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Summer 2003 The Newsletter of Florida's Unique Development Partnership with the Caribbean Vol. 20,No 2
Dominican Artisans Grow Handicraft Business
In Rio San Juan in the northern Dominican Republic, local artisans gathered around a potter's wheel in a tin-roofed building with wooden windows propped open toward the lagoon. Their visitor from Florida took a seat and felt their clay in her hands.
"It was local clay, dug fresh out of the mountains," says FAVACA volunteer Bobbie McMillan, ceramics instructor and school director at the Brevard Museum of Art and Science. "Still, it was a wonderful clay body."
|Bobbie McMillan with ceramics student.|
McMillan was there to conduct training in advanced ceramics with fellow volunteer Sonja Light, a sculptor and teacher at Indian Harbour Montessori. From March 30 through April 5 they worked with 15 artisans and 40 students. Light taught how to make components to be connected and sculpted into bird figures and made suggestions on glazes and finishes. McMillan showed how to construct a fast-firing propane kiln and fire it.
"They've had a difficult time with consistent electrical power," says McMillan. "Their electric kiln may work one day and go out the next. [Using a propane kiln] will enable them to produce their work efficiently with consistent results."
Felix Cruz, the director of the Programa de Desarrollo y Promocion de la Artesania Dominicana (DEPROMART), says since this training the artisans have already built seven more propane kilns and are showing others how to do it. It has been a significant step for the group in reaching their goal of setting up production together.
Under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and with funding from the Organization of American States, DEPROMART has established Handicraft Villages in the northern provinces of the Dominican Republic. The Villages serve as places to train artisans in advanced handicraft techniques and provide them with the skills and opportunity to run a production business and market their products locally and regionally. Because the ceramics sessions in Rio San Juan were so enthusiastically received, Cruz arranged for further FAVACA training.
From June 21 to 29 Arlene Berrie, an adjunct professor at Miami-Dade Community College, conducted workshops there for 36 artisans and students in drawing and design. Berrie demonstrated techniques using a new kind of charcoal and a kneaded eraser. They drew simple subjects, such as plantains, sea grapes and locally made ceramics. They drew each other, their hands and their faces.
"If you can draw, it is the basis of all art," says Berrie. "Drawing gives you a sense of line that carries over into a clay pot you might make or a straw basket. You can sell drawings themselves or draw plans for other kinds of art. [The participants] were eager to learn new things, to have new stimulation."
According to Cruz, the artisans have excelled with the new techniques. They improved the quality of their products, are applying what they've learned and are teaching others.
Adelante Foundation Serves Extreme Poor in Rural Honduras
When FAVACA volunteer Lisa Green of Palm Beach traveled to Honduras this June, she met an enterprising woman named Carmen Leticia Barbareno Arzu, who delighted in showing off her new freezer. A 36-year-old single mother of two school-age children, Arzu borrowed 500 lempiras ($33) two years ago from The Adelante Foundation to start a small restaurant in her home to sell liquados (fruit shakes) and baleadas (tortillas with beans) to her neighbors in the Garifuna village of Nueva Armenia. By her second loan of 900 lempiras (about $60) she had expanded her restaurant and was able to bring in electricity. She bought a light, a freezer and a fan. Now her customers could enjoy frozen chocolate bananas, fish and chicken. With a third loan of $150, Arzu added a shaded bench and table for customers in front of her house. Arzu and the rest of her loan Solidarity Group Sobrevivir' (Survival) have maintained 100% repayment and have never had a late payment.
"Thanks to God and the Adelante Foundation, I now have a restaurant," says Arzu. "I have money now for necessities like food and clothes, and I even save."
Green learned of many women like Arzu as she worked with Adelante's micro-credit loan officers to hone their communication skills. The credit officers make daily presentations to groups of five to 50 women on topics ranging from business to life skills. An ESL teacher and former financial adviser, Green observed officers in the field, provided feedback on their presentations and conducted training in public speaking.
