Here’s a recent newsletter segment from the CIEE Service-Learning Program in Santiago, Dominican Republic.  My fellow Thai farmer, Mike Aguilar, is facilitating and organizing with study abroad students and farmers in the Dominican Republic.  Mike and I worked together in Thailand to promote fair trade rice, organic agriculture, student activism and solidarity with peoples’ movements in northeast Thailand. Thanks to the CIEE students for their contribution.  Farmers and eaters from diverse parts of the world can only gain from exchanging information and experiences.

During the month of February we had two rural community visits to gain a deeper under-standing of rural livelihoods. Our first trip was the retiro de trabajo or work retreat where we visited Rio Grande Abajo, a rural community located in the Puerto Plata province in the mountainous municipality of Alta Mira. There we collaborated with Brigada Verde, a formalized youth group with a focus on Sustainable environmental practices. Together we gave talks on disease prevention and sanitary practices. We also helped in providing a chispa or spark to build momentum and aware-ness around the group‘s new waste management initiative.

As another integral part of the program, we had our week long Rural Stay in an isolated community in the northwest region to learn with the Regional Center of Alternative and Rural Studies (CREAR). CREAR is the first organic school in the DR and its philosophy is to learn how to do things with what you have and that success in the task is as much a part of the process as it is the gusto or spirit you employ during the process. This sounds simple but the application of the philosophy was challenging during a time when many of us were stressed, tired and doubting various aspects of our work in our communities in Santiago, challenging our paradigm of ―good intention and international development. This lesson in learning to be a learner and then working hard with both patience and faith in our work was transformative and unforgettable.

We learned about organic farming methods, constructed ecological Lorena stoves and compared community initiatives that related to our work back in the Santiago. With new perspectives on both the city and the country-side this newsletter hopes to provide you with an expanded insight into how we invest our time stretching, challenging and relearning concepts of development through the grassroots perspective.