May 20, 2003 - Project Minnesota/Leon: Dominican Republic RPCV Heather Dolphin became PML's León coordinator in Nicaragua in August 2001

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Nicaragua: Peace Corps Nicaragua: The Peace Corps in Nicaragua: May 20, 2003 - Project Minnesota/Leon: Dominican Republic RPCV Heather Dolphin became PML's León coordinator in Nicaragua in August 2001

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Dominican Republic RPCV Heather Dolphin became PML's León coordinator in Nicaragua in August 2001

Dominican Republic RPCV Heather Dolphin became PML's León coordinator in Nicaragua in August 2001

Heather Dolphin became PML's León coordinator in August 2001.

August 1, 2001 > I left the United States with the expectation that I was returning to do the kind of work that inspires me most in a country similar to the Dominican Republic, where I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer. While the work is similar, I am surprised at so much that is different.

I have known that working internationally in community development can be demanding but it feeds my craving for adventure. It's a new challenge, and in fact, there is much about each experience that is new. The newness doesn't make the experience a superficial one. On the contrary, the experience is intense because of the relationships developed, the work done and because of the sheer immersion in the language and the culture. I am most inspired by the community leaders with whom I have worked. They work locally in such a meaningful way that his and her neighbors are mobilized! Members of the community are moved to follow his and her model of participation. How fantastic to be able to work side by side with such dynamic people! I have met those kind of people in the Dominican Republic as well as in Nicaragua.

I came here to Nicaragua for that same sense of satisfaction I got from working in the Dominican Republic. I brought with me my Peace Corps experience and my experience as manager of a 24-hour residential facility for the developmentally disabled. My plan is to integrate those experiences here. I guess that for the most part, that's what I am doing but daily, I find myself surprised by all the differences I didn't expect.

First, the people in Nicaragua are so sincere. There isn't an expectation to please and be pleased. Nicaraguans have a strong sense of their own identity. For the most part, what I have seen here is confidence and sincerity by people here to make their own lives better. The work that is being done by community leaders is in their hands and they are making it happen. It seems they would succeed without us even if it took six months longer and four different sources of help!

Such leadership has manifested itself in organization. This sounds so logical and predictable but in my experience as a development worker in a small village in the Dominican Republic, organization should not always be presumed. It is not uncommon to have to bribe people to participate in a community meeting by offering something in exchange! It sounds like common sense to organize a group to achieve a goal but when have we, in the United States, ever had to organize with our neighbors in order to receive all the municipal services to which we are accustomed: water, electricity, trash collection, funding to open and sustain health clinics, academic and technical schools and libraries? Never having had to do that, I am so impressed when I witness a small group of concerned citizens -- even illiterate farmers -- making it happen.

Here in the office, there is an expectation of such organization by communities before they approach us with their applications for assistance. What I have seen here are organized communities soliciting assistance. In our current project, The Hambruna (The Hunger), I have also seen the passion demonstrated by the people here in León to take action even though the people who are starving live in remote villages.

What a difference between city and country-side living! In comparison to my life in the Dominican countryside, life here in León is surprisingly comfortable. It's hot here, to be sure, but the standard of living in the city is a different caliber than in the country. How delighted I was to find a bathroom in my house and it had indoor plumbing! No more latrines and bucket baths. So I am settling in quite nicely with the assistance of the PGL coordinator, Ana Carrión.

The professionalism of the PML/PGL office is so fantastic. This has no doubt been a result of all the contributions made by former PML/PGL coordinators, the consistent support from the office administrator and Consejo members. Now, PML/PGL perhaps more than ever, is in a position to expect to only work with communities that have demonstrated their commitments to their neighbors. This expectation ensures that we accomplish much more than a single Peace Corps Volunteer, or any one single person could for that matter. An office administrator, a vehicle, e-mail and cellular phones all help provide a different level of development work that ensures that we accomplish so much more and serve so many more.

I'm glad to work in such a progressive atmosphere. It presents a challenge that is new to me and in creases the possibilities of things we can accomplish together

-- Heather Dolphin, PML León coordinator

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Story Source: Project Minnesota/Leon

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Nicaragua



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