"The training Lisa provided increased exponentially the quality and confidence of the educational workshops our credit officers provide to the 1,440 (and growing) poor women in rural Honduras," says Kimberly Walsh Stone, Adelante's director of development. "As a result, our borrowers are absorbing more from our business training classes -- they are integrating changes into their businesses in order to have more profitable micro enterprises. Additionally, her training helped us increase the communication within solidarity groups and improve group unity."
"The main shift," says Green," was the women in the past were passive listeners. I redesigned the presentation to make the women more active listeners and able to stand up and report for their group."
"Our need for training is significant because what we do -- providing micro credit to the extreme poor in rural Honduras -- is not something anyone else in Honduras does," says Stone. "It is difficult to find local experts in certain key areas -- accounting and public speaking, for example. This is one reason we are so grateful to FAVACA's volunteers."
Last September, FAVACA consultant Lazaro Serrano Cid provided assistance in improving accounting procedures at Adelante, which is still a fairly new organization. It was established in 1999 after Hurricane Mitch destroyed infrastructure and the livelihoods of many villagers in rural Honduras. Ed Cohen of the Blessing Way Foundation and Tony Stone, a Stanford-educated American engineer who was raised in La Ceiba, Honduras, co-founded The Adelante Foundation to offer much-needed capital for small enterprises in the poorest parts of the country. In 2000, the foundation was selected by the Grameen Foundation USA, the inventors of micro-credit, as one of their replicators, the micro-credit version of the Good Housekeeping seal of approval.
Guatemalans Battle Pest Insects
Identifying insects is critical to stemming the threat of agricultural pests, both in the growing fields and markets of Guatemala and in shipments of fruits and vegetables to the United States. To assist with curation and management of the major insect museum and reference collection in the country, retired Florida entomologist Dr. Robert Woodruff of Gainesville taught a short course and led field studies from May 23 to June 15 at the Universidad del Valle in Guatemala City, Guatemala.
"This course was not specifically designed to deal with pests," says Woodruff. "However, pest insects cannot be studied, controlled or managed until they are identified by a specialist. The Ministry of Agriculture sent four students to the class and future projects are planned to assist them in the field."
In all, 15 professionals from the university, other local institutions and collecting institutions in neighboring Mexico participated in the course. They covered collection philosophy; collecting techniques; equipment for collection and preservation; general handling; mounting and labeling techniques; chemicals used in collecting and preservation; insect and other pests of collections; documentation; library resources, bibliographies and databases; and services to other agencies and the public.
"By helping forge relations between our collection and those of the Ministry of Agriculture, we will be able to identify pests easier and faster," says Dr. Jack Schuster, professor of entomology at the Universidad del Valle, which provides services to both government and private sector agricultural concerns. "The course increased communication among groups not usually in communication. As a result of participation in the course, a company began making unit trays for collection! We were informed that they are now for sale locally made much cheaper than having to import them. Our lab has also been asked by the Ministry of Agriculture to develop a handbook for pest identification in Guatemala."
Grenada Agri-Entrepreneurs Receive Computer Training
Andy Paul, a beekeeper in Grenada, is using a new white box as part of his standard equipment. It's not a new hive, but rather a personal computer! With training provided by FAVACA volunteers Antoine Brunvil and Gerald JeanPierre, both with Florida International University, the beekeeper has new advantages in keeping his business viable.
The training was conducted at the Agri-Entrepreneurial Distance Learning Centre (ADLC) recently established by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) at its Grenada office. The Centre, currently equipped with five computers, offers a limited number of courses at cost through the Internet and CD-ROM. From April 28 to May 10, the FAVACA consultants trained 25 agri-entrepreneurs in the use of computer technology, with special focus on Microsoft Word, Excel, Access and the Internet.
During a side trip to Paul's bee colony, JeanPierre learned how the computer training will be applied for good management through recording colony production, tracking growth rate, timing honey extraction and recording purchases, sales and profits. With Internet access, Paul can stay abreast of new information and communicate with other beekeepers.
