Hello! Or as we say here in the Dominican Republic, hola. My name is Robert Alexander and today I got the unique opportunity to be the leader of the day for Aid and Development day. You might be asking yourself, “I wonder why he chose to lead a day like this, of all the fun and exciting days to chose?” And the reason was because I´ve always had a keen interest in volunteer programs such as the Peace Corps that provide aid to impoverished nations, and I hoped to gain a better understanding of what type of aid they provided as well as identify whether or not this aid is an impediment to the development of a nation or something that could benefit them in the long run. Our day began much like any other day save for the fact that we got to wake up at 8:00 instead of our normal start time of 7:oo, which everyone (especially me) was extremely grateful for. We then got to indulge in yet another excellent meal prepared by the hotel Dilenia staff. During breakfast we were all aware that we´d be spending all of our time at the hotel which is something we don´t normally do; however, it became quickly apparent to that despite the monotony of staying in the hotel all day, there was still a noticeable fervor to learn about aid and development and to make the most of the day.
In order to successfully have a discussion on Aid and development, I felt it was important to compare and contrast the two with the entire group. Aid and development both have to do with wealthier countries like the United States giving money to less developed nations, but they differ with the fact that aid is just giving money to countries that they can do what they want with, and development is about giving money that goes to a specific thing which is development through actions like building things. With this information in mind, we went into our first seminar of the day which was a debate we´d be engaging in where we were split into a pro-aid side and an anti-aid side. Initially, I was pretty wary of doing an activity like this because it felt too much like I was back in the classroom, yet once I got a chance to hear all of the arguments each group came up with after having to synthesize information from two articles in a brief ten minute period, I was convinced it was activity worth doing. Some of the points made for the pro-aid side included the debunking of the myth that countries don´t actually need aid because they should be able to rebuild their infrastructure on their own and the presentation of first hand evidence that said that aid not only saves, but improves lives effectively. And for the anti-aid side, they argued that there are numerous examples of aid that had a negative impact on the development of a country because it hurts their economy and how if the aid provided isn’t properly administered it can result in disaster and a long term dependency on the country they received aid from. Ultimately it was decided that the pro side, the side I was on, won the debate about aid being beneficial, with the added point that it´s only beneficial if done correctly.
To find out exactly what “correct aide” looked like, we had an American Peace Corps volunteer named Scott Coppa who had been living in the DR for the past 10 months in an effort to improve the community he was stationed in. And this was a part of the day I was especially excited for because of my aforementioned interest in the peace corps. Scott outlined the goals of the peace corps and some of the projects he was involved in such as teaching young Dominicans sexual education which is something they would not hae received otherwise. One of the key words stressed during the presenation was the idea of sustainability, the goal of the peace corps is to not simply drop off supplies for people, but to teach them things so that one day they will no longer require aid and will be able to support themselves, which is where he idea of correct aid came from. The rest of the day included seminars that would prepare us for tomorrow which is living like a local day and we also took some time to watch a TED talk on the most effective way to give aid to less developed nations. In addition, we learned a lot about Dominican culture with topics ranging from Dominican cuisine, to the hot-blooded, yet hard-working nature of Dominican Men. The day concluded with a much needed, extended free time and a delicious meal. Overall, I´d label the day a success!!! Stay tuned for more updates!!
Signing from Constanza
Robert (Roberto) Alexander