in Miami, traveled to Mexico for four days in November to offer guidance to AMANC founder and president Guadalupe Alejandre and her staff on building and managing a volunteer program.

The consultants made suggestions for ways to recruit, retain and recognize volunteers, as well as how to do background checks and create orientation programs. They also plan to email policies from their own program for AMANC to use as a model.

The Volunteer Resources Department at Jackson Health Center System is the largest of its kind in the southeastern United States. According to Cao-Lopez the department coordinates more than 1,000 individual volunteers and about 330 community agencies, civic organizations and companies who deliver programs at the hospital.

"Because we are a teaching hospital, our department also serves as an educational resource and guide for many health-care organizations in Florida," Cao-Lopez said.

"We learned a lot from them in a short period of time about how to build a volunteer program," Alejandre said. "Both of them worked wonderfully. They were truly the ideal people for the job and helped us to form a clear idea of how to proceed in an efficient manner."

According to volunteer consultant Budí, working with the founder of AMANC and her staff was especially rewarding. "Ms. Alejandre is such a humanitarian. She's got a mission and a vision. She is so enthusiastic about her program and so eager to accomplish her goals that it made our mission that much easier. We really enjoyed helping her and will continue to offer any assistance that we can," Budí said.

2001-2002 Sponsors

Adventures in Travel
All Florida Media Works
Artcraft Printers
Cade and Associates
Carroll & Company, CPAs
Department of Education
Embroidered Apparel by Spirit Sales
Florida Department of Community Affairs
Florida Department of State
Gabriel's Moving & Storage
Graphic Edge Inc.
Pan American Development Foundation
Pan American Health Organization
Ron Sachs Communications
Sunshine Network
SunTrust Bank
Tallahassee Farmers Market
USAID - Haiti
U.S. Embassy -Barbados
U.S. Southern Command

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