IICA's Representative for Grenada, Cosmos Joseph, says, "The young entrepreneurs were trained to use the computer and to appreciate the usefulness of modern information and communication technology. They have each established e-mail addresses and are planning to use the Internet and their competence in Excel towards improved management of their respective enterprises."
Alzheimer's Training Prepares Caregivers in Barbados
In Barbados' aging population, health care workers face an increasing number of patients with Alzheimer's disease. Many times, the condition goes unrecognized or its associated behaviors are misunderstood as "wickedness."
To better prepare professional and community caregivers to work with frail elders and their families, Clayton Springer of the Barbados National Assistance Board (NAB) and Karen Ring, a lecturer with University of the West Indies, Barbados, requested Alzheimer's training. LuMarie Polivka-West, director of policy and quality assurance at the Florida Health Care Association in Tallahassee and Tom McGough, executive director of the Alzheimer's Resource Center of Tallahassee, conducted the training from March 31 to April 5 for more than 200 participants.
"There is a keen interest in caring for the elders in Barbados," says Polivka-West. "Several of the participants said that many people are misinformed about Alzheimer's and they think the persons with the disease 'are of the devil' because of the cursing and angry actions that sometimes occur in the middle stage of Alzheimer's, as the ability to be socially appropriate deteriorates. They said the training turned this thinking around for them."
The sessions provided an overview of how the disease affects the brain, how it progresses and how to sensitively manage difficult behaviors. Participants now will be able to identify differences between normal aging and Alzheimer's dementia. The tips and techniques provided for problems with eating, bathing and grooming hopefully will improve the caregivers' work experiences and the quality of life for the patients.
Panamanian Judicial Reform Movement Gets Fundraising Boost
La Alianza Ciudadana Pro Justicia (ACPJ) is a network of Panamanian institutions working to involve citizens in the judicial reform process. It has united groups in the legal profession such as the Panamanian Bar Association and legal aid services, universities, and citizen advocate groups with the common goals of educating citizens, influencing the legislative process and promoting fair and humanitarian access to the judicial system.
ACPJ's Executive Director Magaly Castillo says, "Currently our organization operates thanks to support from international organizations. This support requires us to identify activities that will help us become self-sufficient."
Veteran volunteer Gabriel Parra of Pembroke Pines worked with Castillo, members of her staff and the ACPJ board from March 30 to April 3 to review their fundraising strategies and materials. ACPJ also invited other local non-profits for an afternoon fundraising workshop with Parra. This project was funded by USAID-Panama.
"It was a very successful trip," says Parra. "We got to learn from each other. I learned about law and justice in Panama and they learned about fundraising strategies from me."
Castillo says, "The training received from FAVACA helped us to take the first steps toward defining a strategic plan for fund raising and introduced us to other experiences and forms of fund raising. Since this meeting the Alianza has created a fundraising team that is in the midst of planning the first activity, a theatrical presentation to benefit the ACPJ in August."
Heurtelou Gives Passionate Support to Haiti
A Haitian teacher left her mountain home before breakfast. Through the darkness and the dawn, for two hours she walked through the countryside. From 17 different communities, dedicated teachers like her converged on a school in the coastal town of Jacmel. There, a FAVACA team led by volunteer Maude Heurtelou was ready to meet them for a week of training in the art and science of teaching. Of all the FAVACA projects Heurtelou has joined, this April 2003 trip has touched her most.
"It was a model of teamwork," she says, recalling how the Jacmel elementary school and FAVACA's commitment to provide the training sparked local agencies to support the effort with meals for the attendees, money for their travel home and materials for a mobile library. "Every agency we asked helped. It was so beautiful."
During the week, the volunteers and teachers explored creative ways to develop engaging teaching materials and methods. In Haiti, where resources for education are limited and teachers are unlikely to receive substantial pay increases, improving teacher-student communication could be the most useful way to improve education. The training demonstrated how music and a more relaxed approach can positively affect learning.
