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The technical assistance and training provided by FAVACA’s expert volunteers goes a long way in the communities where they work. The knowledge gained from each project by both the volunteer and the trainee is invaluable, but the relationships and bonds that form, the neighbors reached, the human element, is what drives volunteers to generously impart their expertise and time over and over again. Below are headlines of highlighted stories from past issues of our quarterly newsletter, the Communiqué. They are meant to expand on some select projects and shed light on the people and emotions involved. Enjoy!

ANTIGUA WOMEN EMPOWERED

FAVACA consultants played a significant role in International Women’s Day activities on St. Kitts and Antigua this past March.


St. Vincent and the Grenadines Tourism & Culture Minister Rene Baptist (right) addressing the Women's Empowerment Conference.

Dr. Mary Ann Jones, licensed psychologist and director of the prevention and education department of the 45th Street Mental Health Center in West Palm Beach, and Jennifer Dritt, director of the Governor’s Task Force on Domestic Violence in Tallahassee, traveled to St. Kitts March 5 to 9.

The two provided training at the Women’s Empowerment Conference and covered such topics as battered women’s syndrome, child victims of domestic violence, and support groups for victims. Seventy-five professionals, community members, and victims took part in the trainings.

“I believe that the group experience was a positive one, as almost none of the women had spoken openly about their own victimization with another battered woman,” Dritt reported.

The Ministry of Social Development, Community & Gender Affairs in St. Kitts & Nevis, a long-time FAVACA partner, hosted International Women’s Day activities that coincided with the training. Director of the Department of Gender Affairs, Ingrid Charles Gumbs, and Permanent Secretary Rosalyn Hazelle had requested volunteers to provide technical assistance in the area of domestic violence. The conference was attended by professionals from such fields as law enforcement, business, social services, news media, and health care. There were also victims among the attendees, as well as a group of Rastafarian men, all wanting to have input on eliminating violence and promoting healthy family relationships.

In Antigua, Sheila Roseau, executive director at the Directorate of Gender Affairs, also requested a trainer to take part in a workshop celebrating International Women’s Day and to kick-off a three-year project, funded by the Organization of American States, to get more women involved in politics. The objective of this first meeting was to generate interest in the project and provide ideas as to how women can become involved. Lynda Kinard, a legislative/governmental specialist currently working with the Florida Department of Education as the director of Health Education in Tallahassee, traveled to Antigua to provide training to 125 participants on such topics as the history and current status of women in politics and myths and realities relating to women’s political participation. Kinard also participated in a call-in radio show to promote International Women’s Day.

The goals of the project, she noted, are to: increase women's political participation and create competent, effective and committed women politicians; provide women with the full exercising of citizenship by promoting and forging and strengthening of alliances, networking and coalitions of women at the national and regional levels; address the inequality that exists in the power sharing and decision-making through institutional strengthening and development of social support networks in the region and at national level; and influence national and regional development agendas toward gender-balanced policies, planning, programming and governance. Many of the women in Antigua believe that there are too many obstacles to overcome for them to be involved in politics. The focus of the workshop that I did was to discuss these perceived obstacles and explore ways and methods to overcome them,” Kinard said.

JAMAICA ENACTS POLICY FOR DISABLED - IMPLEMENTATION PLANNED

The Jamaican government recently passed a national disability policy similar to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Because Jamaica is experiencing severe economic difficulties and resources are at a premium, the Jamaica Coalition on Disabilities, an organization consisting of disability service providers in Kingston, requested FAVA/CA's assistance in developing a plan to implement the policy.


Mark Ravenscraft (sitting) with Lady Golding and Jamaica Coalition on Disabilities members.Photograph by Tom Lundergan

Mark Ravenscraft, managing director of Ravenscraft Group, an international consulting firm in Tallahassee, and his aide Tom Lundergan, conducted several days of training for the Coalition in December 2000, to help them devise a strategic plan for the future. A follow-up training mission is planned.

The consultants met with six of the national agencies that focus on disability policy and services. They were able to facilitate a consensus strategy and set priorities for the Coalition to help implement this national policy.

