So I haven’t updated in a while, partly because I’ve been busy and partly because I forgot I had a blog. I’ve been in country almost a year and a half and this Peace Corps life is starting to feel like life as usual. I’ve survived pre-service training, three-month diagnostic, arrival day, the awkward months of not speaking Spanish well, the uncomfortable days of just getting to know people and the moments that have taken my breath away. I’ve had sweaty months of hard work, slow months, vacation months on some of the most beautiful beaches, months full of frustrations and set backs and well as months of accomplishments. Through it all I’ve had my support back home, my Peace Corps family and Las Productivas by my side.
Las Productivas is the group of women that I was assigned to as my main project. Just like family, I didn’t choose these women and none of us are perfect but I love each of them. I’ve been with them a year and a half and they still amaze me daily with their generosity, perseverance and grace. Recently other people have started to take notice of these humble yet formidable women.
Recently, a famous Dominican chef came to visit the women’s group because she had heard about their products and was interested in how she could help. Like me, she fell in love with the women and their story. She brought the women onto her LIVE national cooking show. She dedicated her entire show to recipes using the women’s products as well as giving time to them to present their products to the national audience.
From this opportunity Chanel 5, or Telemicro, the largest cable network in the Dominican became interested in the women. They visited our small community today to interview the women and film them working.
These experiences have been great publicity (and super fun!). Since their appearance on the cooking show the women have gotten three new large clients, two in the capital and one in a tourist resort in Punta Cana. It has not been without it’s bumps but progress is happening.
The new sales are great but now is the real test. A business doesn’t just need to get clients, it needs to keep them. The women now need to have steady production of a consistent product. This means buying materials on time, having quality control and having distribution of the products. They now have so much work, they need to divide it up, put people in charge of each area. They need to have production teams and sales teams, a manager and an accountant. They need to work on the administration as well, define who are the owners, how much they will pay employees, how will they count the hours? This is what we’ve been working for for the past year and a half. We’ve worked together to better the organization, the marketing, the accounting, the production and now is the time to see if it’s paid off. I’m happy I still have 6 months left to accompany the women on the next part of their journey, but I hope 6 years from now it’s all so natural they forget who taught them it.
Watching the women be intereviewed I’ve never felt prouder. Watching them transform from housewives with a hobby to business women has been unforgettable. Watching them juggle their household responsibilities and make their own work a priority has taught me a lot about my own future.
Overall I have 6 months left and I expect them to be busy: remodeling their workspace, buying the equipment they need and continually working with them to strengthen their business. Although they’ll be busy at this point in my service I feel more at peace then ever. When I wake up I don’t see the negatives anymore. I’ve forgotten about the things I lack here and instead focus on the things I’ll miss when I’m back in the States. I’ll miss the large blue Caribbean sky, I’ll miss my neighbors rice she sends me daily (even though I tell her no), I’ll miss the smell of toasting cacao, I’ll miss wearing jeans everyday, I’ll miss ridiculously friendly people, I’ll miss doing something new everyday and I’ll miss the clear night sky when there’s no electricity for miles.
Thankfully for now I don’t have to say goodbye to any of it. Thankfully I stopped looking at the negatives and started seeing how full my life is here before I was in the US looking back at my time here. I have six months left and I’m going to enjoy every day.