Archives for category: Kirsten Williams

Recrear Participación is an interactive workshop providing young people with the tools to develop their ideas and passion into sustainable community projects. Recrear Participación was piloted between July 10th and July 25th, 2011 in two, separate, week-long workshops in the Dominican Republic in Esperanza and Santiago.  Recrear Participación encourages participants to engage more pro-actively with their community and to think critically about their communitys challenges while exploring innovative ways to address them. Interested in how the workshops went? We invite you to read our final report!

RecrearParticipacion has been a dense and powerful learning experience for us. We found it really hard to sum up our wonderful time in the DR and we thought pictures could help – so here is our attempt. 

Kevin in the Batey

Lead by the children of the Batey Libertad Community in Esperanza, we were shown around the community from the homes, football pitch, crop fields, latrines and communal meet areas. We grew to deeply appreciate the hospitality shown by the families there.

Batey Tour

This picture was taken during our first visit of Batey Libertad. After a tour of the rice field we stopped for some story telling and to lower the motoconchos-generated adrenaline. We were able to chat with some of the young adults in the community and to understand more about their life, challenges and habits.


Cherie, also known as the great escape artist, was more often than not a mess maker. Yet despite the attention she demanded we could not imagine the Esperanza home without her. She was in many ways an equally important part of the honorary Recrear-Yspaniola team.

Project Planning

Even the simplest of exercises bring about paramount discussions, and this exercise on identifying objectives was no exception. Through a process of brainstorming, voting and coalescing of similar ideas – groups reached an exciting consensus.  With the project objectives and strategies in mind, each group moves towards the more challenging task of placing those initiatives on a 6 month time line.

Our night out dancing at Batey Libertad

This picture was taken during an unforgettable night out dancing at Batey Libartad. After a long dinner and some good Dominican Coffee at the Yspaniola house, we rode on motoconchos and were welcomed by the warmth of the Batey community. The second ‘dance floor’ for the night was in a dark alley. A car drove up as I was pushing my camera’s ISO in an attempt to capture the energy of the night – this is what came out of it. 

Mario and Luis doing the SWOT

Mario and Luis brainstorming on an exercise to develop their project, Fútbol para el Futuro, ‘Football for the Future’. After having agreed on the project’s objective, the SWOT helped identifying the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of their project idea. Mario and Luis informally organize football games in their communities in Batey Libertad and Esperanza. During Recrear Participacion they had the opportunity to work together and discuss how to coordinate their efforts and utilize football as a means of integrating their two communities.

Fútbol para el Futuro

In Esperanza we worked with two teams developing proposals focused respectively on music and football as empowerment and community building tools. In this photo the Fútbol para el Futuro team just completed an exercise to define their 3 objectives and is showcasing its work.

Football for the Future

The sports development group took their idea to the streets as the team warmed up, stretched and ran together.


A group of participants sticks around the Yspaniola house after session for a domino tournament.  During our time in Esperanza we learned that Domino is not a joke. To play it right it requires a balance between concentration, intensity and silliness. There is no small talking involved, but the silence is broken by the sound of dominos hitting the table.

Recrear Participacion Santiago

This picture gives a good sense of the vibe in the air during our workshop in Santiago. The group was energetic and ambitious. We worked in an overcrowded space and sweat a lot, but the room was always filled with positive energy and lots of engaging discussions.

Exercise in Santiago

An exercise centered around the importance of communication and goal setting energizes the Santiago group in the middle of Parque Duarte. The game was a fun way to get each group thinking practically about their capacity to realize their goal.

A remarkable group of individuals whom inspire through their committed work with the Batey community in Esperanza. Their generous hospitality and willingness to share their world with us allowed for Recrear’s project delivery to be that much more powerful.

My feeling so far is that the theme of this project in the Dominican so far has been `back to basics`. In every sense that is. For Development this means scrapping your models and turning a fresh page to redraw the possibilities. An idea today could be community development tomorrow. Concepts you hold to dearly ought to be put under the light for closer inspection. This continual process of reflecting on how we interact with the people around us is what can make the difference.

Back to basics has also meant that the sessions we envisioned delivering to the group had to be amended as we discovered the language barrier – particularly in an environment where some may speak Spanish others Creole, some French and few have a handle of English. Yet despite the language divide, and between our wonderful translator and our own broken Spanish there are the beginnings of some powerful ideas. Ideas this community in Esperanza and the Batey – as well as others, could benefit from.

Everyday we have to reassess our plan and every day is more and more a reminder of why back to basics is a great thing. Our arrival into Esparanza was one that included no power in the house, no internet and thus no way for us to present everything we had intended. “All we need is a ‘projector’”- and although our power point presentations or prezis may have certainly helped, they were not necessarily needed. So forward we went, paper and pen – none to sure how it would all turn out.

The frustrating part is that many of them do not understand what community development is or looks like. Although while it is frustrating this is also one of the aspects I love best. As we continually push them to see further than just `what` the idea does but see `why` they are doing it, the idea transforms into something far more beautiful and inspiring. A group of boys playing soccer to pass the time becomes a way for youth, who face hardship more than is ever necessary, to give hope to those with dreams of something greater. With a ball and some hand me down uniforms they can move adolescents into a positive and fun environment.

On a personal level I feel I am returning to a time where being in this type of environment was second nature. Every thing here feels familiar and yet I discover so much with everyday. I love being surrounded by the Spanish and the Creole and French – as if the multilingual environment was designed for me. As I have developed a steady ear to catch the quick fire chopped up Dominican Spanish, I can now begin to understand the issues more closely – what a translation could not fully allow.

As always, I look forward to learning about a human dimension that simply cannot be taught.


Building a local chapter – a new initiative for Recrear but although the large task ahead of us there is certainly excitement in the air. After four days of having met and strategized with a group of students from the University of New Orleans, I have been impressed to see what we have come up with so far. We aim to “be action oriented, foster intercultural dialogue and promote collaborative exchange”. The more we hash out the strategies the more I realize just how much this chapter could have an influence on this community and the region. The group is a truly engaging one to work with as there are no shortage of big thinkers amongst these students. – and big thinking always makes for worthwhile challenges.

I am anxious for our two upcoming fundraisers – both of them opportunities for Recrear to make its introduction into the New Orleans community. Never for a moment has there even been a concern that Recrear would not find a place for itself here. Rather this city is thriving with the potential of partnership and positive forward thinking community development projects. Engaging youth in a way they never saw possible – that’s what we hope to do.

– Kirsten Williams