"I worked with key committees of the Coalition to plan and prioritize a fundraising and resource development program to attract grants and other types of assistance from Jamaicans abroad, international foundations, and aggressive fundraising efforts within the country," Ravenscraft explained. "Part of my effort during the trip was focused on helping them develop an operational structure."

The Coalition will soon incorporate as a nonprofit entity, which will enable them to receive grants and conduct more formal activities. The consultants also worked on a media and public education strategy to increase the public's awareness of the Coalition.

"Jamaica has a good number of capable leaders in the disability community. They only lack some of the tools and preparation necessary to deal with public policy, legislative bodies, and government bureaucracies," Ravenscraft said.

According to Ravenscraft, technology, including resources such as the internet, email systems and desktop publishing, is also an important way the Coalition can compensate for lack of financial resources. The need for training, he noted, is greatest in the area of media relations and public education campaigns.

Wilbert Williams, chairman for the Coalition, said that the training was extremely successful. "It gave us a chance to look at what we've been doing and see how we can improve. Mark facilitated the thought process," he observed.

"It was very rewarding to share with local Jamaican disability leaders the innovative ways they have worked around attitudinal, cultural, and resource barriers to achieve a National Disability Policy," he said.

"Jamaica, despite its economic problems, is a warm, inviting, and beautiful country. Lasting friendships and collegial exchanges, which will continue for many years, were part of the rich rewards of volunteering my time to conduct this training and consultation."

HAITIAN DEVELOPMENT TAKES ACCOUNT OF NATURAL RESOURCES

In April of 2002, FAVA/CA, along with USAID and the United States Embassy, hosted a workshop for members of the Haitian Diaspora. One result of that seminar is a plan to promote environmentally sensitive development in the southern region of Haiti.

When Alan Woolwich, an urban planner with Brevard County, met Dr. Aldy Castor, president of the Haitian Resource Development Foundation, at the seminar, the two of them began looking for ways to promote eco-tourism in the area and to lay the groundwork for a detailed plan for the town of Aquin.

In December, Woolwich was joined by marine photographer and specialist Tom Jackson of Key West and Sheila Mullins, former mayor of Key West, on a FAVA/CA mission to the area for the purposes of data collection and map making.

“We video graphed the area from the mountaintops to the coastal areas to the underwater reefs,” Woolwich said. “We also took digital photographs of the area and conducted field surveys of the town.” The photos will be available on Castor’s website, www.hrdf.org , to promote eco-tourism. The video recording will also make future town planning easier.

“There are buildings there that are 250 to 300 years old. So historic preservation and restoration will be a big draw,” Woolwich said.

“This mission was of vital importance to the region,” Castor said. “Currently, a seaport and an airport are being built, but we were concerned about protecting both the marine and land environment. We found out we have some beautiful areas under the sea there, some beautiful coral reefs and exotic fish. It is one of the last natural reserves in the Caribbean and it is important that it be protected.”

Castor requested the assistance from FAVA/CA through the USAID-Haiti Regional Initiatives for the ongoing community and environmental planning efforts in the town of Aquin, located in the southern peninsula. The mission documented the natural resources of the area and will help provide an alternative to large-scale tourism by promoting eco-tourism which is more sensitive to the environment.

"“This is not the first time that FAVA/CA has sent volunteer experts to the area,” Castor said. “These volunteers are ambassadors. They put a human face on the assistance provided by the United States.”

This project is funded in part by a grant from the United States Agency for International Development.

CARIB TRIBE HOSTS TECHNOLOGY MISSION TO DOMINICA

Assistant Professor David Clay, of the Computer Science Department at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, traveled to Dominica from July 16 to 28 to conduct a series of instructional workshops on web site design, maintenance and computer repair for WAIKADA, the Carib Tribe's cultural organization, and the Carib computer club. He also met with tribal leaders and assisted local Peace Corps volunteers.


David Clay at the new Tunubuku Library in Carib Territory.

While in the Carib Territory, Clay also set up and repaired equipment for a computer lab at Tunubuku Library, the new community resource center in Sineku hamlet, consulted with Carib library staff, repaired the only working computer in the Carib schools, and applied for donated internet use for the tribe's schools and non?profits. Carib Chief Garnette Joseph hosted the workshops.

