Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Lays Groundwork for Picture Change Program in the Dominican Republic

Gary Linn, Jessica Edwards, and Waldo Brea, Tennessee Chapter Members

When Partners' Tennessee Chapter Member Jessica Edwards was finishing her Peace Corps Service in the Dominican Republic, she, like most Peace Corps Volunteers, wondered what difference she made in the lives of local people with whom she worked.

Edwards served two years as the manager of a literacy program in the small, rural community of Bani. She pondered how the many Dominicans who improved their literacy in her program pictured the positive changes that had resulted in their own lives and communities.

Recently, Edwards found a way to answer this second question through an innovative program, Picture Change, founded by Kate Gazaway. Picture Change partners with community-based organizations to teach photography skills to local residents, coordinate community-wide photo shoots documenting individual and community progress, and showcase the photography in local gallery exhibits. They entrust cameras to local leaders, improve writing skills, and create media pages that are used to share individual and community achievements with the world.

DR 2.jpgJessica Edwards, Tennessee Partners member, with Richard Carmona of Global Institute of Advanced Studies

To find a community-based organization in the Dominican Republic that would be interested in partnering with Picture Change, the Tennessee Partners Chapter turned to Waldo Brea, President of the Instituto de Juventudes in Santo Domingo, which is affiliated with Partners of the Americas. Edwards traveled to the Dominican Republic in October to work with Brea in identifying a good match for the program that currently has Picture Change projects in Nicaragua, Uganda, Montenegro, India, and the U.S.

During her visit, Edwards and Brea interviewed leaders and gathered information from five non-profit and governmental organizations. The first organizational meeting was with Servicio Para La Paz (Service for Peace). This nonprofit focuses on poverty reduction in the Dominican Republic through community engagement and mobilization to address their own needs and priorities. Currently, in the Dominican Republic, much of the work by Servicio Para La Paz is focused on rural communities in San Cristobal Province. Picture Change could help them build marketable and employable skills for young adults.

The second visit was made to Instituto Global de Altos Estudios en Ciencias Sociales (Global Institute of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences). This research and policy organization provides community organizations and municipalities with guidance so that they can make sound choices with regard to their investments in economic and social programs. They are connected with many rural and urban communities that could potentially benefit from Picture Change.

A third visit was made to the Asociación Dominicana de Exportadores, Inc. (The Dominican Association of Exporters). The Association is a nonprofit that focuses on economic development within communities in the Dominican Republic through private-public partnerships in the field of exportation. Francia Hernandez, a financial officer in the organization, was enthusiastic about the project. She agreed that finding ways to engage the private sector in Picture Change through funding and job placement at the end of the cycle would be beneficial both for workers and businesses alike.
DR 6.jpgMinistry of Women supported offices of Center for the Promotion of Integral Health of Adolescents
The final meetings were with government-sponsored programs providing support and education for adolescents and battered and abused women. The Centro de Promoción de Salud Integral de Adolescentes (Center for the Promotion of Integral Health of Adolescents) offers education on sexual health for adolescents and teens. Program manager, Dr. Marin Perez, explained that the program teaches courses on topics such as self-esteem, sexual development, and sexually transmitted diseases. Youth volunteer guides play an integral role in the program.
DR 7.jpgYouth volunteer leads discussion of changing gender roles.

Dr. Perez agreed with Edwards and Brea that this project could partner with Picture Change and enhance its program for Dominican youth in the capital and elsewhere. 

DR 4.jpgDiagram showing programs of the Center for Survivors of Physical Violence

This prevention education program for adolescents and teens was complemented by the services offered to battered and abused women by the Centro de Atención a Sobrevivientes de Violencia (Center for Attention to Survivors of Violence). The organization works together with the courts in Santo Domingo in cases of domestic violence and sexual assault. The organization provides holistic assistance to women victims/survivors including but not limited to legal support, clinical therapy, and workforce development.

 DR 3.jpgExamples of Art Therapy for Survivors of Physical Violence

Solange Alvarado, who directs the Center, saw Picture Change as a likely partner because it potentially could help them reflect on the coping and healing process that was an important part of their recovery from the trauma of sexual assault and/or physical violence.

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As a follow-up to Edwards visit to the Dominican Republic, the Tennessee Chapter is working with Waldo Brea and other Dominican colleagues to locate a good match for a partnership that would involve a long-term relationship with Picture Change. This will involve one or more community visits and interviews with local leaders regarding their interest in participation.

Further, there is an ongoing search for funding to purchase cameras and underwrite training. All of this should be completed in 2019 with a start-up of the Dominican Picture Change Program in 2020.