They also discussed bilingual teaching, encouraging more use of Creole, the first and most comfortable language of the teachers and students, rather than French, their second language.
"When you empower the teachers," says Heurtelou, "you basically empower the community. They teach the kids that become the future of the country."
Heurtelou's interest in the welfare of Haiti's people began in her own childhood. As a kid growing up in Port-au-Prince, long before she had the title of volunteer, she liked helping others. After high school, she studied public health in Latin America. Living in rural Guatemala for six months opened her eyes to her own country's rural health issues, and she returned to Haiti a stronger advocate for those in need. Later, while earning her master's degree in health education at Laval University in Quebec, Heurtelou taught the small Haitian population there about health and trained Canadian health care workers to better reach the Haitian community. Now a senior public health nutritionist for the state of Florida, Heurtelou's work in this field continues.
Heurtelou became a volunteer with FAVACA projects in 1998. The Societe Haitienne d' Oncologie invited five Florida physicians and health educators to work with Haitian health professionals to promote cancer awareness and detection and to provide skills for assisting underprivileged cancer patients. Heurtelou returned for similar workshops each year through 2002. In 2001 she helped the Centre de Recherche et de Services Sociaux Humanitaires develop a survey to identify, assess and prioritize the social needs of Haitian women with "gwopye" (filariasis). The team promoted community awareness of filariasis and held workshops for hospital staff on managing health and social issues. In 2001 Heurtelou was honored as a Volunteer of the Year.
Fellow volunteer Florence Bastien says, "Maude works passionately in the preparation to volunteer, and when she's on site she is very engaged in the project. She puts all her passion and enthusiasm into it."
Heurtelou feels that the essence of volunteering is leaving a seed with others and knowing that it is growing. She envisions how much would change "…if every single Haitian were to volunteer in their field to help just one other Haitian. This can be expanded to the whole world," she says, "if every person helps one other."
Left to right, back row: Board Chair Jeff Sharkey, Nerci Barrera, Majken Peterzen, Wendy Crook, Harrison T. Higgins, Bruce H. Ward, Ivonne Audirac. Front row: Daniel E. Johnson, Willam R. Young, Jr, Diego Barrera.
Last year, hundreds of Florida's businesses, institutions and citizens shared their expertise and resources with colleagues in the Caribbean and Central America through our state's one-of-a-kind Florida International Volunteer Corps. Of the 232 individuals serving in the Corps in 2002, ten have been chosen to receive the Florida International Volunteer Corps Outstanding Achievement Award: Ivonne Audirac, Tallahassee; Diego Barrera and Nerci Barrera, Miami; Wendy Crook, Tallahassee; Harrison Higgins, Tallahassee; Daniel Johnson, Kissimmee; Majken Peterzen, Tallahassee; Bruce Ward, DeFuniak Springs; William "Bill" Young, Titusville; and Robert B. Ratliff, Jacksonville.
The Outstanding Volunteer Achievement Award was created in 1987 to recognize Wally Livingstone, Miami's former director of environmental health, for his work in Haiti and Belize. Sixty-four volunteers have received this award since 1987.
Meet the New Director of Finance and Administration
Stephanie Reaves of Tallahassee has joined the FAVACA staff as the new Director of Finance and Administration. For the past seven years, Reaves held management positions with the Florida Housing Finance Corporation. She earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, AL, and has certification in business information systems.
"We are delighted that a professional of Stephanie's caliber has joined our Tallahassee office," said FAVACA President Julieta N. Valls. "Stephanie brings extensive experience on complex federal, state and corporate regulations, rules and policies through her work with the FHFC. In addition, she has a great sense of humor, a must for someone managing the finances of a not-for-profit organization. We welcome her with open arms."
Reaves, a volunteer herself at her church and in the community, says, "This is the right fit for me. I look forward to working for an organization with such a meaningful purpose."
Former director of administration and ten-year veteran Cy Brewer has accepted a position with Synergy Design Group, a Tallahassee environmental graphics and museum design firm. She will be sorely missed.
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