"The workshop for the computer club was important because the students were able to learn about other indigenous people and see what their web sites focused on," Clay said. "If you do a search for Carib culture, there are very few sites. The new web site will be an important addition to the indigenous web presence."

Clay conducted an additional mission the following week in Roseau, the capitol of Dominica, to share his expertise during follow?up instructional seminars in the development, design and management of another web site. Geralda Richards and Julius Green, of the Special Projects Assistance Team (SPAT), sponsored the workshops on further development of SPAT's web site.

"Four people were trained, and staff is now able to update the website on a regular basis. We are also to focus on how we can offer consultancies and augment our income," Green said.

"SPAT staff is now ready to take an active role in building and maintaining a more informative web site in hopes of attracting more donor organizations," Clay added. "The SPAT workshop is important because the donor NGO money is becoming scarcer, and by being able to communicate the goals and accomplishments of SPAT via an effective web site, they will increase the chances of getting the all-important external funding that SPAT survives on."

Clay also recommended that SPAT consider obtaining a wireless network and that Carib leaders explore grant opportunities.

GRENADA RED CROSS INSTITUTES FIRST HIV/AIDS HOTLINE

Hotline volunteers with Neil Abell, far left front row, Jeff Shaw, far right front row, Terry Abell, 3rd from left on second row, Samantha Dickson, (Red Cross Society hotline trainer) 4th from left on second row.

In Grenada the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS prevents many who need HIV testing and services from coming forward in person. However, a plan by the Grenada Red Cross Society (GRCS) to implement a telephone hotline service for persons living with HIV/AIDS or those affected by the disease promises to help alleviate this problem.

Neil Abell, PhD, clinical social worker and associate professor, and Terry Abell, child welfare counselor, Multi-disciplinary Center, both with Florida State University, and Jeffrey Shaw, manager, Telephone Counseling and Referral Services in Tallahassee, conducted training and technical assistance in developing a hotline service last October.

In collaboration with Terry Charles, director general, GRCS, the consultants delivered and installed the necessary hardware and software to support the technical aspects of hotline operations, such as data gathering and report production. They trained two core Red Cross staff to serve as lead volunteer trainers and six volunteers as initial volunteer counseling staff.

The volunteer training included crisis identification and resolution, guided imageries to process feelings, dealing with manipulation and addressing suicide/homicide issues. The trainees also spent time role-playing to practice what they learned.

“As the program becomes operational, we are confident that it will help ease the discomfort, stigma and emotional pain of those who are infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases or those with sexually related problems or concerns,” Charles said. “Thanks to the FAVA/CA volunteers for making this service a reality.”

The consultants also conducted a focus group with the Medical and Public Health School faculty, as well as with representatives from the Ministry of Health and the Grenada AIDS Foundation, to further develop a research grant proposal exploring the impact of stigma among health and social service providers in multi-island environments.

“Given the GRCS's successful record of recruiting and training volunteers and the prevalence of cell phones in Grenada, the potential benefits of anonymous access to information and counseling seems great,” Dr. Abell reported. “The hotline service would also be one way to gain a clearer picture of the true extent of the epidemic in Grenada while helping HIV/AIDS persons at the same time.”

JAMAICA YWCA SPONSORS BEHAVIOR MANAGEMENT and PARENTING WORKSHOP

Dr. Tshai M. Bailey, psychologist and assistant professor at Florida International University in Miami, conducted workshops at the request of the Jamaica Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) in October 1999. The workshops, presented to more than 100 parents, counselors and administrators in four different locations, dealt with parent effectiveness and behavior management techniques.

The main purpose of the mission was to address behavioral issues of children between the ages of 10 to 15 who have dropped out of the regular school system and who are now participants in an alternative project organized by the YWCA. Bailey’s workshops were aimed at counselors and parents.

"I stressed to the parents the importance of discipline as a teaching tool, not punishment, and the need for consistency, love, support and encouragement of their children as well as their roles as mentors," Bailey said.

