June 5-8 - My first week at the DOC
Tuesday was my introduction to the Dominica Olympic Committee's office. Frederica, my roommate/landlord/auntie-away-from-home, drove me the hour from Picard to Roseau because she teaches summer school at Dominica State College on Tuesday and Thursday. After meeting Thomas, Secretary General of the DOC, on Hillsborough Street, we hiked the stairs to the 3rd floor office. I met the two office secretaries, who remarked to Thomas, "She's cute!" and presented me with a bright bouquet of flowers. I was flattered. I can hardly get over how kind people seem to be everywhere I go. The entire country has that "small town" feeling as we might call it in the U.S.
It took me almost no time to appreciate why the office had been so difficult to communicate with when I was back in the States. Thomas simply took off after telling me his priorities for the day without mentioning whether he'd return. I don't know where he went, but Avonelle provided me with the guidance I needed. I took time to review my notes and a packet of papers informing me of the progress thus far on the National Youth Role Model Program. I learned about the proceedings of the "kickoff" for the NYRMP held February 26th in the capital city, Roseau. I also reviewed the communications between the DOC and the international Olympic Solidarity regarding planning and funding for this initiative. OS had been very generous back in December, providing up-front 75% of Mr. Dorsett's proposed budget. I wondered how much of this funding currently remained.
The members of the DOC executive board drifted in and out at different times of the day, and they all seemed hopeful that I might somehow be able to resolve their organizational issues. I didn't expect that. I was hoping to try to bring fresh ideas and a different perspective to the task of educating the pilot class of Youth Role Models, but I hadn't anticipated such extreme organizational hurdles. I intend to avoid sitting at a computer in the office as much as possible, but planning this first event seems to necessitate it. Each of the 12 District Olympic Academies (DOAs) has been asked to identify 12 potential Youth Role Models between the ages of 11 and 21. Yes, some of Dominca's youth are in fact older than me, which may be the reason that many adults here seem unsure about how much faith to place in me.
There are plenty of reasons for them to be wary, I suppose. I find myself being called a "young lady" by some and "a child" by others. Sill, if there's something I know well, it is the positive impact that physical education can have on youth development. At least, I know it in America. Based on my experiences in the student service club SportsCorps and a class on Olympism, the most important consideration for successful Sport and Development initiatives is understanding the context in which you operate. I know I still have a lot to learn about the cultural values and community relationships n Dominica, but I don't think it will take too long.
I spent the remainder of my week making the daily 1.5 hour bus/van trip from Portsmouth to Roseau and back again. In an attempt to address the communication issues within the NYRM Program, I created a facebook page for the Dominica Olympic Academy (https://www.facebook.com/DominicaOlympicAcademy). Doing so made me realize the bigger challenge of attempting to manage social networking in a country where I am not yet very social. It's coming along, slowly but surely.
Even as the challenges associated with building an online network persist, I realize that the most threatening communication issues are internal. As with many other political institutions in Dominica, the DOC is under the leadership of a group of individuals who are reluctant to communicate their ideas to those below them. Delegating responsibilities might mean sacrificing some of their power, which is the most valuable reward of their positions. Individuals in power in Dominica want all of the recognition for a project if it happens to be successful. However, the success of a major national endeavor like the National Youth Role Model program will depend heavily on effective, constant communication within the DOC office. Every person in the DOC office must be qualified to communicate the same information to those outside the DOC. There are now hundreds of people who need to stay informed about the program's expectations and events for Youth Role Models and Administrators of each District Olympic Academy.
This week, June 11-15, will consist of doing everything we can to prepare for the Youth Role Model Orientation this Saturday, June 16th. This includes radio, TV, and online news advertisements. I have created a flyer for the event and convinced the secretaries in the office that we should pass them out to anyone who stops by regarding the program. I am also preparing to give a presentation to the YRMs on Saturday about the Olympic value of Respect. For athletes, this means respect for oneself physically, mentally, and emotionally (good nutrition, sleeping enough, avoiding alcohol and drugs, education, being confident in who you are), respect for coaches, teammates, and one's country. I am really looking forward to working directly with the youth.
In other news, this weekend, I had the opportunity to experience more of the culture. Frederica is so willing to educate me in this regard. She took me to the Portsmouth market Saturday morning, where I followed her around as she navigated the crowded aisles and bought what she needed at light speed! I purchased eggs and fresh cinnamon bark. She then bought me a fresh coconut from a vendor on the street and instructed me to drink the water. When I thought I was done, she carried the coconut back to the man with the machete, who chopped it in half and cut a small piece off the outside to use as a spoon for the coconut jelly. It was delicious. I tried a myriad of new foods, including Dominican johnny cakes stuffed with tuna salad, Dominican apricots, roasted breadfruit, saltfish, crab, and many vegetables I couldn't pronounce.
I also spent Saturday morning meeting with Coach Nabi Wallace of the local Aspirer's athletics club. I had the chance to both observe and participate in the weekend morning gym session. You'll get to see many pictures from our session in my next post. Thanks for reading!