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Social Entrepreneurship Archives - Away She Goes
Open Wound: Life in a Batey

Open Wound: Life in a Batey

On the first day that my fellow student researchers and I returned to Mata los Indios in the Dominican Republic, our trek was pretty muddy. As we squished and squelched our way to the batey, the velcro on my trusty Merrell sandals became so clogged that it wouldn’t function, leaving me with a raw, open blister on the inside of my right ankle. Through cement mixing, dirt sifting, and slogging across Cruz Verde in the rain, keeping it clean and dry was impossible. I tried to go barefoot when inside and to refrain from complaining, but during an even muddier return trip to Mata los Indios, it was painful and dirt-filled. Mata los Indios, a small batey in the rural province of Monte Plata, is less than a mile from the village of Cruz Verde, where we were staying, but a world away economically. It’s hard to imagine that there is something smaller or more vulnerable than a village, but in the Dominican Republic, there is: a batey. A batey is a small company town that was set up for sugar cane workers decades ago. There are hundreds of them throughout the country, near the cane fields and usually owned by either the government or the owner of the fields. There have been times in the last century when workers were imprisoned on the batey until the work was done, and there was a time when all workers suspected of being Haitian were rounded up and murdered en masse. A typical batey cement block structure. Inside it would likely be broken up into several different homes.  Most of the sugar industry left the Dominican...
Mata los Indios

Mata los Indios

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Apres moi, le deluge

Apres moi, le deluge

I awoke last week to a facebook update from Angie: Mata is underwater.  Mata is incomunicado.  My reply: come mierda.  Eat shit.  Sort of the Spanish equivalent of the f-bomb.  For Mata los Indios and other bateyes, a flood, even for a short time, can be devastating.  It means the truck with potable water cannot get through, so people go thirsty or get sick from what few water sources they have near their homes.  It means crops die, so what little subsistence farming they have is easily swept away.  It means no new supplies get through, so commerce stops.  For those who did have the money to buy food, the current supply will run out or rot soon enough.  All that week, I had been working on my project plan, my final paper for the summer 1 classes that I sometimes forget are attached to this trip.  Grades seem like an after thought not because we aren’t learning, but rather because we are so very busy doing it.  We had the option of doing a research paper or some sort of proposal that would concretely help the DR and the populations we saw.  I can easily think of research topics, and love doing that sort of work, but for the first time in my life, a research paper seemed cowardly.  It seems imperative that I at least outline a plan for how to do something, to accomplish some goal toward the alleviation of suffering, even if it is slight. I don’t know if my proposal is good, or big enough, or business-y enough, and the troop of freshmen who...

Field Work

Put on: sneakers: anything flip-floppy will get muddy or you’ll feel the rocks through them as you scramble up hills shorts or a skirt that come to the knee, so you attract as little attention as possible.  Even though the people you interview will be wearing less.  and even though covering up more DOES NOT correlate to less attention.  more on that later. deodorant.  so much deodorant. Leave at home: any flashy jewelry, sine you’re already a big enough target (for…?) revealing clothing, since we’re in a Christian country with a Christian organization and a bus full of gringos is weird enough as it is Get in a van with 14-16 other people, even if it’s only meant for 10-12.  Hope there’s air conditioning as you turn on your ipod and look out the window.  Try not to get sick from the stop and go city traffic, the lack of lanes and the pock-marked country “roads.”  When you get to a batey: Leave your camera and your water bottle.  Children will want them and you probably don’t have enough to share. Bring notebook, pen, and a translator if you can’t do the job for yourself.  Be prepared for conversations across 3-4 languages. Days are long, people are unhappy, and the questions get as tired as you will be by the end of the day. You get covered in dirt and sweat and clothes stick to skin as skin sticks to vinyl and we all stick to each other as we bump along the dirt roads.  This particular survey is hard because most of the people interviewed are no longer...

Structure

This Dialogue has been reminding me more and more of the Egypt trip every day.  And it must be so, because people who aren’t here have been commenting that it seems like I feel the same way about this Dialogue as that one.  After Esther asked me about the trip that has had the most impact on me personally, I began thinking about it more directly.  I’ve loved all the travel in between, but this trip seems to align the ever-fickle planets of academics, leadership, location and group members. I love the books we read.  Why the Cocks Fight is maybe a little boorish and poorly written, but is nevertheless entirely necessary as it’s the only real history of the island of Hispaniola as a whole.  I can’t understand why there aren’t more books about this topic, and why the author (Michelle Wucker) didn’t arrange the book chronologically instead of thematically.  But alas, we are able to bypass so many basic overviews of DR/Haiti history when we are on site visits or in the field, and instead move on to deeper issues.  With Drown and The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (DR) and The Farming of the Bones and Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat (Haiti), we have been able to see the contemporary lives of Haitians and Dominicans at home and abroad, and just how important history, race, nationality and poverty have been to their lives.  I highly recommend all four of those books, and those two authors in general.  Nothing could make the 1937 massacre come to life as much as Farming of the...

Mata Revisited

This week I will be returning to Mata los Indios, the small batey in Monte Plata where I spent spring break, assessing poverty, digging a foundation and attempting to bring micro-finance to a poor, rural population.  As of when you read this, I will be on my way back to that place of no internet, bucket showers and crushed frogs.  I had been itching to get back since getting here, but now it seems like it is so suddenly upon me. Recently, we got the green light from Esperanza to continue moving toward micro-credit in Mata los Indios and the surrounding area.  I know we had been told before that it was a good chance we would have success, but being back in this country and not knowing the verdict had me itching.  Going into bateyes again with so many failed borrowers had me feeling a little hopeless, a little worried that nothing could ever change in Mata, even if we helped provide he intervention from Esperanza. Now that we’re returning to Mata, I feel like we all have a firmer grasp of what we’re doing, why and how.  We’ve seen people both better and worse off than those in Mata, those who have been able to succeed in improving from that standing and those who have failed.  Our survey-creation, -delivery and -evaluation skils have improved with experience. Right now I’m just looking forward to seeing some familiar faces and getting to work on my project’s business plan, so that maybe I can accelerate some assistance and learn a little in the process. Share this:Click to email this to...

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