During my time volunteering with Supporting Guasa this summer, I was working on a research project for my thesis at my university. This project grew out of my interest in the public health issues in the bateyes, one of which is higher rates of HIV prevalence than the rest of the DR. The objective of the classes was to teach behaviors that will help batey residents to avoid contracting HIV. The research element of the project consisted of pre-and post-tests to determine whether the class was successful in increasing knowledge about HIV/AIDS and how to avoid these conditions. The classes were facilitated in five bateyes—Concho Primo, Olivares, Atilano 1, Cabeza de Toro, and Margarita. In general, one class was taught in each of these campos each week.
The first week I was there, I visited each batey to talk with a local contact (such as a teacher, preacher, or Director of Health) assigned to me by Joselo, the principal in Ramón Santana. During the initial week, Joselo organized the project with all the contacts and Manuel, Joselo’s friendly uncle who transports the volunteers via motoconcho. When I arrived at the bateyes the first week, the contact and I agreed on a good day and time for the class each week. Then, they took me around the batey to tell people about the details of the project and when it would be happening. This process took several weeks to happen in Concho Primo, because the contact cancelled our initial meeting a couple of times, but eventually we had the class going there as well.
Each class was independent; that is, if someone attended one, they received all the information they need. The class also gave out bags containing informational sheets, class supplies, and contraceptives. Two grants from my university supported this project. The class included a presentation as well as interactive portions, such as a brief discussion, a competitive game, a partner role play, and time for questions. The discussion and the game were quite effective at garnering participation. The partner role play activity had mixed results depending on the age and shyness of the participants. Younger adults were more likely to participate in this section than the much older.
One of the greatest problems I ran into was that many of the older adults and some who are middle aged are illiterate. I had them participate in everything but the paper portions. Similarly, some could only read and write in Creole. A few could only understand Creole. Other students served as translators in these cases, but I doubt they understood as well as I would have hoped.
Another issue I ran into one week was the contacts not being there for various reasons and not calling to cancel. Sometimes the person with the keys to the school was out of town. But that is just the way of the world here. One just has to be patients and flexible as well as constantly triple checking with the contacts to make sure everything is in order.
The class successfully tested 46 people (this number does not include those who were illiterate, those who only could communicate in Creole, those who walked in after a class had started, or those who departed the class early). I am in the process of crunching the numbers at my university in order to determine in what aspects the class was helpful and which parts were ineffective. I certainly learned about the organizational aspects of implementing a class in the bateyes.