Minna McLeod, general secretary of the Jamaica YWCA, requested the workshop to help decrease crime and violence, especially in the home. The goal of the YWCA’s alternative educational program is to return the children to the regular school system and to involve more parents in this effort. Bailey met informally with administrators and counselors at each location and then conducted programs for parents and staff.

"Going to Jamaica West Indies and training the parents, counselors and administrators of the YWCA was absolutely a rewarding experience," Bailey said. "Certainly more needs to be done, and I would be willing to go again next year to monitor their progress and update their skills."

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.

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.

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.


Nerci Brenes de Barrera with students

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.

PANAMANIAN NGO GETS DOWN TO BUSINESS

FAVA/CA volunteer Frank O’Connor of Sarasota traveled to Panama in February to consult with the staff of the Association for the Promotion of New Alternatives for Development, better known by its Spanish acronym APRONAD. The organization seeks to improve the local environment and to find alternative methods for economic development with an emphasis on solid waste management and the promotion of ecotourism.


Frank O'Connor with the Emberá Indians

The purpose of O’Connor’s visit was to identify strategies in management practices, fund raising techniques, forming a board of directors, forming a consortium of local non-profits, and increasing APRONAD’s visibility in the community. O’Connor, now retired, lived in Panama for several years while an executive for Kodak.

O’Connor met with about 30 people from the organization, advising them on building their own board of directors and on developing a board for the consortium. Because of his business experience in Panama, he was able to offer information and advice on working with leaders in the Panamanian business community.

He also offered advice on several APRONAD projects to promote tourism such as working with the Embera Indians, who live in the forested “Canal Zone” basin. The Embera are prohibited from clearing the land for agricultural purposes because this would adversely affect the Canal ecosystem and the supply of water. O’Connor visited them to consult about developing an ecotourism industry.

“We drove out to a landing, got into a dugout canoe and went up the river to their village. They had a welcoming dance and offered lunch,” O’Connor commented. “The village was like it was when Columbus came. And the Indians were extremely receptive to ideas. They are very smart people and, thanks to APRONAD, they understood marketing.”

In addition, O’Connor helped APRONAD identify international foundations that might be willing to provide funding.

“They were very receptive. They’re a small agency but they sure know how to make a presentation. Everything was very well done. I would be confident that when they applied to a foundation, the foundation would be very impressed,” he said.

Executive Director of APRONAD, Isidra Meneses, noted that 100 percent of her staff participated in the consultation and training.

“Working with Frank was excellent,” she commented. “We're very content with his visit."

TERRORIST THREATS TACKLED IN BAHAMAS

With the threat of terrorism worldwide, the Bahamas is particularly susceptible because of the number of cruise ships that visit the islands. To address the problem, two pairs of volunteer consultants traveled to the Bahamas from June 20 to July 3 to conduct training for the Public Hospitals Authority on how to respond to bio-terrorism and hazardous materials emergencies.


Joe Burgess demonstrating use of hazardous materials suit.

University of South Florida faculty, Dr. George Buck, professor, Center for Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance and the Center for Biological Terrorism Defense, and Erin Hughey, research associate and instructor, conducted bio-terrorism training. Joseph and Hilda Burgess, president and manager, respectively of Hotzone USA in Clermont, Florida provided training in hazardous materials.

Together the two teams provided a 40-hour course that enabled the participants to be certified as hazardous materials technicians. Following the course, Joseph Burgess also provided a three-hour forum on responding to terrorism.

The 35 participants included members of the national police force, fire brigade, defense force, EMS, doctors, nurses, the disaster preparedness committee and disaster coordinators. According to Paul Newbold, field director for National Emergency Medical Services, developing a collaborative effort was imperative.

“We had a very diverse and enthusiastic group, and most of them were decision-makers,” Burgess said.

Newbold concurred and noted that most of the participants wanted the course to continue.

“We’re planning to create a disaster management office,” Newbold said. “We have a committee that meets to prepare for hurricanes, but we need to be aware of all the emergency possibilities. We’re hoping to bring these trainers back soon.”

This mission was Burgess’s second for FAVACA.

“This kind of work is mutually beneficial,” he said. “I enjoy being helpful and sharing ideas, but I also learned a lot from them. It’s very valuable.”

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